Rev Dr Brian Kolia reflects on Luke 24:1-12 and how Jesus calls us to see differently, through remembering.
This reflection includes a discussion of violence and abuse. Please take care as you read.
“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Whose heart did not thrill to hear President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declare that he did not choose to be airlifted out of the Ukraine, but to remain and lead his people? “This might be the last time you see me alive,” said Zelenskyy, acknowledging that he was the #1 assassination target in the war. Such identification with his people, at great personal risk, is giving heart to Ukrainians as they defend their homeland.
Our Scripture text for today, Psalm 22, also reveals deep identification, as Jesus takes its opening words on his lips: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Jesus, who was human and also God, had no need to go to the cross for his own sake. He was sinless and did not need to die.
As we look towards Good Friday, and Jesus’ death on the cross, we are reminded how Jesus saw things differently.
He was determined to suffer everything that we suffer, and to be tempted, so that he could help us in our suffering and temptation (Hebrews 2:18). Jesus could have called for an airlift of 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53, each Roman legion had 6,000 soldiers), yet he did not call for rescue, as he had chosen to lay down his life for our sake (John 10:18).
Many will resonate with the experience of the Psalmist, who cried to God “by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but find no rest” (Psalm 22:2): Ukrainian patients and doctors in maternity hospitals, refugees fleeing by car or on foot. Anyone who is mocked, scorned, or despised. Anyone threatened with physical or emotional abuse, who feels surrounded by a pack of evil dogs, strong bulls, or ravening lions. Anyone whose mouth has dried up in fear, whose heart has turned to wax, who is fading away in the gaze of someone who seeks to harm them (Psalm 22:6–8; 12–18).
Dinah Garadji, a Warrndarrang-Marra-Yugul elder (born 1921) spoke to historian Murray Seiffert about her early memories, “They [the stockmen] were killing my people” (Seiffert, pg13). Barnabas Roberts, an Alawa man (born around 1898), told John Harris of the shooting of his father in the massacres along the Roper River (Harris, pg11). He told Margaret Sharp, “White people hunt us out from there ... shootim people like kangaroo, like bird” (Seiffert, pg14). Journalist Jess Hill has raised awareness of the epidemic of domestic abuse in Australia in her book, See What You Made Me Do, and recent church news has put the focus on spiritual abuse, defined by Dr Lisa Oakley as “characterized by a systemic pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in a religious context” (White, pg3).
Early in the psalm, the Psalmist expresses his trust alongside his suffering (Psalm 22:3–5; 9–11; 19–21). Then he experiences rescue and turns to exultation: “He did not turn his face from me” (Psalm 22:24). The effect of this deliverance is monumental and world-wide, “all the nations will worship before him ... for he has done it” (Psalm 22:27, 31).
Jesus, too, trusted God. We can assume that Jesus knew the whole of Psalm 22, and the surrounding psalms. Psalms 15–24 are a structured group of psalms, including Psalm 16 which uses the same Hebrew word as in Psalm 22:1 to assure the Psalmist that “you do not forsake (azav) my soul to Sheol” (Psalm 16:10, see Acts 2:31). Psalm 22 is located between psalms of assurance of royal victory (Psalms 18–21) and trust (Psalm 23).
This Lent as we reflect on Jesus’ death, his sacrificial love in action helps us see differently - Jesus the Messiah reigns from the cross, bringing about “the renewal of all things” as he gives his life “as a ransom for many” (Matthew 19.28–29; 20:28).
Rev Dr Jill Firth's reflection engages with Psalm 22, a reading set out by the Revised Common Lectionary for Good Friday.
How can we see Jesus differently? How does Jesus see differently and what can we learn from Him about how to see differently?
How does Jesus’ identification with our suffering and sin help us to draw near to him?
How does Psalm 22 help us to pray for others who are suffering?
What can we learn from Psalm 22 about proclaiming Jesus’ victory over sin and death?
You reign from the tree:
identifying with us, suffering with us, bringing healing and victory over sin and death.
In your sacrifice, draw us to yourself.
In your suffering, draw us near to all who suffer.
In your victory, bring healing to the nations.
Help us to trust you, to join in the fellowship of your sufferings, and to share your good news with people everywhere.
Rev Dr Jill Firth is Lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne, and editor of Grounded in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture: Papers by Australian Women Scholars in the Evangelical Tradition (with Denise Cooper-Clarke).