My God, My God, why have your forsaken Me?
Mark 15:34, “(34) And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?“ which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
This passage has come under scrutiny in recent years, and scrutiny is sometimes good – so long as it is due to valid reasons within a given text.
If we cannot allow scripture to be questioned, then that becomes a statement that our beliefs need protecting because we are afraid that they cannot stand up under scrutiny.
I have spent some time listening to and studying the reasons offered for questioning Jesus’ words on the cross – and so far as I have been able to see, they are nearly all emotional appeals – not logical nor theological ones. Granted, theological reasons ARE offered, but only within the context of an emotional explanation. These ALWAYS call into question nearly all the Old Testament and everything the New Testament says in connecting the sacrificial system God set up in Israel with its fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
The emotional appeal goes something like this, “God would never turn His back on Jesus. What kind of Father would forsake His Own Son in such a time of need?”
This objection is easily countered with yet another question.
You might as well ask, “what kind of father would have his own son murdered for the sake of ungrateful sinners?”
If God would do one, is it really that much of a stretch that He might do the other?
The other appeal goes something like this…
“What Jesus said on the cross was simply a cry from His heart based upon how the experience made Him feel. Besides, He was dehydrated, beaten, had not eaten for some time and had been hanging from the cross for hours…He was probably delusional at this point.”
To this consideration of Jesus’ physical, emotional & mental state being compromised when He spoke those words, I simply have one question. Are we to assume that given more time on the cross, somehow made Jesus less, weak, less dehydrated and more lucid? Be careful… for if Jesus was delusional when He cried out to God about forsaking Him, then considering the order of the events as they took place, then He was certainly still delusional when He later claimed that “It is Finished”!
If we cannot trust the former account as rational and accurate, what makes us think we can trust the other?
Let’s look at a composite of the accounts of gospels concerning what transpired on the cross:
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?“ which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?“
After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!“
(29) A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth. (30) When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!“ And calling out to God with a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.“ Saying this, He breathed His last.
Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”
The order of the events show a time when God forsook Christ, but suggest that after the debt had been paid, that His prayer was heard when He committed His spirit into the Father’s hands.
So far as I can tell, in all my reading and research I have found no reason to doubt these words as being both an accurate account of what Jesus said, nor to doubt that what Jesus said was an actual account of the facts.
The only suggestion offered by those who have called all of this into question, which also has any theological footing whatsoever is the prophetic psalm which records the words of Christ on the cross – Psalm 22.
However, this passage mentions BOTH views, and that is NOT at all contradictory.
Let’s examine Psalm 22 together.
“(1) My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning? (2) My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest. (3) nevertheless, You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
This Psalm offers one of the clearest pictures of Jesus on the cross of ANY prophetic account in the whole Bible. In this first section, it clearly depicts Jesus as crying out to God because He has forsaken Him and was FAR AWAY from delivering Him and from hearing Him. He cried out by day and night and God did not answer Him.
This is a little more objective of an account. It shows clear thought and genuine wonder at God’s absence, and it wasn’t only during a brief moment – this continued from day until night. It doesn’t appear to be a momentary cry of despair from a wearied and delusional man. Consider the other things He apparently thought or said while on the cross. They do not sound like the thoughts of an over emotional or mentally out of touch man…
“(4) Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You rescued them. (5) They cried to You and were set free; they trusted in You and were not disgraced. (6) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by people.
(7) Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads: (8) “He relies on the LORD; let Him rescue him; let the LORD deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him.”
(9) You took me from the womb, making me secure while at my mother’s breast. (10) I was given over to You at birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb. (11) Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help.
(12) Many bulls surround me; strong ones of Bashan encircle me. (13) They open their mouths against me–lions, mauling and roaring. (14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed; my heart is like wax, melting within me. (15) My strength is dried up like baked clay; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You put me into the dust of death. (16) For dogs have surrounded me; a gang of evildoers has closed in on me; they pierced my hands and my feet. (17) I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me.
(18) They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. (19) But You, LORD, don’t be far away. My strength, come quickly to help me. (20) Deliver my life from the sword, my very life from the power of the dog. (21) Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen.”
Still we see Jesus proclaiming God as just and faithful to His people, though He distances Himself from Christ on the cross.
The depiction offered of His physical state is 100% accurate to what one experiences during crucifixion. It is almost medical and clinical in its clarity.
Then Jesus goes on…and it is in this section that people claim that Jesus came to clarity and realized that He had not been forsaken after all.
“(22) I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; I will praise You in the congregation. (23) You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him! All you descendants of Israel, revere Him! (24) For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help.”
The entire case for God not forsaking Jesus is lifted from verse 24!
Now, I could easily make a case for this NOT referring to Jesus at all, but that Jesus was simply continuing in His former train of thought of comparing what God always does in His faithfulness to Israel and what He, as their Messiah was experiencing on their behalf. In fact, that is almost certainly what IS being said here.
Nevertheless, even if this is an acknowledgement that God is hearing His cry at the moment, that is in no way a denial that for a time He had indeed forsaken Him. Such is even alluded to on the cross itself, for Jesus cried out “It is Finished” just before the veil was torn apart – proving that redemption’s price had been paid!
It was then that He made His final statement on the cross, which was spoken TO God Who was no doubt again answering Him, since the debt had now been paid.
He said, “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit”, and then He breathed His last!
Nothing about the account of Christ’s crucifixion in this Psalm indicates a reversal of previous statements, it only suggests the potential a reversal of condition.
All those I’ve personally encountered, who cling to this notion that God simply never forsook Christ on the cross have expressed a “NEED” for that to be true.
Now I am NOT unsympathetic with their assumed need, but THAT is a dangerous state of mind to have when interpreting scripture. Anyone who does research of any kind can tell you that you will find what you are looking for – even if it is not there!
Over and again I’ve heard the advocates of this belief say, “If God would turn His back on and forsake His sinless Son, then what is to prevent Him from turning His back on me?”
Hmmm, so now we have it! This is not a theological belief; it is a belief developed out of insecurity and fear and therefore, out of necessity. I could actually hear it in their voices.
During unguarded moments with many of these same people I’ve heard them tell their own “horror” stories of how in the past they struggled with a fear of losing their salvation, or sinning away their grace or a need to repent every moment over everything so they would not die in their sins and be rejected.
Friends – these fears is not biblical and are not faith.
God did what He did with the Son so that we might have life and peace with God.
Those who love God and seek to honor Him are in no more danger of God forsaking them than they are of God having them crucified.
ALL of that was done FOR them so it would not have to be done TO them!
Remember what started all of this, “For God SO LOVED the world that He gave…” we MUST not loose focus on God’s reasons, purposes and intent.
Now, let’s consider what actually DID happen in the garden and on the cross.
In Jesus’ garden prayer – He spoke His heart freely to God in telling Him He did not want to drink the cup the Father had prepared for Him – and asked Him if in His infinite wisdom there was any other way to accomplish His purposes – yet in the same breath He always ended His prayer with “nevertheless – not My will…but Your will!”
Jesus died in that garden!
It was such an intense wrestling that He experienced what is known in the medical field as Hematidrosis.
Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood and it only happens under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress.
So we might add to what we know of Jesus’ garden prayer that it was passionate. That prayer was filled with an inner wrestling, but what was the focal point of Jesus’ wrestling?
Was He simply afraid to die?
Was He more afraid of the act of crucifixion than the thieves who were crucified on His right and left?
No I believe it was the fact that for the first time from eternity past, Jesus would know what it was to be utterly separated from the Father!
On the cross Jesus did not say “Why does it feel like You are so far away”.
No, Jesus with all of His faculties in order asked His Father and God, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus, in quoting from Psalm 22 does so in Aramaic, but the original was written in Hebrew and that offers us another key to understanding the verse.
The verb translated “forsake” is azab (עזב). It’s a word laden down with Old Testament connotations and living examples of exile.
Jesus was, in effect, asking “why have you sent Me into Exile”, though it could have been more of a statement than a question. Regardless, those words were an unspeakably crushing cry from the depths of His broken and reeling heart.
THIS is what Jesus experienced Hematidrosis over and it is in fulfillment of the words of Isaiah who centuries earlier spoke of Jesus’ sacrifice by saying,
“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” – Isaiah 53:10-11
Countless men and women have faced deaths that were as horrible as the cross including crucifixion itself without such cries of despair and pleading that God would deliver them.
Are we to believe that our Savior was somehow less brave and noble in the face of death than they?
I think not!
No – physical death was NOT what Jesus wanted to be delivered from – but the taking on Himself the sins of the whole world and its inevitable consequence which was separation from the Father. That is what spiritual death IS!
Jesus told us that Spiritual and Eternal Life was to live in union with and experientially KNOW the Father. So Spiritual death would be to be separated FROM Him and cut off from union and communion with Him.
Listen, if OUR death with Christ on the cross cannot just be propositional – than neither could Jesus’. If He took on our sins then He also took on it’s consequences!
Those who doubt Jesus’ account of His Own situation on the cross, need to consider that if Jesus was not separated from the Father on the cross then He did not pay the penalty for our sins. It really is that simple!
Let me end by addressing another issue this brings up.
Many say that if Jesus didn’t go to hell then He did not pay the price I would have paid. This is simply not true. The consequences or “wages” of sin is death – not hell.
Hell is either a state of being or a location the lost will be in for eternity. It is NOT the penalty itself.
Let me clearly state here that NOTHING in the scriptures say, nor even hint at the idea that Jesus went to hell after the cross.
The psalmist said, “you will not leave My soul in sheol”. Many have translated the word “sheol” as “hell”, this is both unwarranted and unfortunate. The passage is found in Psalm 16:9-10, let’s read it!
Psalms 16:9-10, “(9) Therefore My heart is glad, and My spirit rejoices; My body also rests securely. (10) For You will not abandon Me to Sheol; You will not allow Your Holy One to see the corruption.”
Verse 10 is a form of poetry called parallelism.
Parallelism has several forms, but one of the most eloquent is when the same thing is repeated using different words and imagery. THAT is what is happening in these verses.
- The word sheol literally means the grave.
- The words “Your Holy One” is a phrase used many times in scripture to refer to the incarnated Christ – with special emphasis on His actual physical body.
- The word “corruption” means physical decay.
So verse 10 would read like this,
“You will not abandon Me in the grave, you will not let CHrist’s physical body experience decay.”
This is further evidenced by the words of Jesus on the cross when He told the one thief who had shone respect and faith in Jesus, “THIS DAY you will be with Me in paradise.”
Doesn’t sound like He went to hell to me.
I hope this brings some clarity to this subject. What our Lord endured for us is overwhelming, but He did it out of love and devotion of heart to the Father as well as for us.
If you would like to read some more about this, I taught on it in the body of another message back in 2017 called, The Travail of His Soul.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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