Words From The Cross (Part 4)
Matthew 27:27-46; Mark 15:16-34; Psalm 22
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Before Jesus cried these words of abandonment, the Roman soldiers mistreated Him, the crowds mocked Him, passersby derided him, the chief priest and scribes insulted Him, "He saved others, but he can’t save himself!" (Mark 15:31). Sure, they were questioning the legitimacy of His claims, but at a deeper level, their taunt was right. If Jesus was to save others, He had to sacrifice Himself, and He could not save Himself.
But worst of all for Jesus had to be the feeling of abandonment by God (Mark 15:34). The Son knew the intimacy with His Father spoken of in Matthew 11:27 and was now experiencing what he had never known before – what He had dreaded the most—abandonment by His Holy Father, as He bore the curse of human guilt. So, with His words, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", Jesus utters the complaint of a righteous sufferer as He shares in our ultimate alienation from God in experiencing the pain of death (Romans 6:23) that each of us deserves.
"My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?" is more than a cry of abandonment; it is also a cry of worship. These words are from a psalm that most Jews in Jesus’ day would have known. Psalm 22 begins this way, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest" (Psalm 22:1-2). The Jews standing around the cross would have known this song. It would have been like someone crying out "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound" among a group of Christians. They would immediately think, "that saved a wretch like me." Jesus only cited the first words of this psalm, but I imagine He knew the rest of the words quite well. Psalm 22 describes a time when David was suffering at the hands of his enemies and, in it, the reader sees an interesting parallel to what is happening on the cross: "All who see me mock me (v. 7). A "pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hand and feet" (vs. 16). "They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment" (v. 18). Although the psalm begins darkly, it also affirms the psalmist's trust in God (v. 24) and points to a confident hope that death would not be the end for David, death would not be the end for Jesus, and death would not be the end of the gospel (vv. 29-32).
Jesus' response is quite different than how we respond when we go through a difficult time and feel that God isn't near. Many of us get disappointed with God and we turn away from Him instead of worshiping Him. We decide we don't want anything to do with Him because He didn't help us in our time of need. But, Jesus didn't do that. At the most difficult time in His life, when he felt separated from His Heavenly Father, Jesus prayed and He worshiped.
So, when we feel abandoned by God, when we feel like He isn't near, we would be wise to respond like Jesus and choose to trust God and believe that He has not forsaken us. We must believe and trust that God will not hide His face from us and that he hears us when we cry out to Him. So friends, let Jesus' heart be your heart. When you feel abandoned by God, praise Him, revere Him, and declare His great name.