“Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Pt. 2 of Series: “Words from the Cross—For You”

March 29, 2020

 

Matthew 27:27-31, 45-49

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 

I am going to go out on a limb here.  I am going to guess that every single person, bar none, has had a time in their lives when they felt down, when they felt a little depressed, when they felt like Hamlet, the melancholy Dane.  Have you?  Have you ever felt a little down?  Or, maybe it went deeper.  Have you ever felt a deeper depression?  Have you ever felt that it was tough to get out of bed, that you just wanted to pull the covers over your head, that it was tough to have much direction in life?  Or, maybe it went still deeper.  Maybe there was a time in your life when you felt abandoned, forsaken, when you felt that “nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m going to go eat dirt.”  

 

Maybe you know first-hand about the feelings of abandonment. 

 

  • As a child, maybe your parents got divorced and when mom left or dad left you sat wondering in your precious little heart if it was your fault, if one of your parents left because of something you did.  Maybe as they walked out of the door, you felt abandoned.
  • Or, maybe you were one of the ones getting the divorce.  For a while, your spouse was the devil incarnate and you were so angry with them that you couldn’t wait to get them out of your hair and out of your life.  But then the papers were signed and they were gone and there was that moment when you were all alone, I mean ALL alone, and you even felt abandoned.
  • Or maybe you were, or are, that teen who is on the other side of the “in crowd.”  What is the opposite of the “in crowd,” the “out crowd?”  Whatever, you may know quite well what I am talking about and you felt abandoned.
  • Maybe you had your heart broken.  When the one you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, when they cut it off, it wrecked you and feelings of abandonment set in.
  • Maybe you looked forward so much to retirement.  But, now you wonder what to do with yourself.  You wonder how in the world your business could get along without you, but it has.  You wonder where are all of your friends.  You feel abandoned.
  • Or, maybe your spouse dies and you shake your fist at God and you even shake your fist at your spouse because, illogical as it seems, you feel abandoned by them.
  • Or maybe the news from the doctor makes you feel all lone.
  • Or maybe your sin, your guilt has caught up with you and you feel so ashamed, so alone, abandoned.
  • Or, maybe you felt alone and abandoned this past week.  Maybe this sequestering thing has gotten to you. Hunkering down in your house, away from family and friends, maybe it is getting to you.  Maybe you felt abandoned this past week.

 

Maybe your feelings were, or are, so intense.  Maybe they are fierce.  Maybe they have been so intense that you wondered if you could go another day.  Now, I am not disregarding your feelings in the least.  I am not ignoring them or saying they aren’t real.  But, listen to where I am going with this; no matter how fierce your feelings of abandonment are or have been, they don’t begin to approach what our Savior experienced on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

This is week 2 of our series, “Words from the Cross—for You.”  We are looking at 5 of the 7 last word that Jesus spoke at His crucifixion.  And, we are trying to focus in on what these word mean for you, what impact they might have on your life.  The word from the cross for today is about abandonment.  It is about forsakenness.  It is when Jesus said to the Father, “Why Have You Forsaken Me?” 

 

  1.  The Immediate Events Leading Up to the Cross 

 

  1.  The physical toll on Jesus’ body

 

Let’s just rewind a smidge.  Jesus was tried by the Jewish leaders, presented to Pilate who—finally--delivered Him over to be crucified.  Next, the soldiers got hold of Him.  They stripped Him of His clothing and scourged Him, a heinous process which tore skin away so that bones and even internal organs were exposed.  Actor Jim Caviezel who played Christ in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” recently did an interview about some of the mistakes that happened while filming that movie.  He told of carrying the wooden beam of the cross through the streets of Jerusalem when he fell and the beam fell on his head.  He bit through his tongue and blood ran down his chin.  Of course, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way.  His own blood wasn’t supposed to flow, only theatrical blood.  But, the scene continued with a realism that wasn’t anticipated.  He also told of the scourging scene.  The actors playing the soldiers missed the target of his back and the scourge caused a 14 inch slash on his back.  He was in such pain that he had to stop.  He couldn’t continue the scene.  That was for only one slash of the whip.  Jesus endured 39 or more.  The real Jesus carried His cross, with the help of Simon of Cyrene, arrived at the execution site on Calvary’s hill.  There He was crucified, nails driven rudely through hands and feet.  All of this describes some of the physical toll on Jesus’ body.  But, what about

 

  1.  Jesus’ Feelings of Abandonment

 

Last week we heard His prayer for forgiveness for all those who participated in His crucifixion.  And, what we found last week is that Jesus’ prayer was for us, too.  It was for you and I because our sins sent Him to the cross.  Then, for three hours, Jesus hung from that cross.  Darkness covered the land.  Was the darkness a foretaste of what was to come, an introduction to the Father’s disposition to the One who would take on the sins of the world?  And, then, Jesus said it.  In the midst of the darkness, Jesus said;

 

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Matthew 27:36

 

Jesus was reciting Psalm 22, a psalm King David wrote when either King Saul or his own son Absolom was chasing him and trying to kill him.  This was a time when David was lonely, a time he felt abandoned.  With King Saul, David was his right hand man and then, through no fault of his own.  King Saul became jealous and wanted to kill David and David had to flee.  Or, in the case of his son, Absolom, David had been king and his own son had initiated a coup against him.  Imagine the feelings of abandonment David felt when the son that he loved was trying to kill him.  As devastated as David felt in either of these circumstances, as horrible as you may have felt in your worst times of abandonment, those feelings do not even come close to approximating what Jesus experienced from the cross.  

 

  1.  Jesus’ cry to God

 

Jesus cried out, “My God, my God…” In the Gospels, Jesus more frequently referred to God as His Father.  He even spoke of Abba Father, like our Daddy.  Here Jesus is much more formal.  His address is, “My God.”   He asks “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Why have you abandoned me?  Why have you left me so very, very alone?  Jesus knew the answer.  Being God, he already knew the answer.  For us to understand, we must go back to the   

 

  1.  The backdrop for this transaction,

 

The backdrop for this transaction, and it was a transaction, the backdrop for this transaction is the Old Testament ritual for the Day of Atonement when all the sins of the people were placed on a goat, the scape goat, a goat sent out into the wilderness, a scape goat.  I will let author Max Lucado do the talking here;

 

The crowd quiets as the priest receives the goat; the pure unspotted goat.  In somber ceremony he places his hands on the young animal.  As the people witness, the priest makes his proclamation.  “The sins of the people be upon you.”  The innocent animal receives the sins of the Israelites.  All the lusting, adultery, and cheating are transferred from the sinners to this goat, the scape goat.

 

He is carried to the edge of the wilderness and released.  Banished.  Sin must be purged, so the scapegoat is abandoned.  “Run, goat!  Run!”  

 

The people relieved.

Yahweh is appeased.

The sin bearer is alone.[1]

 

  1.  The Lamb of God is abandoned

 

Then, there on the cross, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is abandoned by God because Jesus has all of the sins of the world laid on His shoulders.  Listen to how Scripture describes this;

 

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’”  Galatians 3:13

 

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:4-5

 

We quoted this verse last week and then we emphasized the pronouns. “He took up our pain… bore our suffering…pierced for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities.”  This week we emphasize what Jesus did.  He was stricken,pierced, crushed, He took on our punishment.  It was what theologians call the vicarious or substitutionary atonement. The sins of the Israelite community were placed on the scapegoat and it was driven into the wilderness.  The sins of the entire world were placed on the Lamb of God and He was driven out of the city of Jerusalem to that hill called Calvary.  

 

  1.  Jesus not only took on sin, He became sin

 

“Every lie ever told, every object ever coveted, every promise ever broken is on his shoulders.  He is sin.” [2]  Listen to the apostle Paul;    

 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

 

Let’s do that again.  

 

“God the Father made Him…”--Jesus,

 

“…who had no sin…”--who was the perfect unspotted lamb, who was perfect in every way, 

God made Jesus who had no sin 

 

“…to be sin…”--Jesus became sin.  The sins were heaped on His shoulders and He became sin.  Why? 

 

“…so that we might become the righteousness of God.”  Said differently, so that we would be entirely forgiven.  At this moment, with Jesus’ cry, the sins of the entire world were placed on His shoulders to such an extent that He became sin.  And, when Jesus became sin, 

 

  1. The Father who is holy, had to turn His back on His Son

 

When God gave Moses the 10 commandments, God told Moses to put himself in the cleft of a rock so that when God passed by, Moses would only see God from the back.  This was because Moses was a sinner and God is too holy to come into contact with sin.  When Isaiah appeared before the throne of God, he cried out 

 

“Woe to me!” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’”  Isaiah 6:5 

 

God was too holy for the sinner Isaiah.  The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk summarizes this;

 

“Your eyes, (God) are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”  Habakkuk 1:13

 

Before this moment, the Father’s will and Jesus’ will were in perfect concert.  But, at this moment, when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” all of that so drastically changed.  Here’s Max Lucado once again; God turns away.  Run goat! Run!  The despair is darker than the sky.  The two who had been one are now two.  Jesus, who had been with God for eternity, is now alone.  The Christ, who was an expression of God, is abandoned.  The Trinity dismantled.  The Godhead is jointed.  The unity dissolved.” [3]  The Father had turned His back on sin.  The Father had turned His back on the One who became sin.  The Father turned His back on His only begotten Son, the One whom He loved. Martin Luther would throw up his hands at the thought of this and say, “God forsaking God.  Who can understand it?”  Indeed, who can understand it?  

 

Imagine what Jesus was experiencing.  Imagine your very worst day of abandonment, your worst of the worst feelings of total forsakenness, then multiply that a trillion times a trillion and you aren’t even scratching the service of what Jesus experienced what Jesus felt.  Jesus felt totally abandoned.  But, I want you to think about another thing.  I want you to think about;

 

  1.  The Feelings of the Father

 

Being a father and a grandfather, I know the depth of feelings I have for my son and grandchildren.  You parents know about this.  The feelings you have for your children are almost indescribable.  What parent among us would not willingly lay down their life for their child?  Yet, the Father turned away.  The Father turned His back on His Son.  What would it have taken for Him to do that?  Why would He dare?  It was because of

 

  1. The Father’s love for the people He loved

 

Here in this one verse is the nugget that summarizes the Father’s love;

 

“God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son…” 

 

God the Father loved the world and the people in the world that He created, He loved them with such an incredible, amazing, unconditional love that He was willing to sacrifice His only Son.   

 

There is an old, old story that I’ve told on numerous occasions.  The story even has a name.  It is called, “The Bridge.”  It is about a bridge operator.  The bridge allowed trains to go across a gorge.  It was one of those bridges that had to be moved into place when the train came and it was the operator’s job to be sure that happened.  The operator would remain in his little shed until the train approached.  Then, he had to start the engine that would turn the gears that would move the bridge.  One day, the bridge operator heard the train coming.  He grasped the handles of his levers and was about to move them when he heard something familiar.  His young son, his only son, was playing among the gears of that bridge.  The train was almost there.  If the operator threw the levers, his young son would be crushed to death.  If he didn’t, hundreds of people on that train, people he didn’t even know, would die.  What would he do?  The bridge operator, with tears streaming down his face, threw the levers and the train passed by, the people on that train oblivious to the sacrifice that had been made for them that day. 

 

In that illustration, the train operator knew nothing about the people on that train.  God the Father knows everything about the people He made, he knows every aspect of their lives and He knows every sin ever committed and the Father, in eternity, threw the levers which put into motion His only Son dying for the sins of the world.  He did it out of love.  He did it out of love.

 

  1.  The Father’s love—for you!

 

The title of this series is, “Words from the Cross—for You.”  I want to remind you of something that becomes THE most important thing.  These are words from the cross and they are for you.  The immensity of God’s love is for you.  Jesus was forsaken, He was abandoned for you.  He died for you.  Your sin must be paid for.  It must be accounted for.  It must be paid for.  You don’t get to just forget about it.  You don’t get to excuse it or ignore it.  Paul says that God is just.  The holy God must punish sin.  The difference is, you don’t have to pay it.  Imagine the thousands you owe in student loans, the massive credit card debt you have amassed, the huge sum you owe the IRS.  Those pipers still have to be paid.  But, imagine that you wake up one day and your entire slate of debt has been wiped clean.  It isn’t that your debt was forgotten.  It is very real.  But, some benefactor paid it all off for you.  You owe a very real spiritual debt.  Failure to pay your spiritual debt will result in an eternity in hell.  The wages of sin is death, eternal death.  But a benefactor, THE benefactor, paid it all for you, there on the cross.  Every lie you ever told, every object you ever coveted, every promise you ever broke was placed on Jesus’ shoulders.  And God the Father did all of that for you because He loves you.  He loves you!

 

Breathe that in, will you?  Let that thought, let that love, permeate your spirit.  “God so loved the world, He so loved you, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Chris Tomlin sings about that;

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, you were condemned
I’m alive and well
Your spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

 

Amazing love, how can it be?
That you, my king, would die for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor you
In all I do
I honor you

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  That is Jesus’ word from the cross—for you.

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 


 


[1] “No Wonder They Call Him the Savior,” by Max Lucado, pg. 54.

[2] Ibid. pg. 55.

[3] Ibid.