Summary: In his fourth word from the cross, Jesus expresses being forsaken by God. He points out to the exchange that happened that day: our sin on him, God's forgiveness on us. Our right response is to live thankful lives that count the cost of sin.
Forsaken by God?
Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 4 * Matthew 27:45-46
Have you ever been in a God-forsaken place? Maybe it was a TDY trip to the middle of nowhere. Worse yet, maybe it was a PCS! And the word “permanent” in permanent change of station becomes a curse. Or maybe your God-forsaken place turned out to be a diagnosis, for you or a loved one, something that turned your world upside down.
Today we look at Jesus who is truly in a God-forsaken place. We are in week 4 of the “Seven Last Words from the Cross.” Jesus made his fourth statement from the cross at around 3:00 pm. For the last three hours, the sky had turned unnaturally dark. We know it wasn’t a natural event, because the moon is always full at Passover. I believe God brought darkness to draw attention to the dark nature of events, as the Son of God was murdered by the very humans he had come to save. Satan seemed to win the day.
Jesus’ cry seemed to reinforce that thought. He said loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His question is puzzling, to say the least. If Jesus was the Son of God, and if he was talking to Father God, how could God forsake God? The great reformer Martin Luther once stared at these words for hours, then rose from his seat and exclaimed, “God forsaken by God! How can it be?”
How can it be indeed? I am going to offer some ideas, but I don’t want to appear to have all the answers. Something happened on that cross that day that is beyond our understanding. Some things are a mystery. We may not fully understand them this side of heaven. Yet what do we know? Let me suggest ...
1. Jesus fulfilled prophecy
When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he quoted directly from scripture, Psalm 22:1 to be exact. Many scholars believe he purposefully chose this psalm because of what it says about crucifixion. David wrote it some 1,000 years earlier, before there was any such thing as crucifixion. The Phoenicians first developed this barbaric means of execution hundreds of years after David, and later the Romans adopted it for their own. Yet, listen to these phrases from Psalm 22: “They pierce my hands and my feet...people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment” (Psalm 22:16-18). Does this sound familiar? All of this happened at the cross, where Jesus was nailed in the hands and feet, where people ridiculed him, where Roman soldiers gambled over his clothes. A second consideration is...
2. Jesus became our sin
Before the cross, Jesus the Son and God the Father were in perfect fellowship. Even though Jesus walked the earth and the Father resided in heaven, Jesus ensured his relationship with his Heavenly Father always came first. He modeled this for us. Listen to what he said earlier, in Matthew 11:27: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Do you catch the closeness there? Jesus was tight with his Heavenly Father.
Yet, for the first time, Jesus does not pray to his Father. He prays to his God. “My God, my God...” There is some formalism here, some loss of intimacy.
Something happened on the cross. As Jesus approached death, he took on all the sins of those who would believe in him. He took on our punishment. Scholars call this a vicarious atonement or substitutionary atonement, the propitiation of God’s rightful wrath.
This week I read a story set in the wheat farms of the central United Stated around the turn of the last century. Sometimes locomotive sparks would start tremendous wheat fires that could burn for miles and miles. One farmer saw the fire coming his direction, so he quickly lit a back fire around his farm. When the raging fire came near, it met the fields that had already burned, and went out. The farmer had saved his buildings, although he had lost his crop. As he was out surveying the damage, he came across the body of one of his hens, lying right in the path of the fire. At first he thought the hen must have become confused. Then, with a stick, he flipped the charred body, only to find running out a dozen little chicks. That hen had given her life to protect her chicks.
Listen to how scripture describes Jesus giving his life for us:
Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [that’s Jesus] the iniquity of us all.”