The silent treatment

The silent treatment.  Does everyone know what the silent treatment is?  It is when a husband or wife or a close friend whom we normally communicate with, refuses to talk to us.  In fact it goes further than this, the full blown silent treatment also includes refusal to recognise the other person even exists.  Have you had the silent treatment placed on you?  If you have, you will know how it feels – lonely.

A friend or marriage partner will usually give us the silent treatment because we have hurt of offended them in some way.  Perhaps we made some cutting remark or did something to betray their trust, and now the friend we dearly love, refuses to look, to talk and even to acknowledge us.  Nothing we say or do seem to change the situation; it is like all connections with our loved one have been cut.

And what is so horrible about ‘silent treatment’ is that we have no way of resolving the issue; we have no way of communicating or gaining their attention.  We have been cut off; the silent treatment is really saying ‘I am mad and I refuse to deal with you and now you must suffer the consequences of your actions; I’m turning my back on this relationship’.  Silence causes a great chasm between the two people that cannot be crossed.  It can’t be seen, and it’s negative effects can only be experienced by the one person it is intended for; the perpetrator.

Good Friday is ‘silent treatment day’ for Jesus.  The time of year we mark as the day God turned his back on Jesus; the day God refused to have anything to do with his one and only Son; the day God’s silent treatment on Jesus made a great chasm that could not be crossed and it’s negative effects could only be experienced by the one person it is intended for; Jesus.

Mark records the precise moment God gave Jesus the full blown silent treatment; refusing even to acknowledge him; refusing even to look on him with kindness.   This is the moment when God walked away from his Son.  Mark writes ‘At noon darkness came over the whole land until 3 in the afternoon. And at this hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”– which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Full blown silent treatment!  God, Jesus’ God, his own Father, refuses to speak and refuses to acknowledge Jesus; in his own words ‘he is forsaken’.  At this point no one but Jesus is experiencing the isolation and rejection.  Those standing around, those mocking, those weeping, those executing, those criminals each side of Jesus, have no idea of what is going on; no idea of the enormity of this situation; when God rejects his Son.

O yes, some present may have an inkling.  Nature itself, which normally displays the glory and majesty of God, is darkened; the light and heat of the sun is blackened, nature displays God’s anger; The darkness is a manifestation of the utter separation and loneliness Jesus is experiencing during the silent treatment.

And Jesus, deep, loud and desperate call ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’ gives some idea to those around, that something big is happening; something beyond their understanding; beyond our understanding; that the Father could be so angry as to turn away and leave his Son to die.  Here, in the darkness and rejection of Jesus, we have the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha; the difference between last night and today.  In the garden Jesus has a God who hears and strengthens him; on the cross this same God has rejected him.

Why?  Jesus was made sin for us, made a curse for us; Jesus is made revolting for us.  Every evil thing humans have ever done and will ever do.  Every evil thing we have done and will ever do is placed upon Jesus.  Jesus, even though he was without sin, is SIN – for us.  Our sin is on the cross; So repulsive and so disgusting, that God turns away from Jesus and gives him the worst ever case of silent treatment.

We can thank God that it was not us.  Its bad enough to have someone we love turn away from us, but to have God, our God, turn away from us in our deepest need, would be too much to bear.  We can thank God that Jesus took this rejection upon himself so we didn’t have too.  Jesus thirsts for God, but God has removed himself.  It is not that Jesus left God, as is often the case with us, Its far worse, it is God leaving Jesus; Father leaving Son; the son cries, but there is not response.

What is meant by God being silent?  What purpose did it achieve?  To be forsaken by God is to suffer his wrath and anger against sin.  In giving Jesus the silent treatment, he was saying ‘I am mad and I refuse to deal with you and now you must suffer the consequences of your actions; I’m turning my back on this relationship’.  And it is only in this wrath, in this rejection of Jesus, that the price of sin was paid.  Jesus endured the full penalty of sin, our sin, when God turned on the silent treatment.

This is where the rubber hits the road for us.  God’s rejection of Jesus means we are not rejected.  It means that we can come to God full of sin, knowing that he will NOT give us the silent treatment because of our sin.  He can’t.  His anger over our sin has been dealt with in his rejection of Jesus; God is always going to be there for us.  To hear our concerns and answer our prayers.

And that’s not all.  There is one other very important event that happened on the cross; an action by God which profoundly changed our circumstances before him as we pass from this life into eternity.

Jesus died in the arms of his Father.  The silent treatment ended, his wrath over, God turned to acknowledge Jesus; the Father once again welcomes the Son.  With Jesus’ dying words ‘into your hands I comment my Spirit’ the Father takes hold of Jesus and places him in his care in order to raise him from the grave.   In death Jesus was not forsaken by God.  This is the breaking ray of Easter hope.   In death, because of Jesus, we too will not be forsaken by God.  We too, will die in the arms of our Heavenly Father; what joy in the midst of suffering.

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