TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 27-28
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” – Matthew 27:46
Most people read these words of Jesus from the cross and say, “Yes, God forsook Jesus.”
Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that God forsook Jesus? Do you really believe that God left Jesus for dead?
If you really believe that God forsook Jesus, then why would you ever worship God? How could you ever worship a father that forsook his son, left him for dead, abandoned him, at the most critical moment of his life?
The answer is that you could not worship a father that forsook his son in the most critical moment of his life.
If you really believe that God forsook Jesus, his only begotten son, then how could you ever trust God not to abandon you?
The answer is that you could never fully trust a God who forsook his only begotten son.
We must remember that these words of Jesus are a question. Jesus asks, “Why have you forsaken me?” It’s a question, not a statement of fact. Jesus did not say, “God has forsaken me.”
Have you ever asked a question and received an answer to your question that proved you were wrong?
Of course you have.
Jesus asked, “Why have you forsaken me?” But, the answer came back from his Father had not forsaken him.
How do we know this was the answer from God to Jesus? How do we know God told Jesus that he was not forsaking him?
We could read Psalm 22, which Jesus is quoting when he asks why God has forsaken him. The question is the first verse of the psalm. But, the entirety of the psalm answers the question negatively. The answer to the question “Why have you forsaken me?” is “No, you have not forsaken me.” Just read the psalm.
But, there’s another way to know that God did not forsake Jesus.
In Matthew (and Mark), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are the only words that Jesus speaks from the cross. But, Luke and John both record additional things that Jesus said while he was on the cross.
Let’s focus on what Luke has Jesus saying.
Luke does not record Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” But, the words of Jesus that Luke records prove that Jesus was not forsaken.
Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I find it unlikely that Jesus would ask the Father to forgive his enemies for crucifying him if he had been forsaken by God. For, if Jesus had been forsaken by God, then from whence would have he have drawn to utter those words?
Luke 23:43 says, “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.'” Jesus said this to one of the robbers he was crucified with. Jesus’ real question was, “God why have forsaken me to the land of the dead?” The tense of the Greek verb forsaken in Jesus’ question indicates that the action of forsaking need not be a singular moment in time but that the action of forsaking could be over a period of time and just stated as a singular moment of time. And, ultimately, being forsaken by God would be to be left for dead in the land of the dead, Hades.
Jesus tells the robber that he can join Jesus in paradise that very day. If Jesus was forsaken by God, then would he consider where he was going that very day to be paradise? I highly doubt it.
But, Jesus’ last words from the cross in Luke are the most important. Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit!'”
Would Jesus say he is commending his spirit into the hands of his father if his father had forsaken him?
In fact, these words of Jesus reveal that God had answered Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” And, God’s answer was “I have not forsaken you.” Therefore, Jesus put his spirit in the Father’s hands. He trusted the Father to deliver him from death. Jesus knew that he was not forsaken.
There’s an interesting verse in Hebrews that reveals this. Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”
Do you see what that is saying?
When was Jesus in his flesh?
Before he was crucified and resurrected. For after he was resurrected, he had a glorified body not a fleshly body.
So, in his flesh, on the cross, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications.
What was that prayer?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
He offered up his prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. We just read that Luke said, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!'” We know that this declaration from Jesus comes after Jesus’ question, “Why have you forsaken me?” We know this because after Jesus’ question in Matthew, Matthew 27:50 says, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”
Jesus yielded his spirit to his father, he laid down his life, because he knew his father would not forsake him to the land of the dead. As Hebrews 5:7 says, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications “to him who was able to save him from death.”
Jesus was willing and able to yield up his spirit because he knew his father would save him from death. Jesus knew he had not been forsaken.
Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus “was heard because of his reverence.”
Therefore, Jesus was not irreverent and lacking faith to ask his father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s not irreverent to ask the question. This is exactly what we see in Psalm 22. The psalmist asked the same question as Jesus. But, the remainder of the psalm is filled with words of trusting in and fearing (in awe) God.
Jesus’ prayer was answered.
His father would save him from death.
God did not forsake Jesus.