Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor
Probably the most misunderstood phrase that Jesus uttered on the cross is found in Matthew 27:45-49
“And about the ninth hour (noon) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”
There is an unfathomable mystery overshadowing this text. Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person. His deity could not suffer and die, but his humanity could, and in this instance, it suffered the agony of separation from the Father. And He died, that we might, through repentance from sin and faith in Him as our Savior and Lord, be forgiven of our sin and reconciled with God.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
But God the Father, with the sins of the world, past, present and future laid upon His son, had to turn away, because sin cannot be in His divine presence. Jesus not only bore man’s sin but actually became sin on man’s behalf, in order that those who believe in Him might be saved from the penalty of our sin.
Habakkuk 1:13 declared of God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.” God turned His back when Jesus was on the cross because He could not look upon sin, even, or perhaps especially, in His own Son. Just as Jesus loudly lamented, God the Father had indeed forsaken Him.
But, as He Himself declared, the supreme reason for His coming to earth was not to teach or to be an example but “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)
Jesus, as we will see again tomorrow, chose his words carefully despite his pain. The phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is also the first verse of Psalm 22.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Psalm 22, written by King David, is prophetic in reference to the suffering that the Messiah would endure on the cross:
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
So King David, over 1000 years before Jesus was born, is describing what eerily sounds like a crucifixion, at least 300 years before the Assyrians and Persians began the practice. David’s prophetic Psalm, known very well to the Jews at Golgotha, is being carried out in front of their eyes, yet they are unable to see it, even as Jesus points them to the scripture. He says “You were looking for a conquering King, but I came as a servant. But look at Psalm 22, this was all prophesied and fore-ordained by God to bring about the forgiveness that can only be found in the Messiah.”
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10
- We look back at the Jewish people of that era, adhering reverently to the customs and traditions set forth in the Old Testament, with wonder that they could miss the Messiah living (and ultimately dying) before their very eyes. But how often do we, as believers, see the handiwork of God playing out in front of us, and choose not to follow His leading? Where do you see God working, and how can you join in that work?
- Who in your circle of influence can you share the Good News of Jesus with today? Could you invite a friend to one of our four Easter Services this weekend?