Dear Reader, the road to the cross has been grueling, hasn't it? We near the end of our journey, praying for an answer to the question, "What does desertion have to do with heaven?"
Do you remember, Dear Reader, a time when kids rode their bikes everywhere? Can you recall how exhilerating the first tastes of freedom and autonomy were? What about a time you learned the cost of that freedom? For me it was on a family vacation.
My family visited our extended family several states away most summers. Usually I loved getting to spend time with my cousin, Robin, who was also a couple of years older than me, like my brother, Buddy.
One evening after supper was over, the grown-ups were settled in for chatting and catching up. It was just getting dark, but Buddy and Robin thought it was a great time to go bike riding around our tiny hometown.
Most 3rd graders were full-fledged bikers, but I was still wobbly (because of an undiagnosed neurological issue). Still, there was no way I was whimping out of a chance to go bike-riding AFTER DARK with Buddy and Robin! And it was great . . . for a while.
The sticky South Georgia air had finally cooled off, leaving sweat on our faces and the taste of sweet tea from supper still on our lips. The streets were flat and deserted, making navigation a litte easier for me. How could I know the price of this little slice of 8-year-old heaven would cost me the pain and anger of desertion?
Before I could wrap my head around what was happening, the big kids I loved and trusted most ditched me! Alone . . . abandoned . . . disoriented . . . and scared outta my shorts. I’d been deserted and couldn’t imagine how they could do such a mean thing.
From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Matthew 27:45-46 MSG
The memory of being deserted continues to be painful. Have you ever been, or felt, deserted, Dear Reader? Separated from your parents or friends at a theme park? Stood up on a first date? Left by a spouse? Hung out to dry by a supervisor?
There’s no other way to describe the feeling of being deserted by someone you trust except, “It sucks!”
I am so sorry, Dear Reader if you have experienced being deserted, no matter how great or small it may have been. And no matter the circumstances or how long the pain lasted, Jesus gets it. He’s been there, done that.
My God, my God, why have you deserted me?
Why are you so far away?
Won’t you listen to my groans and come to my rescue?
Psalm 22:1 CEV
In a short span of hours, Jesus paid the price of heaven in bondage, suffering, humiliation, temptation, and anger. Jesus’s cries to His Father as He hung on the cross for our sins surely echoed with anguish. Did Jesus have wonder what desertion, by nearly everyone He loved and trusted, could possibly have to do with heaven?
The face of God turned away from His only-begotten Son; the Son who bore our sins. Can we begin to fathom the magnitude of rejection He may have felt at such an act of desertion? And yet, He made a choice in the Garden of Gethsamene to pay the price of heaven in full.
But heaven wasn’t enough for Jesus. Through His passion we can be healed on earth, and brought into a closer relationship with Him. When Jesus paid the price of heaven, it was only the beginning of the story He longs to write with each of us.