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QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED: My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? - Matthew 27:46

QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED: My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? - Matthew 27:46

By Ted Schroder,
Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

At the heart of the Cross there is holy ground on which we must step lightly and reverently for it contains the essence of our salvation. Like Moses at the burning bush we must take off our shoes, for the place where we stand is the Holy of Holies. Like Isaiah beholding the glory of the Lord in the Temple we are aware of our unfitness and need the angels to cleanse our lips, for God to take away our guilt and atone for our sin. The apostles repeated time and time again that Jesus died for our sins. He took our place. He substituted himself in an atonement for our sins. He became sin for us. God reconciled the world to himself. God was in Christ. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. In that moment of sacrifice, bearing our guilt and shame, he who knew no sin assumed all that would separate us from God. The innocent ransomed the condemned.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
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.”
(Isaiah 53:4-6)

“This crushing load blotted out for Jesus the consciousness of the presence of the God who had meant more to him, all his life, than anyone or anything else. A sense of sheer, stark dereliction swept over him. If the cross is the place where God’s disgust with sin and his burning love for humanity meet in terrible expression; if God in Christ is there clearing up the mess made by a rebel race, can we wonder that there is a mystery.” (Donald Coggan, The Voice from the Cross, p.33)

It is to be understood that under this burden Jesus should have expressed the reality of what he was experiencing in this question, taken from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O God, I cry out day by day, but you do not answer.”

These are the words of human experience when we feel forsaken, abandoned, when God seems far from us, and does not answer our prayers. Jesus knows what that feels like. It is the ultimate experience of being alone. When our sins have separated us from God we condemn ourselves to living apart from the source of love and light and joy. We cut ourselves off from the root of our being, the nourishment our souls require to flourish. Jesus dived into that darkness in order to rescue us from ourselves. He was willing to risk his own abandonment in order to save us from drowning in our own bad choices, our own blindness, our own willfulness, our own lack of faith.

What is the remedy for all who feel themselves God-forsaken? What can be done in those times when you feel like an abandoned child, when you feel that you are alone in the world with no one to call upon for protection and help? You feel forsaken when your loved one dies. You feel forsaken when sickness overwhelms you, members of your family or a friend. You feel forsaken when so many of your lifetime friends are passing away. You feel forsaken when you have to move away from your community and you miss your friends. You feel forsaken when Alzheimer’s threatens your relationship with your lifelong spouse. You feel forsaken when you are dying and you feel so alone. In feeling forsaken Jesus experienced the reality of every man and woman in physical and emotional helplessness. He felt abandoned, alone and cried out for help. He entered fully into our moment of need.

Jesus takes that forsakenness into the heart of God by his agony on the Cross. In that action Jesus invited, prompted the truth of God’s promise: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, Deut. 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). By what Jesus did in his suffering on the Cross he showed us that God is for us and not against us. He is there at our moment of crisis when we need reassurance most of all. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This question on the Cross is the only time Jesus addressed God in these terms. When he prayed, he prayed not to God but to his Father. He proclaimed that he and the Father were one - that he was in the Father and the Father in him. Therefore he could not be separated from the Father within the Divine Unity of the Trinity. How could he, on the Cross, be separated from the Father? That is the mystery of our salvation. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He spoke on the Cross as the second Adam, as the Perfect Man, who experienced the distance that sin caused between us and God.

Despite his sense of abandonment Jesus still turned to God. So many of the psalms express this cry. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? My soul is downcast within me.”Jesus did cry out to his family and friends for comfort. He cried out to God. Psalm 22 expresses his hope: “But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.”

Jesus affirms his relationship with God. It is MY God to whom he cries. No matter what happens to him, and how severe his pain and suffering, he still clings onto his personal and intimate relationship with the Father.

There was no answer to the question of Jesus in this life. He died and was buried, but on the third day he was raised to new life and ascended back to heaven where all questions are answered. When we get to heaven God will tell us why we thought he had forsaken us. When we and those we love suffer in this life we ask the question why? He is not obliged to answer on our timetable. We have to wait until we come into his nearer presence. Like Jesus, we have to learn obedience through the things that we suffer. We have to trust in God.

There is hope for you if you feel forsaken by God, abandoned and so depressed in spirit that you despair of life. Jesus was where you are and yet he came through and conquered. He is able to help you through it also. But there is a much more awful state to be in than being aware of your forsakenness. This is not the worst possible condition to be in. What is much worse is to be without God and not to care about it. To be living without God and without hope, yet not to be concerned about it at all. Not to have any communion with God and all the while to be happy about it, to be quite satisfied with being without a personal relationship with God, is to be in a state of insensibility and hardness of heart. Jesus suffered and died for such darkness of spirit. He suffered and died to defeat the power of pride, indifference and rebellion. He suffered such agony, bearing the sins of the whole human race, to overcome the distance men and women have put between themselves and God. God does not forsake us, but we can forsake him.

The Cross always stands to remind us that God has done all he can to bring us to himself. It is up to us what we will do with what he has done. Will we with the secular world, the popular celebrities, scoff at him, mock him, spit on him, strike him, hurl insults at him, and call on him to be crucified again? Or will we give him our hearts and lives?


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