When you’re a baby-Christian, verses like the one of Jesus on the cross crying out in Aramaic “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” can really unsettle you. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But how can the man Jesus, one person with God’s Incarnate Son, be forsaken by… Himself?!
Here’s The Thing
- Maybe Jesus isn’t divine?
- Maybe he was divine before he was made incarnate by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and then again after He rose again?
- What is that about, verse, anyway?
OK, let’s back up. Way up.
After His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the risen Jesus speaks with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus:
“Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” [Luke 24:44]
That is, the teaching of Jesus is that He is the true subject and the fulfillment of the whole of Israel’s history, her longing in the Prophets, and her Scriptures and holy writings. Even the ancient hymns called Psalms are prophetic, pointing to Him; they are His prayer-book, revealing the inner life & meaning of His mission, death, and resurrection.
So when we find out that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” is a quotation from the Psalms (22), it helps to understand that Psalm verse– spoken from the cross– is a window into the mind & heart of the dying King Jesus, Saviour of humanity.
Go and read the Psalm. Slowly.
Note that it is a very specific 1000+ year-old prophecy of the suffering & crucifixion of the Messiah of Israel, even down to the details. It’s amazing, and heartbreaking, and a testimony to the mercy of God.
The sufferings are real, even down to Jesus feeling that He is somehow cut off, forsaken, in the darkness with no obvious light. Although He is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world: yet that black avalanche of everything in us that cuts us off from God and one another falls on Him.
After the sorrowful verses, this Psalm is a great dawning glow of hope, faith, and trust in the Lord shines through Psalm 22. After the suffering comes joy. After death is hope. God hears the cry of His Son, the suffering servant (read Isaiah 53), and does not abandon or reject Him, or us as found in Him.
Feelings Are Not Facts
So Jesus felt cut off from God, yet quotes the Psalm to say what His crucifixion & death means, to preach from the Cross, to share with us what it is like to feel far from God.
But feelings are not facts. Jesus was still the man divine, the only-begotten Son incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, one person & two natures. The Word made flesh. God in a man like us.
In some crisis we might say “It’s totally hopeless! We’re doomed!” even as our help is about to arrive, unexpectedly, out of the blue, at the very last minute, or otherwise in time to save & help us. In that case, how truly accurate were our feelings, versus the facts? Feelings must follow facts, else we get lost in a swamp of ever-shifting mirages.
Therefore, to wrongly imagine that “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” somehow means that Jesus isn’t God (or some other complicated bad idea) shows an ignorance of Jesus, who He was, what he lived & taught, and how the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures & holy writings were ultimately about Him.
There is no deep where God is not, be the night never so dark. There is no fear or sorrow or sense of abandonment which Jesus our High Priest has not taken into Himself, and burnt up in the fire of infinite love in the offering of Himself to atone for our sins, once and for all.
And beyond that forsakenness, even beyond what seems to earthly a final ending of death, Jesus has conquered sin, and death, and hell, and shared with us the eternal & holy life of God, that we might rejoice in Him who is the Lord of the living and the dead, who went on a head to prepare a place for us, that where He is, we might be also, and that as He is in God the Father, we may be in God the Son, sharing the eternal life & Joy of the blessed Trinity in all the saints, in the unity of God the Holy Spirit, forever in heaven.
Here endeth the preachment,