"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"
As we remember and celebrate the events that took place leading up to that first Easter morning, I want to focus on one of the famous sayings of Jesus as He hung on the cross of Calvary. A short time after He is lifted up, the whole land is covered in this thick, supernatural darkness, which is strange because this would have started between noon and 3:00 P.M. Scripture says, “About the ninth hour,” around 3 hours into this darkness, Jesus was hanging there on the cross barely alive. Some say that you couldn’t even recognize that this was a human being anymore because of the physical torture, pain, and beatings He went through and endured. During this time while He was hanging there, we read this in Matthew 27:46, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice (in the Greek that word is to scream or to yell), ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
I don’t think that in all of history there has ever been any deeper or darker words spoken…and that is the question, Why? After all your Son has done, why God?? God and Jesus have been in perfect communion with each other from the beginning of eternity, and now as He is dying on the cross, Jesus is left to suffer and die alone while the Father turns His back on Him. “God, why have You forsaken Me?” Why is this happening? I think that is one of the most important questions ever: Why was Jesus forsaken? Why does this matter? Why does this matter to me? Why was He abandoned by God? Why did Jesus’ Father turn His back on the Son in wrath and disgust? The answer is…because of me…so that I might live.
If you are reading this and you are a Christian, you can say the same thing. Why was Jesus forsaken? Because of you…so that you might live. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, this is what the Easter season is all about. Jesus died to save sinners, just like you and just like me. The Word of God says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” That is everyone…and as Jesus hung on that cross, God placed my sins - the ones I can think of specifically right now, the ones I can’t remember, the ones I didn’t even realize I committed - He placed my sin on Jesus and punished Him in my place. Rejected Him so that I wouldn’t be rejected. Forsook Him so that I wouldn’t be forsaken. Abandoned Him, crushed Him, killed Him…so that He wouldn’t have to do that to me.
If you were ever looking for a definition of “love,” then there it is. God loved us, not because of anything good we have done, because again, we are all sinners. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages/penalty of sin is death.” I deserve what Jesus went through…I deserve to be forsaken…I deserve to be abandoned…not Jesus. Well, what exactly did Jesus suffer for as He hung there on the cross? It is at this moment that this cry that we see from Jesus on the cross – God the Father forsaking God the Son – that Jesus knows His perfect relationship with His Father is no longer there.
To really understand what is happening, you have to look at Psalm 22. This is a ceremonial psalm which King David cries out to God to rescue the people of Israel. But it’s not just him crying this out. It’s King David going before God, bearing on himself all the sins and all the sufferings of the people of Israel and he’s asking God to forgive the nation by forgiving him. He’s standing in their place, bearing their sin, and suffering for them. That’s what is happening with Jesus. He’s holding on Himself the horror of His people’s sins, and because of that and because of the holiness of God the Father, He cannot even look at Jesus.
Peter says in 1 Peter 2:24, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.” Paul also said something similar to this in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” That is incredible to think about. That Jesus, through His whole life, never knowing one sinful action, is now bearing on the cross all the sins of everyone. Can you imagine the weight of that? Just think of how much weight and suffering there is when one person commits one sin…how that one sin can affect and hurt so many people. And here Jesus is bearing all the weight of all the sins of everyone.
Why is this so important for you and for me? Well, because of what Jesus suffered and went through on the cross, I can now have a relationship with God. Because I have accepted this incredible, undeserved gift of the love and grace of God, my debt has been paid; I am now free from my sin, and I can live a life knowing that no matter where I am, no matter what I go through, no matter what is happening around me, God says to me, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).”
We serve an incredible, amazing Savior who was forsaken so that we might live. That’s why I worship Jesus. That’s why I sing praises to His name. That’s why I serve Jesus with my life. And my hope and prayer is that every single one of you can say the same thing, and we can worship and serve Him joyfully, because our Savior is alive! Three days later, He rose from the dead, ultimately defeating sin, and He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.
For Your Glory,
Pastor Doug Wagner