Summary: The gospel of grace! Because of Jesus, the Father promises US, ’Never will I leave or forsake YOU.’
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Those words were so raw with emotion that we still have them in Aramaic, Jesus’ mother tongue: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
Jesus is hanging there on the cross. We can safely assume his face is twisted with the agony of crucifixion. He can barely breathe. And the only words he can say are words from scripture. Jesus obviously feels forsaken and abandoned. No wonder some have concluded that Jesus was only a normal human being, feeling let down because God didn’t stop him from being crucified.
But is that really what’s happening? Is that really why Jesus is crying out like this? I don’t think so. Not least because Jesus has predicted over and again, ’I am going to Jerusalem... I am going to be mocked and flogged and crucified. I will die and rise again.’
This is not Jesus suddenly surprised - Jesus literally feels God-forsaken. This is not just because he is dying, but because the Father HAS turned his face away. That’s what the darkness means, v45. It has been dark for 3 hours – from noon till about 3pm. Can you understand how strange it must have been? Dark at midday? Not just cloudy... dark light night-time. What an eerie atmosphere there must have been.
People knew that darkness was a well-known sign of God’s displeasure – such as we read about in Amos 8:9. God speaks there through the prophet Amos about a coming time when, “In that day, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
So what was going on? Why was God not pleased? Why has God the Father turned away from his One and Only Son Jesus? To find the answer we need to turn to 2 parts of the Bible:
In Isaiah 53 we find a prophecy written around 700 BC... Words that predict about God’s Servant, that... ’he took up our infirmities... he carried OUR sorrows... he was pierced for our transgressions... he was crushed for our iniquities... the punishment that brought us peace was upon him... and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
That’s substitution: he took our place.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.
That’s imputation: God considers Christ’s righteousness to belong to us.
In other words, as someone once said, ’on the cross God treated Jesus as if he lived your life,
so that he could treat you as if you lived his life.’ Think of it! All of your sins and mine... laid on Jesus.
On the cross Jesus was bearing the guilt of all the sin from the beginning until the end of time. And God can’t be in the same room as sin. So he turns away from his precious Son. Imagine the person you love most in this world... imagine that you are cut off from them – it’s as though they don’t exist any more.... Imagine that magnified trillion-fold for Jesus on the cross. How can we understand what that felt like? Even great theologians like Martin Luther just have to throw up their hands and say, "God forsaking God. Who can understand it?"