We Proclaim Jesus.
God's time is now, for the days fly fast,
And swiftly the seasons roll;
Today is yours, it may be your last;
Choose life for your priceless soul!"-Fabian
By Joseph Ametepe
While suffering on the cross for our sins on Golgotha, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke seven short, simple but significant sentences. These sayings reveal a great deal about the heart of the Lord Jesus. No one Gospel writer recorded them all. Certainly, the Holy Spirit was sovereign in this. He chose in His wisdom to give the four Gospel Writers the privilege of recording what He deemed best for their Gospel material. Mark and Matthew were given the privilege of recording only one of the seven sayings, while the remaining six sayings were shared equally between Dr. Luke and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Each records three sayings in their Gospel accounts.
These so-called seven sayings from the cross by our Savior, have been held dear by the Church primarily because they have opened to us a window into our Lord's heart and mind while suffering for our sins on the Roman cruel cross. The amazing thing about each saying is that they were spoken not in anger, resentment, bitterness, or with a complaining or vindictive spirit. In fact, each is a vivid expression either of His great care, concern, compassion and His sacrificial and selfless love for us, or of His dreadful but divine work of bearing our sin, or His final conquest and victory over sin and Satan.
The season of celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ is certainly an appropriate time to pause and ponder each of these sayings. I believe doing so will enhance and energize our spirits to worship Christ with a new sense of purpose and passion. Of course, meditating on these sayings should not be limited to Easter celebrations. It should be practiced all year long because Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins is key to our daily living and eternal future.
My purpose is to present each saying in an article in the order in which they were spoken by our Suffering Savior. I have entitled the fourth saying: "The Savior's Sudden Cry of Desolation.
As the Lord Jesus hung on the cross on that historic day, suspended between heaven and earth, He made several statements. We've looked at three of them so far, namely His selfless prayer for forgiveness of His executioners, His salvation of a sinner, and His supreme concern about His mother. In all these statements, Jesus demonstrates Himself as an example of selflessness and concern for others. He took no thought of Himself. He willingly cared for the needs of others even in His pain and agony. Now as death approaches, Jesus utters a phrase which seems to stand out in its intensity. Its intensity is magnified by the fact that it was made in a loud voice. The Bible tells us: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46; cf. Mark 15:34). In the original text, the cry of our Lord as recorded in Matthew "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" is a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. "Eli" is Hebrew and the rest of the cry is Aramaic. In Mark's account, the entire cry is recorded in Aramaic: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" (Mark 15:34). Matthew and Mark were the only Gospel writers who recorded this "Sudden Cry of Desolation." In this article, I would like to emphasis four things in our Savior's Sudden Cry of Desolation. First, it is a prophetic word (Psalm 22:1). Second, His personal expression of faith in God (Matthew 27:46b). Third, His passionate feelings (Matthew 27:46c). Fourth, His profound pain of separation from the Father (Matthew 27:46d).
Prophetic Word: (Psalm 22:1)
In Psalm 22:1, David went to God with a humble and hurting heart. He felt abandoned by God. So he approached God to pour out his heart to Him. David had a vibrant personal relationship with God. So he often expressed that in his prayers to God. He prayed: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning." In verse 2, he discloses why he is feeling forsaken. "O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest" (Psalm 22:2). You see, David had been seeking God's help for a specific situation in his life, but there was no answer from God. Sounds familiar? Can't we all relate to that? Earlier in his life, David had received answers from God. But on this particular occasion, there was no response from God. Actually, the response David got from God was silence. A feeling of separation. But this scripture and experience were not just for David. David, as the Bible says, was a prophet (Acts 2:30). As such, he spoke of things yet to come. The ultimate fulfillment of his words was to come in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David. He would experience its complete realization.
John Stott writes about the fact that this Scripture is a prophetic word:
John MacArthur also writes:
Personal Expression of Faith in God: "My God, My God" (Matthew 27:46b; cf. Mark 15:34).
Three hours of darkness, a special supernatural event came upon the whole land, from noon to three in the afternoon (Matthew 27:45). These were silent hours. Why? No word escaped from the lips of the Suffering Servant and Savior. He bore our sins in utter silence. Also, the Holy Spirit was tight-lipped on those three hours of darkness. He did not say a word about it and so the Gospel writers could not say a word either. I am of the opinion that there was silence at the throne of God as the Savior became sin for us. The worshiping angels of heaven who were beholding this wondrous sight were for once silent. These were indeed silent hours.
But then suddenly, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1), the exact time of offering the evening sacrifice, the Lord Jesus broke the silence and spoke the remaining four sayings in rapid succession, starting with "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The expression, 'My God, My God,' first of all reveals Jesus' personal faith in God. In other words, Jesus is here expressing His trust in God the Father. It is interesting to note that Jesus used the expression "My God," on one other occasion. He spoke it in His encounter with Mary Magdalene after His resurrection. After Jesus had revealed Himself to Mary, she took hold of Him. But Jesus decisively and authoritatively prohibited her from doing that with these words: "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God" (John 20:17). Whilst the expression on the cross was "My God, My God," in the garden, it is "My Father, and My God." Was Thomas following in the footsteps of his Lord, when he declared his faith in Christ, after the Resurrected Christ rebuked him to stop doubting and believe? Remember Thomas' response was "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Definitely this was Thomas' personal expression of faith in the Resurrected Christ. The Lord went on to tell Thomas that blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29). Clearly then, the expression "My God, My God" is our Lord's personal expression of faith in God the Father at this crucial moment of His life. In fact, Jesus' personal trust in God was the subject of ridicule by the religious leaders while our Lord was hanging on the cross. They taunted Jesus with these words: "He trusts in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him" (Matthew 27:43). This is also a quotation from Psalm 22:8. While on earth, Jesus demonstrated personal trust in God the Father, thus setting an example for all believers to live a life personally trusting God.
Secondly, they represent Jesus' deeply felt emotions as He suffered on the cross for the sins of the world. The personal nature of the pronoun "My" intensifies the reference to God, as Jesus addressed Him during His suffering. Contrast Jesus' wrenchingly painful expression with the way the phrase "O My God," (OMG) is tossed around today in our society. So often these words are used flippantly and casually. While Jesus said "My God" in reverence and in an intense reference to the supreme Sovereign of the universe, many people today use it as an offhand reference to some mundane experience. Please listen carefully now! If you do not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you must stop using the phrase "O My God," or "My God." Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, including your sin of using "My God," flippantly and casually. Ask Jesus to help you revere Him and relate personally to Him as your Lord and Savior. If you are already a born-again believer but realize that you have a bad habit of using "O My God," or "My God," or "O My Gosh," in an offhand manner, you need to do business with Jesus. Ask Him to cleanse you of this dirty and disrespectful way of using His name. Ask Him to help you to give Him the holy reverence He deserves.
Passionate Feelings: "Why" (Matthew 23:46c: cf. Mark 15:34 ).
Often when we ask "why?" it's because we are perplexed with God's ways with us. It's because we are puzzled over a problem or God's dealings with us. It's because we lack God's perspective regarding our circumstances. And sometimes it's because we are panic-stricken in our situation. But we cannot project that to the person of the Lord Jesus. Our Lord was not perplexed about what He was going through. He was not puzzled over God's dealing with Him. He didn't lack God's perspective in His present situation. He was not having a panic attack. Rather, by asking "why?" our Lord was displaying His passionate feeling in His once for all perfect sacrifice for our sins.
In 1 Peter 4:12, the Bible says to believers: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you." Now, if believers, who are beloved, are instructed not to be surprised at the painful trial they suffer for doing God's will, do you think the Beloved Son of God would be puzzled in His sufferings? No! Not at all!. At no point was our Lord, the Suffering Servant, perplexed in His suffering on the cross. When the Lord suddenly cried out "why...?" He was not expressing perplexity at what He was going through on the cross. He was not puzzled. Rather, He displaying His passionate feelings. He was showing His strong and intense feelings in bearing our sins.
In fact, it is noteworthy that from the biblical record, this is the only time the word "why...?" came out of our Lord's mouth in His communion with His Father. It came at the cross where He expressed His strong and passionate feelings in sacrificing Himself for our sins. He used "why? a few other times before the cross and after His resurrection. Before the cross, our Lord used it in His address of those who called Him Lord, but don't obey Him: "And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46). Also He used it to defend a woman who poured an expensive ointment on Him in the home of Simon the leper in Bethany: "Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me" (Matthew 26:10). After His resurrection He used it in rebuking His fearful and doubting disciples: "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?" (Luke 24:38).
Profound pain of separation from the Father: "Have you forsaken Me? " (Matthew 27:46d cf. Mark 15:34).
As Jesus was being made sin for us, the holy God, His Father, could not look upon sin. Nor could He continue in close communion with His Beloved Son. A separation, which is far beyond human comprehension occurred. The Greek word for "forsaken" (egkataleipo) also means "abandoned," "deserted," "left alone," or "neglected." Indeed, Jesus was abandoned, deserted, forsaken, left alone by the Father. This has never happened in their eternal relationship with each other until now. It's clear that Jesus was conscious of being abandoned by His Father. For one who knew intimacy with the Father from eternity past, such abandonment must have been a profoundly painful agony. I believe the separation was the greatest suffering endured by our Lord in sacrificing Himself for our sins. To Jesus, the desertion by the Father at this crucial moment was the consummation and concentration of all woe, beyond which there was and could be no deeper anguish for the soul. No doubt, the physical suffering of our Lord was great and grueling. But may I say to you, the physical suffering our Lord experienced in His crucifixion pales in comparison to His spiritual suffering of separation from His Father. Separation from God is hell. There was no greater agony for Jesus than to be separated from God the Father. Yet our Lord willingly endured this suffering on our behalf. How loving He is! How selfless He is!
Do you feel forsaken and forgotten? Jesus Himself experienced a great and profound pain of being forsaken. As such, Jesus understands what it means to be abandoned, deserted, forsaken, left alone, or neglected. Not only that, Jesus sympathizes with the forsaken and forgotten. And above all, Jesus provides true and timely help for the forsaken and forgotten. He is waiting and willing to meet you just where you are. Turn to Him! Trust in Him! Take Him at His word that He is able to help you today!
Bible Commentator William MacDonald also shares this insight about the separation our Lord endured at the cross:
Once the Lord Jesus confidently declared: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). But now the Father and the Son are divided temporarily, a mystery we cannot explain on this side of eternity. But the purpose for which they are divided for awhile is known to us. Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus came to offer Himself a once and for all perfect sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus came to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Jesus came to be our sin-bearer (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus came to be our substitute (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus came to suffer in our place, to the point that in Gethsemane, He submitted Himself entirely to the will of His Father, solemnly saying, "My father, if this cup [that is, the cup of suffering] cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Please never forget that in our Lord's "Sudden Cry of Desolation," or dereliction, or abandonment, or neglect, the horror of the world's sin and the great cost of our salvation are vividly and dramatically made known. In other words, Jesus' Sudden Cry of Desolation revealing His profound pain of separation from the Father is for our benefit. But you ask what benefit? Well, I'm glad you've asked. Please listen! Jesus was abandoned temporarily so that God might make Himself fully available to us. Jesus was deserted by God the Father for awhile so that we might be drawn into a new and living relationship with God. Jesus was forsaken by God momentarily so that you and I might find God eternally. Jesus was left alone by God the Father for a time so that we might be loved by the loving God for all eternity with His undying and unconditional love. Jesus was neglected for a time so that we might never be neglected in this life and in the life to come. Jesus suffered separation for a moment so that we might be saved, set free, and set apart from sin forever. These are sweet sounds of amazing grace.
But please I want you to understand this. Those who refuse to repent and believe in Jesus Christ will face the agony of eternal separation from the loving God. While there is still time for you today, repent and believe in Jesus Christ who died for your sins. The Bible says, "Behold, now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Please, remember, today is what you have. Tomorrow may not be yours! Therefore, make the most of today, by turning from your sins to Jesus, who was temporarily separated from the Father, so that you may be saved. If death comes to you today, will you be prepared to meet God? Please ponder the words of the poet Fithian! He writes:
The Savior's Sudden Cry!