By David Goree
Years ago I was in a play at Manor Baptist Church. The play had two characters: Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. I played Judas.
The play portrayed the two disciples meeting after they had each betrayed the Lord in their own ways. Let me tell you: it was difficult for me to deliver Judas’s lines, how he was glad he did what he did and how he rationalized it. It was made even more difficult by our excellent director, who was a devotee of Method Acting. I couldn’t simply “act” my lines. Oh no. I had to live my lines. I had to become a bitter, sarcastic Judas, sputtering my contempt for the ones I had betrayed. To tell you the truth, it kind of messed with my mind. I remember saying a short prayer before and after each rehearsal: “Remember, Lord, this is just a play. These lines do not represent my views.” The prayer was for my benefit, of course, not God’s. God understands the concept of acting, even my cringe-worthy over-acting. Still, I had a hard time connecting with such dark human emotions–especially in the church sanctuary in front of the congregation.
I was reminded of dark emotions when I read Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
Psalm 22 is a difficult passage to read. The Psalmist’s images are so evocative. He says, “I am poured out like water” and “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” The despair and pain are so palpable and so painfully honest. The passage is a plea from a person who has run out of options, run out of hope and nearly run out of faith.
Amazingly, Jesus redeems these dark emotions when he repeats the Psalmist’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, Jesus gathers our fears and doubts and bitter disappointments and binds them to His own suffering—if we will accept it. I suppose we could keep our emotions at arm’s length, like bad actors, or, better yet, we could own up to our pain, fears and doubts and lay them at the foot of the cross.