Abandoned! Left on the "doorstep of Life"... but with no Rescuer in sight! What happens next in the unfolding drama of the crucifixion of our Lord is incomprehensible!
It's an abandonment so profoundly mysterious that it boggles the mind...but ravishes the believing heart! Let's watch it unfold...
It is noon.
By this time, Jesus has already forgiven His executioners as they cruelly hammered Him to the Cross...as they, careless for His pain, roughly lifted and dropped His Cross into the ground...Father, forgive them.
By this time, He lovingly has received the confession and cry of a repentant thief with a word of hope...Today you will be with me in Paradise.
And by now, He has tenderly cared for His suffering mama by entrusting her to His beloved disciple and friend...Behold your son...behold your mother.
Three hours of agony are yet to come...as if enough suffering hasn't already been His cup. This agony will be beyond understanding and description! But this is the crux of the Father's cup that Jesus has chosen to drink...and drink it He must...to the full!
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” Matthew 27:45-49 NLT
Strangely silent, God the Father abandons Jesus, God's Son...for three hours.
This is the same Father who validated Him at His baptism with the words:
This is my beloved Son in whom I'm well-pleased. Matthew 3:17 ESV
...the same Father who declared Him superior to Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration:
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" John 17:5 ESV
...and the same Abba who responded to Jesus' prayer just days before His crucifixion:
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” ...Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:27-32 ESV
But now nothing but darkness! What kind of rift could be happening?
Whatever it is, it's so mysteriously real that we hear the very human God-Man ask the question we all ask when we face the "unanswerables" of life...WHY?
Theologians* down through the centuries have basically scratched their theological heads, trying to understand and explain this mystery of mysteries.
But it's the pages of Scripture that give us the answer to Jesus' WHY?
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed forour sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.Is 53:4-6 NLT
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2Cor5:21 ESV
God turned His back on His Son so He wouldn't have to turn His back on us...
Because the wages of sin is death ... spiritual as well as physical; because death means separation...separation from God (spiritual death) as well as separation of the soul from the body (physical death); Jesus our Brother underwent spiritual death as well as physical death to be our sinless Sin-Bearer, our Perfect Substitute.
Jesus the God-Man was spiritually separated from a Holy God in order to take our place...and bring us to God.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit... 1 Peter 3:18 NIV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.John 15:13
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1John 3:16
"We twist in anguish at Your cry ..."My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" God forsaking God, this is a mystery beyond understanding. A forsaking that was meant for us, but wretched alienation and blackness experienced by You.Because of that tormented howl, the barrier that kept us from God tears in two. And we who have insulted and mocked You, denied You and crucified You, we fall on our knees and whisper Good Friday truth: "Surely this man was the Son of God." Ann Voskamp, Trail to the Tree
Something to Think About:
Have you ever been forsaken by someone you love? Jesus understands...He was no stranger to abandonment. He was abandoned by His nation, His people, His "so-called disciples, His brothers, Judas, Peter...and in reality, us as well.
He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Is 53:3 NLT
Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Jesus was! And this has been the experience of devout believers through the ages. (See Dark Night of the Soul) Of course, we will never experience it to the extent of the Son of God. But we know that because He has gone through it before us, He understands and comes to our aid even when the Heavens may seem like brass...silent and dark.
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT
Have you asked the WHY? question...without getting a reply? Read what our Mysterious God says:
The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deut 29:29
Many Bible scholars consider Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted here, a Messianic Psalm. There are at least four points of comparison between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27. See if you can find them. Look especially at Ps 22:1,7,8,18 and Mt 27:35,39,43,46.
You may also like to read through the Gospel of John during this Lenten season. As you do, make note of how intimately connected to and dependent on the Father, Jesus was. This made the abandonment the Son experienced all the more painful...all for you and me!
* A Theological Word:
God forsaking God. Who can understand that? Martin Luther (quoted in Abiding Christ Church, Lenten study 2012)
The first three sayings were probably all spoken before noon. This one, which is in every way central, was uttered about 3pm, after three hours of darkness and silence during which the Son of God bore the sin of the world. In that work He had to be forsaken by God, and yet at the same time there was no splitting up of the Trinity. All that is involved is inscrutable, but He gave Himself, He was made sin, He bore sins, and His soul was made an offering for sin. His work was to bear sin.
Charles Ryrie, Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p.69