Featured Items Ritchie Christian Media

April 2005

From the editor: Character Studies in the Assembly (2)
J Grant

Jacob’s Gift to the Ruler of all Egypt (4)
T Ratcliffe

Poetry: The Burial
Ian Campbell

Follow Me (6)
M Wilkie

Book Review

Words from the Cross (4)
C Jones

Question Box

The Call to Serve
W Hoste

Be not ignorant (2)
R Catchpole

Notebook: A Chronology of the life of the Apostle Paul
J Grant

The First Epistle of John (11)
S Whitmore

Abimelech the Ambitious
J Gibson

Whose faith follow: Hawthorne Baillie (Called home 1964)
J G Hutchinson

With Christ

The Lord’s Work & Workers

Notices

Words from the Cross (4)

C Jones, Cardiff

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The Lord spoke seven times whilst hanging on the Cross. When His voice was heard for the fourth time, He gave vent to a terrible cry of anguish saying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27.46; Mk 15.34). Such a cry of desolation, abandonment, poignancy, and unequalled suffering had not been heard since the world was created and never will be heard again. Each of the other utterances of the Lord on the Cross is recorded once only. The first, second and seventh utterances are recorded in Luke 23.34,43,46; the third, fifth and sixth are found in John 19.26,27,28,30, but His great cry of indescribable suffering is recorded in two of the gospels - in Matthew and in Mark.

God the Father delights in His Son and declared from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3.17; 17.5). The eternal Son was "daily his delight" (Prov 8.30). The fellowship, communion, and joy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were eternal and unbroken. The Lord had always done the Father’s will and the things that pleased Him (Jn 8.29; Lk 22.42; Heb 10.7), and yet there came a time when the Lord was forsaken by God.

The word "forsaken" is associated with thoughts of desertion, being given up and left alone. On the Cross, the Lord bore the penalty for the sin of the whole world. He drained the cup His Father had given Him to drink (Jn 18.11), and the climax of the suffering He experienced was when He was forsaken by God.

There was darkness

Throughout the Scriptures, darkness is associated with evil and wickedness (Lk 22.53; 2 Cor 6.14; Rev 16.10). We know that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 Jn 1.5), and that the Lord is the light of the world (Jn 8.12). When, at the incarnation, He, "the true Light" (Jn 1.9), came into the world, there was light in the night (Lk 2.9). However, when He suffered on the Cross a supernatural darkness descended, for we read that "from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour" (Mt 27.45). The Lord was crucified at the third hour (Mk 15.25), that is, at 9am. At 12 noon darkness descended and lasted until 3pm, and so the Lord hung on the Cross for three hours in darkness. In that darkness the Lord could not be seen and He, despised and rejected by men, was forsaken by a holy God, and paid the price of our redemption (Is 53.3-12). He redeemed us from the curse of the Law only by being made a curse for us (Gal 3.13). It was ineffable love to God, His Father, and to us which made Him willing to suffer as He did. Now God can be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3.26). On the Cross, in the darkness, He "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb 9.26). At the end of the three hours of darkness, at the ninth hour, He gave the awful cry which conveyed to those who heard it, possibly more effectively than anything else could have done, the extent and depth of His suffering.

Why?

Three of the Lord’s utterances on the Cross were prayers. His first prayer was for those who caused Him such suffering. He prayed saying, "Father, forgive them…" (Lk 23.34). The second time He prayed, as was mentioned above, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27.46; Mk 15.34), and the third time He committed His Spirit into the hands of His Father saying, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23.46). Twice He addressed God as "Father" and once, in the darkness, as "God". Why was this?

As a consequence of Adam’s sin, people die (Gen 2.17; 3.19; Rom 5.12). Death is not only physical but also spiritual, in that it involves, for those who have not been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2.8,9), eternal separation from God (2 Thess 1.9). On the Cross, the Lord, who is eternally sinless (2 Cor 5.21; 1 Pet 2.22; 1 Jn 3.5), was being punished by God for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2.2; Jn 1.29). The Lord Himself "bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet 2.24). He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5.21), and the precious blood He shed "cleanseth us from all sin" (1 Jn 1.7). The Lord’s fourth cry from the Cross was a direct quotation from Psalm 22.1. In this verse a question is asked, and it is the only time we read of the Lord addressing a question to God. The answer to the question is given in the third verse of the Psalm, and the answer is, "But thou art holy". God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab 1.13).

God laid all our sins on the Lord when He hung on the Cross. "God is love" (1 Jn 4.8), and His love is infinite. The Lord ever has been, and ever will be, the beloved Son of God. His Father loved Him and delighted in Him as He hung on the Cross, and yet, because He was bearing the sin of the world, God had to turn away from Him. In the darkness, the sin Christ abhorred and God hated, and could not look upon, was laid upon the Lord. On the Cross the Lord experienced the dreadful separation from God that lost, impenitent sinners will suffer eternally (2 Thess 1.9) in a "lake of fire. This is the second death" (Rev 20.14).

God "laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is 53.6). Our sins were laid by God on our substitute, and the inflexible holiness and justice of God demanded that He, the sin offering, should be punished. That punishment included being forsaken by God. The Lord could not address God as "Father" for God was acting as Judge. Sin was judged, condemned, and punished. God, who is righteous and holy, "spared not his own Son" (Rom 8.32). The Lord suffered vicariously, in our place, and gave the awful cry when He was bearing the terrible burden of sin. The Lord prayed to His God who is righteous and who, as "Judge of all the earth" (Gen 18.25), will always do that which is right, just, and holy.

The Lord’s previous utterances on the Cross had been for the benefit of others and had been drawn from Him by His mercy, grace, love, and compassion, but when He cried, "My God", then for the first time He gave a cry which was caused by His own sufferings. No human being can possibly understand the full meaning and significance of this terrible cry which the Saviour gave when He was experiencing unfathomable depths of suffering. In Gethsemane, the Lord had been in agony as He anticipated the terrible sufferings He would go through on the Cross. He knew He would be abandoned by God and "began to be sorrowful and very heavy" (Mt 26.37). He experienced unimaginable sorrow and distress. Despite the suffering He knew it would entail, the Lord, who was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil 2.8), said, as He agonized in Gethsemane, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk 22.42). In so doing He glorified God and revealed the love and holiness of God, the terrible consequences of sin, and His love for lost sinners.

Although the Lord did not, on this occasion, address God as "Father", His faith in God was absolute and undeviating, and He addressed Him as, "My God". David wrote, "…yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken" (Ps 37.25), but the only One who was truly and completely righteous was forsaken on the Cross that those who would believe might be saved. The Lord had been forsaken by His disciples (Mt 26.56), by the Jewish nation (Jn 19.15), and now by His God. Job stated, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13.15). Job was a man of great faith and the Lord’s faith in God was infinitely greater than that of Job. The Lord knew that, when His soul was made an offering for sin (Is 53.10), He would be forsaken by God, but He knew also that after He had finished this work, ultimately, He would "see of the travail of his soul, and…be satisfied" (Is 53.11).

The Lord Jesus Christ was forsaken that our sins could be forgiven and that we should never be forsaken (Heb 13.5), but be with Him eternally (Lk 23.43; Phil 1.23; 1 Thess 4.17).

To be continued.

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