Summary: He could save no one by His life; it is His sacrificial death that saves.
Why Did God Forsake Him?
Why Did God Forsake Him? It took me quite a while to become comfortable with my answer to that question. It is the title of today’s sermon. And when we are done, I hope you will say along with me, “I am glad he turned his back on Jesus.”
First, let’s listen to what Jesus said in Psalm 22:1
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
What we have here is something I want to emphasize from the very beginning—a record of His human suffering. We see Him as a man nailed to the cross, “. . . the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We get more light on this matter by turning to the Epistle to the Hebrews and reading Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). This is what we are looking at—the One who left heaven’s glory and became a Man. He became a Man in order to reveal God to us, yes, that is true; but most of all, it was to redeem man. Just 5 verses from here the psalmist wrote, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same [Jesus was both man and God.]; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14)
He could save no one by His life; it is His sacrificial death that saves. The writer of Hebrews said, “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham [The Hebrew people]. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted [He suffered and faced the same temptations as all men.; but He never sinned, not even once.], he is able to succor [help, aid] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:15-16, 18). We see the man Christ Jesus on the cross as a perfect Man. He had learned to rest upon God. He had learned to trust Him in all that He did. He said, “. . . I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). But all the way back in that desperate and despairing hour He was abandoned by God. There was no place He could turn, either on the human plane or on the divine. He had no place to go. The Man Christ Jesus was forsaken. No entirely human man has ever had to experience that. No one. Only Jesus alone.
When Jesus spoke these words from the cross—“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—He was quoting from Mark 15:34, and that gives it unique sacredness. This is how Mark reported the Savior’s words in his gospel, “And at the ninth hour [The Jews day began at 6, am. The ninth hour is 3 pm.] Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34, KJV). Mathew, Luke, and John also included this incident in the Gospel that bears their name.
(Matthew 27:50) Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
(Luke 23:46) And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
(John 19:30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
When He had cried out again with a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. The loud cry demonstrates that He died in strength, not in weakness. He … cried … with a loud voice, as a shout of triumph, and yielded up His Spirit. In other words, having borne the wrath of God’s judgment against sin, He knew that He had triumphed over Satan and the curse of sin. His heel was “bruised,” but the serpent’s head had been “crushed” just as it was prophesized in Genesis 3:15.
The yielding of His life was the result of the voluntary surrender of His life for the sake of His own. The fact that He yielded up His spirit distinguished His death from all others. We die because we have to; He died because He chose to. Had He not said, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17, 18)? I have heard that there is something called the “death rattle,” that gasp for that last breath that we all want so badly. It is always a struggle and it comes with great effort. The two thieves on their crosses undoubtedly died that way, but our Lord didn’t go that way. He dismissed His Spirit. He went willingly.