“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”


Sermon Text: Matthew 27:45-54
Sermon Series: “Jesus’ Words on the Cross” (#3)

Main Points:
I. The fact: “You have forsaken Me”
II. The reason: “Why?”
II. The implication: “My God, My God”

We’ve been listening to the words Jesus spoke on the cross. Being nailed to the tree of curse, Jesus opened His lips and said, “Father, forgive them.” With this first word on the cross, Jesus reminded us that His coming was to declare His forgiveness of sins. Then, toward the criminal who had confessed his sins and recognised Jesus as the Saviour, the Lord said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” Saying this, He showed us His power of bringing the saved sinners to God’s paradise. When He spoke these words, it was about 9 am.

Three hours later, that is, about noon, darkness started covering the land and remained until 3 pm. We don’t know what caused that darkness – whether the sky was covered by layers of clouds thick enough to block the sunlight completely, or the sun simply lost its power and stopped from radiating its light to that land. But for three hours, that land was under strange and mysterious darkness. Jesus was hung on the cross, in an unimaginable pain and agony for six hours. Then, He cries out and says, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, meaning, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Hearing this, you and I must understand the Lord’s message. Every word He says reveals God’s truth and supplies to the listener the saving grace of God. Moreover, this saying teaches us the deepest truth of Jesus’ salvation in terms of His substitutionary death – in other words, His death on our behalf, taking on Himself the death we deserved to die for our own sins. In this sense, this saying of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, is the most colourful description of Jesus’ death on the cross. All who want to know why Jesus died on the cross must hear Him saying this on the cross because it is His shortest and simplest, yet deepest answer.

The first thing we hear from the Lord is what happened in His death or, simply, the fact. He tells us that God the Father has forsaken Him, the Son. That is the fact; that is what happened on the cross. The Son of God is estranged, separated, from His Father. It is not an assumption nor misinterpretation. Jesus faces the Father’s desertion and experiences it in every respect on that cross. The Son is left alone while His Father has turned His face away from Him. On that cross, in the midst of awful pain and bottomless agony, and under the unusual darkness in that land, Jesus is alone, being forsaken by His Father. So He cries out and says, “why have You forsaken Me?

Let me ask you a question – has the Father ever left Jesus, His Son? Never! God the Father has always been with Jesus not since His conception but from before the beginning of the world. Never has the Father left His Son alone. Instead, He and the Son has been in perfect union. The Father’s constant presence with His Son was once revealed in an announcement by the River Jordan. Through a voice from heaven, the Father said that Jesus is His ‘beloved Son,’ with whom He is well pleased. He repeated the same later, telling Peter, John and James, and through them to all people everywhere, to listen to His beloved Son.

Jesus knew well and thoroughly about His union with His Father. So He said that He and the Father are one. On one occasion, one of His disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus answered and said in Jn. 14:9, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Moreover, in the last supper Jesus had with His disciples, He told them that all of them would soon run away and desert Him. But even then, He said, He would not be alone because of His Father’s presence with Him. A few moments later, He made His prayer to the Father in Gethsemane, saying, “Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”

But, on this cross, Jesus faces severance of His union with the Father. His spirit shivers and His heart faints because of the terror of separation from His Father. Jesus does not say, ‘Why is this cross so bitter and painful?’ or ‘Why have Peter and John forsaken Me?’ No, He does not say anything like that, but asks, ‘Why have You, My Father, forsaken Me? Why have You withdrawn Your face from Me?’ Although the pain of the cross is tearing Him apart in nanoseconds time, that is not His concern at all, but the absence of His Father’s ‘peaceful communion and loving fellowship’ is!

We’ve read Ps. 69 earlier today and its beginning could be quoted to describe Jesus’ heart in the slightest sense. Vs. 1-2 of Ps. 69 say, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” Here, the psalmist cries out ‘hopelessness’ as the arms of God seem to be not near but distant. What makes Jesus’ heart faint on the cross is incomparably worse – His Father has turned His back on Him! Neither by His body weight that is squashing His lungs nor by the pain that comes from His torn limbs, Jesus is being choked, but by the absence of the Father’s fellowship with Him!

After all, that strange and mysterious darkness which covered the land was not simply a natural phenomenon but also a spiritual reality as that vividly described the absence of the Father on Calvary!

This is the fact, what happened to Jesus on the cross.

The next point we must consider is the reason – why was Jesus deserted on the cross and forsaken by His Father? The union among the Three Persons of the Godhead is unbreakable. Even a living person’s soul and body are inseparably clung together. Then, how much stronger would the union in the Triune God be? But, as we’ve considered, Jesus faced His Father turned His back on Him; so Jesus cries out ‘why?’

He asks ‘why’ not because He doesn’t have an answer, but because He desires to teach us why He must face desertion, severance from the fellowship with His Father. This is important because this is the core of Jesus’ message, the crown reason for His coming to us in flesh and dying on the tree of curse.

In a word, Jesus is forsaken by His Father on behalf of sinners like us. He takes the wrath of God upon Himself on sinful man’s behalf. The innocent Lamb of God is hung on the tree of curse instead of us. Each of us should be there where Jesus is hung; that place to which Jesus is nailed is your place and mine. But Jesus is there in our place, on our behalf.

Let me put it this way. As taught by the apostles, you and I are ‘saints’ of God, aren’t we? Not only the sacred Scriptures, but the indwelling Holy Spirit testifies to us that we’re God’s beloved children. Our status in Jesus means that our sins are forgiven, washed clean, and we’re ‘righteous’ in the sight of God. No longer are we, therefore, under the curse of sin. Death has lost its power over us. Instead, we’re citizens of God’s kingdom, members of God’s household.

But, has any of you paid for your present status in Jesus? I mean, has any of you made your payment for your new citizenship? I remember I haven’t paid any price; I haven’t got any bank loan that I borrowed for making a payment for my conversion. No, I paid nothing for being righteous before God. But I’m a saint, a righteous one of God – like you – and my eternal inheritance is the kingdom of God and eternal joy in Jesus Christ – like all of you Christians. If I haven’t paid anything, then, how come I have all these unbreakable, incorruptible, eternal blessings?

The answer is Jesus who faced and experienced desertion from His Father on the cross. The reason is Jesus who took upon Himself on the cross the Father’s wrath that was reserved for me and for you! This we call Jesus’ substitutionary death.

The wrath of God that Jesus took upon Himself on the cross was indescribably heavy and unimaginably brutal because it was reserved for sinners. Let me borrow Isaiah’s words to give you a slight idea of why God’s wrath had to be heavy and brutal. Isa. 1:3 describes the filthiness of people’s sins in a unique but shocking way. Hear what God says, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Then, in v. 4, Isaiah the prophet continues, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” Having said, the prophet is puzzled and asks, “Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel?”, then, he concludes, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”

God created each of us, but we altogether refused to worship Him as our Creator. He gave us humans the faculties that were incomparably higher and nobler than those of all other creatures, but we used them in driving God out of our life and turning ourselves into sovereign beings instead. From A to Z, nothing is sound but filthy with indescribable sins, and we deserve God’s eternal wrath! And this wrath Jesus took upon Himself on our behalf! His estrangement from the Father was, in the first place, reserved for you and for me. Unless Jesus took it upon Himself, we would’ve had to be estranged from God forever; unless Jesus cried out on the cross, we would’ve had to make our crying eternally in hell! Unless our Saviour torn His body and shed His blood on the cross, we would’ve had to grind our teeth eternally in the darkness where there’s no mercy but only justice for our iniquities.

The fact is that, on the cross, Jesus the Son was forsaken by the Father. Its reason is Jesus’ substitutionary death on our behalf. Then, what is the implication of Jesus death? He alone stands between God and us; He alone brings us to God; He alone reconciles us to God, enabling us to call Him ABBA FATHER!

This is expressed in Jesus’ calling of His Father twice, “My God, My God.” Despite the Father’s absence, Jesus calls Him ‘My God.’ By this, Jesus is telling us that our Heavenly Father never leaves us nor forsakes us, no matter what happens. We often think that God is distant when everything seems to be twisted and tangled in our life. We consider that we’re deserted, and God knows nothing about our sufferings. To our short-sighted mind, Jesus on the cross speaks loudly and clearly, “My God, My God”! Even the whole land is darkened, even the last blooddrop is spilt from your body, God is your God and our Father who never leaves nor forsakes any of us for whom His only Son torn His flesh and shed His blood on this cross!

Moreover, by calling His Father, ‘My God,’ twice, Jesus emphasises and imprints on our hearts and souls that He will surely be on our side; He will always speak to the Father on our behalf! After all, this is why He gave Himself up, not because He had to, but because He delighted in doing it for us!

So, together with Him our Lord and Saviour, we can now call God, “My God, My God”, and we do it not in pain but in praise!

Let me close and quote C. H. Spurgeon of the 19th century who is often called as the ‘Prince of Preachers.’ Spurgeon explained the meaning and significance of this saying of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, in these words: ‘I hear Jesus cry, “Why have You forsaken Me?” I know that I deserve the deepest hell at the hand of God’s vengeance; but I am not afraid. He will never forsake me, for He forsook His Son on my behalf. I shall not suffer for my sin, for Jesus has suffered to the full in my stead. … Behind this brazen wall of substitution a sinner is safe. … All believers … may rest secure. … No harm can reach me. You have a full atonement, a great sacrifice, a glorious vindication of the law; [therefore] rest at peace, all you who put your trust in Jesus.’ ***

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