"Reverently, we draw near the Cross and see how the Savior died. Countless multitudes have had His final words on their lips as they reached the end. They have proved to be the strength of the strong and the consolation of the distressed from age to age" (Lockyer, Herbert, Last Words Of Saints And Sinners, 219). Martin Luther said, "God forsaken of God! Who can understand it?" John A. Broadus quoted W. N. Clarke saying, "On usso little do we know or feel what it is to be forsaken by Godthe thought of it, or sense of it, may make but a slight impression, produce but little heartfelt misery; but to Him it was the consummation and concentration of all woe, beyond which there was and could be no deeper anguish for the soul." J. W. McGarvey, in his Fourfold Gospel, said of Jesus' utterance, "in it lay the chief bitterness of the Savior's death." Those who first heard this utterance from the Lord's lips did not understand it anymore perhaps than we do. They thought He was calling for Elijah the prophet (Mt. 27:47). His words were not very clear. As J. W. McGarvey pointed out, "He had now been on the cross about six hours, and the feverish thirst produced by his intense suffering and some loss of blood, together with the great strain on the muscles of his chest, which resulted from hanging on his outstretched hands, must have rendered articulation difficult and indistinct" (Ibid, 246). Isaiah 53 helps us to understand this fourth word from the cross (Is. 53:3-6; 10-12).
Something that we may learn is that it is not wrong to ask "why" when the querist has not the attitude of rebellion but of humble submission (Hab. 1:2-4; Jer. 12:1-4). In fact, much can be learned by Jesus' question "Why?" It provides strength in trouble (Job. 14:1), provides comfort in grief (1 Th. 4:13), and provides consolation for a serious illness (2 Kg. 20:1-6). It is not wrong to express your feelings to God when done with proper attitude and reverence, for He knows them anyway (Acts 1:24).
Jesus' statement proclaims His innocence! The guilty know why they suffer (Lk. 23:41; Rom. 6:23; 1 Pt. 4:15). Jesus had no sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22). It proves (confirms) the Bible's inspiration and relevance, for "No writer of fiction would have put such an utterance upon the lips of his hero" (Chappell, The Seven Words, 39, Cf. 1 Cor. 2:8). It exemplifies Predictive Prophecy (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Psalm 22:1). Also, it shows the value of Scripture in times of agony and temptation (cf. Mt. 4:4-7). Wayne Jackson wrote, "Since the Lord knows that we frequently suffer without fully comprehending exactly why, is it not possible that in his identification with us as our merciful and faithful High Priest (cf. Heb. 2:17-18), He also might have chosen to briefly veil His heavenly vision and so, share with us in the mystery of human anguish? Don't we frequently suffer and wonder, 'Why?' Could this be but another example of His gracious love?" (Christian Courier online) Let us notice at least two main areas in which Jesus was forsaken.
Why did you forsake my physically? Jesus prayed at least twice that the cup of sufferings could be taken from Him (Mt. 26:39, 42). Did the Father forsake Christ? Yes, in some sense! Why was I scourged? (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Pet. 2:24). The Jews could only administer 40 stripes (Deut. 25:3; 2 Cor. 11:24). The Romans had no such law! Of the scourge, W. Terry Varner wrote, "The scourge consisted of a handle in which several cords were attached to one end, which were weighted with jagged pieces of nails, bones, or other metal. The majority of the blows were administered on the back of the victim; however, at times the blows were received in the loin and bowel area so as to cause, at times, the falling out of the entrails (Josephus, Wars. ii. 21.5). It is no wonder that Tacitus reports that seven out of ten men died, literally beaten to death; the other three would remain cripples for life had they not been crucified. Prophecy depicts the scourging of our Lord to be severe in Psalms 35:15; 129:3; and Isaiah 50:6." (Varner). Why was I mocked? (Mt. 27:27-31; Phil. 2:10-11; Mt. 27:39-44). Why was I crucified (Ps. 22:16)? Could the Father have intervened and saved His Son from the cross? Absolutely, but, then, mankind would have been lost forever!
Why did you forsake my spiritually? "It was the manifestation of God's hatred of sin, in some way which He has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by Him that was due to us, and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death" (Barnes, Albert, Notes On The New Testament, Matthew And Mark, 313). Sin is a heavy burden to bear (Rom. 6:23; Acts 8:23; Mt. 5:4). It will separate us from (1) God (Is. 59:1-2; Hab. 1:13), (2) our better self (Gal. 5:17), (3) our families, (4) our brethren (1 Cor. 5; 2 Th. 3:6). The necessity of the cross demonstrates the enormity of sin. Jesus became our sin-bearer (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). Jesus' feeling of being forsaken was "the crucifixion within the crucifixion" (Chappell, 41).
"For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer" (Isaiah 54:7-8). We may not fully understand "why" Jesus was forsaken, but we may take comfort in knowing that because He was forsaken we do not have to be (Heb. 13:5; Gal. 2:20). "Through His agony we can find peace. In His suffering, we can find relief. In His alienation we can find fellowship. Through His darkness we can find light. Through His death we can find life. In His 'why' we can learn how to ask why. Let us rejoice that He became a sacrifice for sin to be a Savior from sin. Let us rejoice that He was willing to be forsaken for a time, that in Him, we might not be forsaken eternally" (Camp, Franklin, Bible Herald, 1989-1990). 69 O E. Thistle Dr., New Martinsville, WV 26155.
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