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 27:44
From Halley’s Handbook of the Bible (Halley, Henry H., Zondervan, 1961)
The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, 19th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“This sounds like a cry of anguish from David, but though written a thousand years before Jesus, it is so vivid a description of the crucifixion of Jesus that one would think of the writer as being personally present at the Cross. Jesus’ dying words (Psalms 22:1 Matthew 27:44), the sneers of his enemies (Psalms 22:7-8, Matthew 27:39-40, the piercing of his hands and feet (Psalms 22:16, John 20:25) and the casting of lots for his garments (Psalms 22:18, Matthew 27:39) are some of the events here described. None of these statements are applicable to David, or to any other known event or person in the history of mankind, except the crucifixion of the Son of God.”
Peter (Acts 2:30-35) preached: ‘David, being a prophet … he foresaw and spoke of … the Christ.’ This basic truth is reiterated again and again in the inspired New Testament. There are than nine New Testament references which tie the meaning of this psalm irrevocably to the prophecy of our Lord’s crucifixion. And then, regarding the resurrection, Hebrews 2:12 recounts verses 22-24.
But what of Jesus’ cry in verse one to the Lord. Why would he speak of God forsaking Him? Burton Coffman’s summary of his thoughts on the subject ring very true:
“Jesus’ quoting the first line of this Psalm during his agony upon the Cross has led to many opinions. It has been supposed that Christ here merely quoted these words from the psalm to call attention to the whole bundle of prophecies in it which were being fulfilled literally at that very time. It is also believed by many that God Himself did indeed, for a little while, withdraw his presence from Christ in order to make it possible for Christ to die. There is much in the sacred Scriptures to commend this view.
Christ is spoken of in Heb. 2:9 as the One, who by the grace of God did indeed, ‘Taste of death for every man.’ Isaiah tells us that, ‘God laid upon him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6). Paul mentioned that God Himself ‘Set forth the Christ to be a propitiation’ (Romans 3:25), or an atonement, for the sins of all men. ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3); and ‘Him (Christ) who knew no sin, God made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The ultimate consequence of sin is separation from God; and, in Christ’s becoming a substitute for sinful men upon the cross, he not only tasted of death, but also tasted the terrible consequences of sin in that soul-torturing experience of separation from the Creator. It is our understanding of Christ’s plaintive cry, ‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me,’ that Jesus did indeed, momentarily, taste the awful agony of separation from the Father. ‘For a moment in that last agony, the Perfect Man was alone with the sins of the whole world.'”
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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