Summary: A frank discussion about what Jesus meant when He asked why God had forsaken Him. A sermon about pain.
Matthew 27:45-46 – Why Have You Forsaken Me?
I had planned initially to preach tonight on the miracles of Calvary. Several things very out of the ordinary happened on the day Jesus died, and I had planned to look at them. There was the 3 hours of darkness, from noon until 3 in the afternoon. There was the temple veil, the curtain that hung in the Temple in Jerusalem, being torn in 2. There was the mighty earthquake that even split rocks apart. There were the opened graves, caused by the earthquake. And there were resurrections, people who had been dead coming to life and walking around town, finding freedom because their graves were now open.
Well, as I researched this thought, in particular the 3 hours of midday darkness, I remembered a sermon I preached several years ago. It was the spiritual darkness Jesus faced while He was dying on the cross, and the words He cried out: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” I remembered how powerfully that sermon spoke to me years ago, so I thought I’d bring it out and dust it off and share it with you tonight.
Our passage tonight deals with the big question, the question we have all asked, a question filled with pain, hurt, regret, frustration, tired-ness, and maybe even hopelessness. It’s the question of “why?” In particular, why am I hurting so bad?
Pain is perhaps the only common denominator that all humans share. Heartaches and brokenness unify all people. And sometimes pain works its way into one person’s words that others seem to respond to, as well. Take, for instance, these real country songs: How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away? She Chews Tobacco, But She Didn’t Choose Me. I Don’t Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling. I Keep Forgettin’ I Forgot About You. I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well. I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim’s Gettin’ Better. I Wouldn’t Take Her To A Dog Fight, ‘Cause I’m Afraid She’d Win. I’m So Miserable Without You, It’s Like Havin’ You Here. If I Had Shot You When I Wanted To, I’d Be Out By Now. My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don’t Love You. My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, And I Sure Do Miss Him. Please Bypass This Heart. I Baked My Sweetie A Pie, But He Left With A Tart. I Lost My Honey Bunny On A Bad Hare Day. I Found The Recipe For Heartbreak In A Cookbook On Your Shelf. Now That We’re Miserable, I Hope You’re Happy. And finally, I Just Bought A Car From The Guy That Stole My Girl, But The Car Don’t Run So I Figure We Got An Even Deal.
Well, from the ridiculous to the sublime, as they say, even Christian songwriter Rich Mullins, author of “Awesome God”, wrote these words in his brutally honest song, “Hard to Get” – “And I know You bore our sorrows, and I know You feel our pain, and I know it would not hurt any less, even if it could be explained. And I know that I am only lashing out at the One who loves me most…”
Even those of us who have been walking with God for years are still confused about God’s ways. We often try to hide our pain and doubts, thinking that they are a sign of lack of spirituality, a sign of carnality and doubt. And we carry a superficial faith, a pseudo-faith, never being honest before God, who knows our hearts anyway. And so, these superficial, plastic people read Jesus’ words and try to dismiss them: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus spoke these words – rather, cried out these words – sometime between noon and 3PM on Friday afternoon, as the miraculous darkness lay over the land. Now, you need to know that these words have caused a great deal of confusion over the years among people who have known the Bible well. “What did Jesus mean? Did God the Father really leave Jesus? Did Jesus have doubts? Did the Father really forsake the Son?”
Different commentators have come up with entirely different answers. For example, the esteemed Matthew Henry said, Yes, God really did forsake Jesus. 1) Jesus said so, which might even be enough there. But, 2) 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus became sin for us, and so God turned His back on Jesus, because He cannot look at sin.
Well, the equally esteemed Adam Clarke, who was more of the Wesleyan persuasion, said, No, God did not really forsake Jesus. 1) Colossians 2:9 says that in Jesus is all the fullness of the Deity. So how can God forsake Himself? Well, He can’t – 2 Timothy 2:13. 2) 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God was there, in Christ, using the cross to bring the world to Himself. And 3) Psalm 139 says you can’t escape God’s Spirit.