The Cries of Christ From the Cross
4. The Forsaken Christ
Matthew 27: 45, 46
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’” (Genesis 1:1-5)
Proverbs 4:19: “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”
Isaiah 60:2: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the
LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”
Amos 8:9: “In that day,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.’”
Matthew 4:16: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
John 12:35-36: “Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.’”
Matthew 27: 45 - 46: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 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?’”
Allow this shout to startle, stagger and even surprise you.
As we list some of the details and descriptions surrounding this shout, our sense of awe and wonder will increase, and in the process we should explode with gratefulness for what He’s done for us.
1. This is the middle shout. The first 3 are focused on others – forgiveness for those who crucified Him, last-second salvation for a criminal and tender words to his mother. The final 4 happen in rapid succession.
2. This cry comes after a 3 hour period of darkness. From noon until 3:00 p.m. “darkness came over all the land.” The final 4 shouts are spoken in quick succession immediately before He dies at about 3 in the afternoon.
3. This begins a chain reaction of several cataclysmic events. After the 7th shout, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, the earth shook, rocks broke apart and the tombs burst open. It’s as if all of nature was bowing in sympathy to the Saviour’s death.
4. This cry is a question. This is the only time that Jesus asks a question from the cross. Jesus never asked, “Why am I beaten?” He never questioned why all his disciples fled. He didn’t even ask why the nails had to tear through his body. He did ask why He was forsaken.
5. This question is shouted in a loud voice. Of the 7 cries, only this one and the last one are made in a thunderous voice. This word means “to emphatically exclaim.” It was definitely not a whisper or a whimper. The prophecy in Joel 3: 15, 16 sheds light on why Jesus used such a loud voice: “The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble…”
6. The shout is directed to “My God,” not “My Father.” Jesus does not call out to His father like He does in the first and last cry. In fact, this is the only time in the Gospels that Jesus does not use the term “Father.” At the point of His greatest agony, as He becomes the sin bearer, He calls out to God. The Father-Son relationship was somehow changed when He became sin for us.
7. This question is preserved in the original language. Jesus cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” This was in Aramaic, the actual language that Jesus spoke. These agonizing words from the lips of our Lord are recorded for all time so we can hear His anguish.
8. This quotation is from Psalm 22. A psalm that every Jewish boy learned at a young age and recited before going to bed at night. The NT contains 15 messianic quotes to this psalm. Once again we see the link between the OT and the NT and how Jesus precisely fulfills over 300 predictive prophecies.
This psalm actually runs through the entire crucifixion and resurrection narrative. While v. 1 begins with a cry of desolation, the psalm ends with notes of victory, just like the abandonment of Jesus on Good Friday leads to the exclamation of Easter’s hope. The mood moves from being God-forsaken to God-found and then God-filled – v. 27: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.”
The Darkness v. 45
What happened on the real “black” Friday was a deep and disturbing darkness. At high noon, at a time when it was least expected, the world became dark. Spurgeon - “It was midnight at midday…Business stood still. The plow stayed in mid-furrow and the axe paused uplifted. Not only on Calvary, but on every hill and in every valley, the gloom settled down. None could move unless they groped their way like the blind.”
3 hours of light are now followed by 3 hours of silent “darkness that you can feel” as the light of the world becomes payment for the darkness of depravity. We know this wasn’t just a sandstorm. It also had to be something more than an eclipse because an eclipse doesn’t last 3 hours and this was the Passover when the moon was at its farthest distance from the sun. It’s like the darkness shut off the sun.
All creation was thrown into turmoil and the sun in the sky couldn’t bear to see the Son who is Saviour suffer. For 3 long hours, men and women shook in their sandals and shivered as the sun’s light and warmth disappeared. I’m sure those who gathered at Golgotha were petrified and maybe even paralyzed. They thought the end of the world was coming.
God turned His back on His Son when he became the sin-substitute. In the Bible, darkness is almost always connected with the judgment of God for sin. 2 Corinthians 5: 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Galatians 3: 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”
Isaiah 53: 6: “We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Everything we’ve done and all the sins that have ever been committed were placed on Jesus. All of my sins, and all of yours, were downloaded on Jesus during the darkness. The physical darkness was symbolic of Christ’s separation from the Father, who is light. John Stott - “Our sins blotted out the sunshine of His Father’s face.” God the Father turned His back because in His absolute holiness He could not look at the accumulated ugliness of all the world’s sins that were piled on His Son. When God looked down and saw His Son bearing the sin of the world, He didn’t see His Son; He saw the sin that He was bearing. In that awful moment, the Majesty turned His back. When God looked away, the light evaporated.
The Desolation v. 46
The word “forsaken” means “to desert, to disown, to turn away from, to leave behind.” This was more than just that Jesus felt forsaken; He was literally and actually abandoned by the Almighty. This cry, shouted out to the Heavens, is met with a holy silence.
During this time of desolation on the cross, Jesus did not cease to be the eternal Son of God. The Father never stopped loving Him. In fact, this was the climax of His love. This was why He had sent His Son in the first place.
Jesus was forsaken because we deserved to be deserted. He endured the darkness and abandonment and judgment so we won’t have to. He was forsaken that I might be forgiven. The Father forsook the Son because His holiness required it.
Jesus took the indignation, anger and wrath of God for us. Jesus received what rightly belonged to us so that we can receive that which we don’t deserve – forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Friends, there’s no way to soften this shout. God’s wrath was poured on Christ because of our sins. To say it theologically, Jesus died a vicarious (it was done in our place) and substitutionary (instead of us) death as an atoning (God’s wrath has been fully satisfied) sacrifice for our sins. We have a hard time fully comprehending this cry from the cross because we have at least 2 misunderstandings.
1. We overestimate our goodness. Most of us believe that we’re not all that bad. We don’t really think that our sinfulness should send us to Hell. We should never minimize the horror of human sin. It was our sin that Jesus bore on the cross. It was our sin that caused the Father to turn away. Jesus became a curse, and you and I are part of the reason why He did so.
2. We underestimate God’s holiness. God is utterly holy, perfectly pure and He finds sin repulsive and repugnant. He cannot lower his standards. He is holy, holy, holy. He does not tolerate sin and must therefore punish it by enforcing the penalty. He took our place so we don’t have to pay the price for our sins.
God demands payment and the payment has been made.
Romans 3: 25, 26: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
When you have Jesus in your life, you no longer have to stumble around in spiritual darkness.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8: 12)
In the middle of darkness and desolation, you and I can be delivered. God is holy and will not look upon sin. He is just and therefore must judge sin. But God is love and has designed a way where justice can be fully satisfied. Jesus went through the darkness so that we can have light.
He was cursed that we might be blessed. I am accepted in the Beloved because God the Father accepted the sacrifice of His beloved Son. He was desolate so we can be delivered. He was condemned so we can know the truth of Romans 8: 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Here’s the deal. Sin always means a payment. Either Jesus pays for your sin or you do.
If the Father turned His face away from His Son when He took our sin, He will certainly turn away from every sinner who refuses to be washed by the blood of His Son. The wrath of God will either fall on you or upon the sinless subsitute. If anyone goes to Hell, it’s in spite of what Jesus has done. He’s already paid the penalty. He took the blow. He took the pain and the suffering.
The worst thing about Hell is that it is the one place in the universe where people are utterly and forever forsaken by God.
But, the good news is that you don’t have to go there. Jesus took your punishment with Him to the cross. He died as full payment for all your sins. Why did He do it all? Because He loves us.
I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned.