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Why did Jesus cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - Matthew 27:45-46, ESV
On the cross, in agony and despair, Jesus cried out in Aramaic, "Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani?" The Romans who were crucifying Him spoke Latin and Greek, but not Aramaic, so they had no idea what He was saying. They thought perhaps He was calling for Elijah to come and help Him. Matthew translates Jesus' words for us: "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?"
At first glance, this seems like a pretty scandalous thing for Jesus to cry from the cross. Is it really possible that God would have forsaken His Son at His hour of greatest need and pain? How could God forsake His only Son?
To understand Jesus' words, we need to understand what He was doing on the cross. On the cross, Jesus redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13) On the cross, God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21) As the Son of God became sin and became a curse for us, He actually became the embodiment of our sin against God. God's eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13).
But God the Father didn't just "look away." He actually actively cursed and condemned His Son in our place. He punished our sin in the body of His Son. His wrath and anger and justice due to us for our rebellion were poured out on His Son, who willingly took them in our place, so that we can be forgiven, redeemed, loved and adopted by God.
Jesus expressed His cursed and God-forsaken state with very specific words, though. He cried out using the words of Psalm 22:1. Psalm 22 was written by David 1,000 years before Jesus was born, but it accurately describes the details of the crucifixion:
The Mocking of the Crowd:
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (vv. 7-8)
The Weakness and Incredible Thirst:
"my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death." (v. 15)
Pierced with Nails by Gentiles:
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet (v. 16)
No Broken Bones, Gambling for Clothes:
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (vv. 17-18)
So, even in the agony of being forsaken by His Father, Jesus is pointing us to Scripture where we can see that every detail of what happened to Him was planned and described over 1,000 years earlier. So, not only was He becoming sin for us and being cursed in our place, He was teaching us and giving us assurance of God's good plan. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Prayer Based on Psalm 64:
Hear my voice, O God, in my distress;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy,
who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour.
Hide me from the secret plots of the forces of wickedness,
who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear -
The accuser of the brethren, my adversary and his host.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they lay snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
They search out malice,
and they plot for my destruction through sin.
But You, O God, shoot Your arrow of the Gospel at them;
they are wounded suddenly, disarmed and defeated.
They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
all who see them will wag their heads.
Then all mankind fears;
they tell what You, O God, have brought about
and ponder what You have done for Your own children.
Let the righteous one rejoice in You, O Lord
and take refuge in You!
Let all the upright in heart exult!
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