“Where are you? Where are you?” (Genesis3:9) These were the plaintive calls of a Father searching the Garden for His child, for His children, and calling out for them by name. But the father knew where they were, they were hiding from Him. Oh how His heart must have hurt.
Millennia later, another plaintive call cries out from a cross on Golgotha,“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) This time a Son is calling for His father.
As a father of three daughters, I have heard both these cries: from the parent looking for a lost child, and the call from a lost child “Daddy, where are you?” They can be heartbreaking. I have reached out by telephone to comfort a child who was in horrible trouble half-way around the world, with nothing to offer but crackling words from her father, her Daddy.
But my daughters and I are not like our Lord God and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. My relationship with them can never be compared to Jesus’ relationship with His Father, or that of our Father and Adam and Eve, His first creations. I know the pains of separation I have felt for my girls and them for me, and the pain, the deep pain which made me sick to my stomach as I saw my first daughter fall in her crib and split open her lip. As I saw her blood, I felt her pain. Oh, how much more must our Lord God have suffered, when Adam and Eve ate of that tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and then hid from Him. A season was over for them and He could no longer languish in the Garden in intimate conversation with them.
But He must have suffered beyond all measure, beyond all our possible imaginings, as Jesus His Son, was beaten, whipped, stripped naked and crucified. How could He but not turn his head away? How could He but not close His ears to the cries of his only begotten child hanging on that cross? How could He keep silent and let the inevitable happen? Well, if God had reached out to His Son at that time, in any way, in any way whatsoever, the whole plan for the redemption of His people would have ended and Satan remain unbowed. We would not be where we are now, approaching the end of this age. How it must have pained The Father to keep apart from The Son, and The Son, parted from The Father.
I cannot begin to imagine the loneliness of Jesus at that time as he hang on the cross, his last moments of life dripping from Him. He had never been lonely like that before. He had always been in relationship and especially a one-to-one relationship with His Father, The Lord God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. But as Jesus hung on that cross, and the debt was paid, the separation must have been a total shock to Him. A totally unprecedented experience. He had lived in the will of the Lord all His life: how could He possibly have even imagined what it would be like to live outside it, never alone imagine what it would be like to be separated from the Lord?
We may ask ourselves the question, why was that tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden in the first place? Why was it not protected with electrified barbed wire and a “no go” sign – or the Eden version of the common contemporary defences? Why did God not just run time backwards for a little while and arrive before the apple was eaten?
God has not answered these questions for me directly, but has laid writings and ideas before me which may well answer them, to some extent. Basically, it was and is, all about “relationships”. He wanted a true relationship with Adam and Eve and us, and a true relationship is based on a mutual and totally voluntary loss of self control, from both parties. The Lord was willing to give up a whole lot to come from Heaven and be in intimate conversation with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They just needed to do much the same: to give up all, to Him. But to give up our self control leaves us open and totally vulnerable to being hurt by others. You are telling them, “in all circumstances I trust you.” You let down all barriers, ALL barriers. You lay yourself totally open. That is what the Lord wanted. That is what the Lord still wants from us. It is an incredible risk, but the rewards are even more incredible!
However, after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they, and we were just like God in one more way: able to judge. Not just judge ourselves, but we could judge Him, our creator! It seems like the bite of that apple changed our human DNA permanently, such that we seem to be hard wired to have a need for God in our lives. But if we don’t have a deity of our liking handy we just invent one – work, money, children etc. etc. And then we judge – oh how we judge! And how we enjoy judging and then gossiping about our judgements!! Let us not forget that sin.
But Jesus was not quite like us. Even on the cross and in total and heart-rending isolation from His Father, he did not flinch from the truth of who He was and who His Father was, for as Luke 23:46 tells us, at the end “and crying with a loud voice, Jesus said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit. And when He had said this, He breathed out the spirit.” This was the trust of the Son of God, that even when he was alone, being crucified to death on a cross, and with not one word from His Father, Jesus trusted, and handed back His spirit to God the Father. Even in the pain and shame of the cross, He still remembered His duty and the correct protocols.
We as His children as tasked to carry on the will of the Father as James 1:27 put it: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Our God is a God of families and of generations. They are so important to him. He has experiences: His first children disobeyed Him, ate of a forbidden tree and began to judge Him; His first begotten Son was beaten, whipped, stripped naked and crucified.
Our Father in Heaven still has a lot to teach us. All we need to be are willing disciples and obey.