Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Where does Jesus go to be today, on this day of his death? On this day the church chants, in imitation of Christ, Psalm 22, the psalm of God-abandonment. Although this day is a day to minimize words, inasmuch as our attention is drawn to the living Word overcoming sin, death, and the devil in His death on the cross, we can say, together with the prayer above, that Christ in his betrayal and death redirects God's attention to the family for whom he graciously dies.
Christ's sacrifice is not a sacrifice accomplishing something for God, as if God needed Christ's death. Christ's sacrifice is complete and utter neighbor-love, a death for the family he came to embrace and save.
Many of us have felt abandoned by God at some point in our lives. But Christ, the Son of God, experiences abandonment by God in total, completely, on the cross, and harrows hell as a result. One could argue that hell makes no sense at all other than the place Christ harrowed and overcame on Holy Saturday. Before or after hell makes no sense. Even hell is now "in Christ."
God is not guilty of Christ's death, even if God was in another sense absent from Christ at the cross. The prayer of the day rightly lays the guilt for Christ's death in the hands of sinners.
But this precisely is Christ's victory… Christ is rejected by sinners and abandoned by God and so conquers rejection, death, abandonment, hell, and more. No one who goes through any of these things can ever be alone anymore, because they are now a part of God, in Christ.
* Thanks to friend Gregory Walter for inspiring these meditations via our Good Friday conversation this morning.