Matthew 27:46 – “…..my God, my God why have you forsaken me.”
The Bible is full of beautiful verses and beautiful stories. It is wonderful to think about Jeremiah 29:11, “for I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” It is inspiring to read Paul’s writing to the church at Philippi when he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It gives us assurance to turn the pages of the book of Romans until we read, “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” Again it lifts us up to hear, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Beautiful words, wonderful words wonderful words of life, as the hymn says.
But then we come to Matthew 27:45-46, with the gruesome image of Jesus hanging on the cross already in our minds, we hear Him utter perhaps one of the worst verses in all of Scripture. “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” What does He mean? What is Jesus saying here? It is horrific sounding isn’t it, God the Son has been forsaken by God the Father, at least temporarily there is separation in the Trinity. How does it happen? What does Jesus mean?
Several people have suggested answers. Some say well He is quoting Psalm 22, and if you read the entirety of that psalm, it is a psalm of victory not of defeat. And whereas I know Jesus was ultimately victorious on the cross, there is nothing victorious about His cry here. There is no use weakening it and trying to make it something that it is not. Jesus said, “why have you forsaken me?” It is not a cry of victory (that comes later), but it is a cry of agony and anguish, a cry of a person in extreme torment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is one of the worst cries ever heard.
Others have said well it can’t mean what it says, it was just something that He uttered but ultimately didn’t mean. I don’t think that way has any merit either, Jesus spoke sometimes in parables, but He didn’t say things that He didn’t mean. So what does He mean? I believe that interpreting Scripture the simplest way is usually best, so I believe He means exactly what He says, that there was a time on the cross, when Jesus became sin and because of the Father could not look upon Him. He was forsaken. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk reminds us that God is holy and that He doesn’t look on sin. So because of that at some moment while Jesus was on the cross, God the Father turned away from His Son. Jesus bore our sins, but the Bible also reminds us that Jesus became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), and when He did, He was forsaken by the Father.
Why did He become sin? So He could give us what reformer Martin Luther called, “the great exchange”. He took our sins and He gave us His righteousness. He became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus was forsaken for us. He endured the torture, the pain, the agony, the humiliation, the denial, the betrayal, and the horror of the cross. All of that was worse than anything we could even imagine, but perhaps the worst part of it all was being forsaken by the Father. He lived in a conscious enjoyment of God the Father, but now that was broken and gone. It had to be the most excruciating moment that Jesus, or anyone had ever experienced. Our sin had separated us from the Father, and now Jesus became separated so that we might become reconciled.
Forsaken by God the Father. Forsaken because He took on our sins, forsaken because He became sin. Forsaken, willingly forsaken for you and for me. He was forsaken so that we never have to be. Without Jesus we are lost in our sins, we are enemies of Almighty God, we are on the way to being permanently forsaken by Him at judgment, but now through the reconciling blood of Jesus on the cross we can be forgiven, our relationship with God can be restored, so that we never have to be forsaken again.
In our world today people struggle with depression and anxiety and fear, and one of the reasons is that we fear lonliness and loss and being forsaken by someone that we love but through the cross we don’t have to fear those things. We have a Father who has promised us that He would always be with us. He has promised to never “leave us or FORSAKE us.” Jesus was forsaken by the Father so that we never have to be.
That is good news, we do not have to go through life alone. Our Father walks through this world with us, if we have a relationship with Him. A relationship that is made possible through the blood of Jesus on the cross. He was forsaken and I will never be forsaken. Because of that the words of Paul are true from Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are eternally loved, if we are covered with the blood of Christ. That frees us up doesn’t it? Since we are eternally and perfectly loved by God the Father and since He will never forsake us, we are free to love other people without expecting anything in return. After all we have everything that we need in Jesus, so we don’t have to pursue having people love us to give us fulfillment. Jesus loves us perfectly and eternally so we are fulfilled.
He experienced the pain of being forsaken, so that we will never have to. That is how much He loves us. He loves us with an unending and amazing love. A love that will never fail. A love that changes everything, because now we are accepted.
As the song You Are My King says:
“I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well, your spirit lives within me
Because you died and you rose again
Amazing love how can it be
That you my King would die for me……”
One of the worst fears is the fear of being forsaken. Jesus endured the worst kind of being forsaken so you and I don’t have to. He cried out from being forsaken, and now we can cry out and know that our prayers are heard. Our King really does love us with an amazing love.