From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
The darkness of Good Friday carries us to the stillness of Holy Saturday where we rest and wait. But we don’t have to wait too long…the dawning sun and explosive power of Easter Sunday breaks the silence of Holy Saturday. Verse 21 begins with a plea: “Save me!” And ends with an answer: “you have rescued me.”
On Easter Sunday, Jesus launches up with praise! Easter Sunday includes my favorite greeting, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” The triumph. The celebration. The praise. The energy. The call and answer form a circle of “alleluias” that spirals from the preacher to the people to the streets and sidewalks outside.
There is a great crescendo of praise that still hasn’t reached its peaked. The ripples of praise continue from “my brothers and sisters” to “the midst of the congregation”. Praise, glory, and awe are due to God who delivers.
The women who come to the tomb on the first Easter morning make waves in history when they report the resurrection to the disciples. These first apostles carry Christ’s praise from the tomb to the upper room and all the way around the world. The men don’t believe the women, but they’re undaunted. “I have seen the Lord!” Mary declares. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and tells them, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
All of Jesus’ life has been in witness to the Father’s great love and will for the world. Doxology was the tune to which he lived, and died, and rose again. Our praise of the Father is always Christ’s praise in us through the Spirit. We are caught up in the dynamic love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where we learn to praise, glorify, stand in awe, and tell of God’s wondrous name.
The praise and good news of these verses culminate in verse 24: “He did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.” Too often we only hear the first half of the first verse of this psalm and believe God is content to turn a deaf ear on Jesus’ cry and look away from his suffering on the cross. And we regrettably believe if God can look the other way with Jesus, God might act the same way toward us. So in in our own darkness and pain, we accept aloneness.
BUT, you have to read the psalm to it’s end. God does not hide God’s face from Jesus’ pain or agony. God is not a dispassionate observer, but looks on and suffers with the Son. And God looks on with grief and sadness at our suffering too.
The recent film Selma shows Martin Luther King, Jr. consoling the grandfather of the murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson. King says to the grieving grandfather, “God was the first to cry.” Whether King actually said those words or not, they ring true.
Suffering does not negate Gods’ love, and God’s love does not preclude suffering. The good news, though, is the cross cannot undo the eternal love of the Trinity. Maybe Paul had this in mind when he said nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). And in Christ, love and life have conquered violence and death once and for all.