From the Cradle to the Cross (2)

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Matthew 27:45-46 –  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  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?”

(This is the second part of blog posted on December 27th)

2.  The Cry of Dereliction (v. 46)

The gospels are silent as to what took place during those three hours of darkness.  William Hendriksen calls the three hours “a blank” but reminds us what was taking place as Jesus suffered indescribable agonies.  He was being “made sin” for us (2 Cor. 5:21), “a curse” (Gal. 3:13); He was being “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53). [1]  There was a great exchange taking place: the sins of those whom Christ died were put on Him as His righteousness was put on those whose sin He received.

Then, after three hours of wave upon wave of sin and wickedness being hurled upon Him, Jesus cried out these mysterious words from Psalm 22:1, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  These words are mysterious because we have great difficulty from a Trinitarian perspective reasoning what this means.  We notice that God did not answer Jesus’ question, which only adds to the mystery.  The question that Jesus asked goes unanswered because the subject is too sacred for our ears.  We could not comprehend it if answered, nor did we need to know the answer.

But the question remains, “How could God forsake God?”  Much has been written as to what this means (or does not mean).  But I would direct your attention first and foremost to the words themselves which leave no doubt that Christ was forsaken.  Geoff Thomas notes:

They mean what they say. The Lord Jesus Christ was actually forsaken by his Father at this moment. He had always been with his Father. In the beginning the Word was with God. All through his earthly life God had been there for Jesus to appropriate; he and his Father fellowshipped together. God was always there to communicate with and rejoice in hour by hour, a God to be thanked at the end of each day for the divine mercies that had been new that morning, and sustained through each day. He felt loved by God, and loved his Father in return. “I am not alone,” he once said, “for my Father is with me” (Jn. 8:29; 16:32). There never was a sweeter Father, and there never was a more loving Son. Yet there came this strange time when God was no longer there. This was uncharted territory for him. Jesus had no rod and no staff to comfort him as he walked through the valley of death. He was abandoned by God; God forsaken by God. No explanation of the cry of dereliction is worthy of acceptance which does not accept that reality. [2]

Make no mistake, then, God the Father turned His back on His own Son and left Him – alone!  And Jesus cried out, “Why?”  See, while on the Cross Jesus knew why Judas the betrayer had forsaken Him. He understood why He was forsaken by the crowd who taunted Him along with the religious leaders, yet He remained silent.  He expected that the soldiers would forsake Him – they mocked Him: they had crowned him with the crown of thorns, they had scourged and beat him, they even went so far as to spit upon him and pluck out his hair. They stripped him of his garments and put him to an open shame. Yet he suffered it all in silence.  He was not surprised at being forsaken by thieves on His right and on His left, reviled but not reviling in return.  He would not even question His own disciples forsaking Him, having told them beforehand they would leave Him alone at Calvary.  But how could His own Father, whom He had willing obeyed every nanosecond of His life on earth, how could He forsake Him now in His greatest act of obedience?

What this cry demonstrated was that Jesus not only bore the sins of men in His body, physically, but also in His soul.  Calvin said that if Christ had only died a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. Unless His soul shared in the punishment He would have been a Redeemer of bodies alone.  Jesus’ cry of dereliction, as incomprehensible and mysterious as it is, demonstrates that the whole God-man bore God’s wrath for us. He that became flesh took our condemnation upon Himself. He who lived in perfect obedience to the Father suffered our punishment in our place, in order to redeem us totally.

Again hear Geoff Thomas:

Please understand that it was not that a crack that had developed in the Trinity so that Father and Son fell apart. That is utterly impossible. Father and Son were still one in their being, and one in their wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. The unity of being of Father and Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity was not affected at all, but the awesome fellowship of delight was temporarily severed between these two persons, the God-man and the Father. While he hung on the cross in the darkness accomplishing our redemption God forsook God. God the Son was forsaken by God the Father. Jesus’ cry was in the form of a question not that he was asking heaven for an answer. He knew the answer. It was in the form of a question because the Scripture which most perfectly describes the dereliction of the sin-bearer is found in the book of Psalms, and it is set out in a question. [3]

God forsook His own Son.  At that moment, Jesus was outside the reassuring love of the covenant because of our sin.  That cup which He promised to drink to the bottom was now empty, and the full fury of God’s unmitigated wrath was hurled down upon His only Son so that those who trust in Him for salvation will never be forsaken because the Judge sees them clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Thus the writer of Hebrews could quote the Old Testament with a greater confidence than the Old Testament saint who was tied to the shadow of the old sacrificial system, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5; cf. Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5).  We have this assurance because God forsook His Son, leaving Him alone to endure the agonizing penalty for our sins.


[1] William Hendriksen, NTC: Mark, 661-662.

[2] Geoff Thomas, http://www.alfredplacechurch.org.uk/?page_id=2551, accessed 05/03/2008.

[3] Ibid.

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