This Easter season I am preaching on questions that arise in the Easter story. We have noted that these questions come from Jesus’ disciples, Jesus’ adversaries, and even Jesus Himself.
Matthew records a cry from Jesus on the cross that is framed as a question. “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned Me?”
9 Powerful Words! Only 4 in Jesus’ Aramaic language. The trial of Jesus has been completed and now Matthew tells us that Jesus is hanging on the cross.
Why? Why these words? Every word is filled with deep emotion from Jesus and deep meaning for us.
In Jesus’ cry from the cross we see . . .
The Priority of Supplication
The first thing to observe in these nine words is that this is a prayer. Jesus is praying when He is arrested. You remember that prayer. “My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Then He prays, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Then, Matthew simply says that Jesus prayed a third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:44) Then, they come for Him.
What do we do in the darkest times of our lives? Where do we turn for strength? We follow Jesus’ example. We turn to the Father. And a peace comes over us. Luke recorded this word from the cross, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) John recorded, “It is finished.” And then, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)
Do you see the principle? Though Jesus was in agony, He was at peace. Prayer can do the same in our lives.
The Power of Scripture
The next thing to notice in these nine words is the power of Scripture. Jesus is praying to be sure, but He is also quoting Scripture. The Scripture that He is quoting is Psalm 22.
In Jesus, we have a wonderful example of the power and importance of Scripture in the most demanding moments of life. The most familiar example of this is in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as He is tempted in the wilderness. Three times Jesus quoted the Old Testament Scripture as he faced the temptation of Satan. Though Psalm 22 starts off as a prayer of suffering, the conclusion of the Psalm is that this is a Psalm of praise. Might Jesus be doing the same here?
What are we to do in life’s most despairing moments? We follow the example of Jesus. We turn to the Father in prayer. We turn to His Word. We find in both that a peace washes over us.
We need to read His Word, but we also need to discipline ourselves to memorize His word so that we will be armed when those moments of despair come.
The Penalty of our Sin
The spiritual agony that Jesus faced is most clear. Remember the commentary from 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He, the sinless One, took upon Himself all of our—all sin of all people of all time.
I believe this is the cry of the cross because this is how Jesus felt. That’s how sin makes us feel isn’t it? And these words are accompanied by complete darkness. No wonder it grew dark. Jesus bore the sin of all.
The Provision of our Salvation
Consider Leviticus 16:20-22.
20 “When he has finished making atonement for the most holy place, the tent of meeting, and the altar, he is to present the live male goat. 21 Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites’ iniquities and rebellious acts—all their sins. He is to put them on the goat’s head and send it away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry all their iniquities into a desolate land, and the man will release it there. (CSB)
Here is the Gospel. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Sin has a penalty—separation from a Holy God. Jesus took our sin and took our penalty so that we could be free from the eternal penalty of sin. He took for a moment our abandonment so that we could be forgiven of sin, freed of sin, and know that through faith we might have eternal life.
For our earthly problems and our eternal problem, our answer is the same. We trust Jesus.
(This post is based on the message “My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)