“Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?”
We don’t understand Him, do we? This is the only statement from the Cross recorded in the English and Greek Bibles in its original Aramaic. The Jewish people should have know Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” These words seem strange coming from Jesus who constantly experienced the Father’s presence during his earthly ministry and never asked Him, “why?” Besides, Jesus could boldly declare that he “always did only those things that pleased the Father” (Jn. 8:29; 16:32). There are serious implications in this loud lament with respect to God’s saving purposes for humanity
Jesus may have understood why the Jews, his own, who expected him to usher in a political kingdom rejected him as their Messiah (Jn. 1:11). Humanly speaking, it must have been hard when the Twelve, who Jesus mentored over the last three years, deserted him when he needed them most. But His Father, who had affirmed, “This [Jesus] is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” now at the hour of his death was abandoning Jesus? Why? Surely there is a mystery in this cry, and as we mediate on the sufferings of the Christ of God, what could be its meaning and message for us today?
The mystery in this cry is unraveled to some extent by the three-hour darkness commencing from midday. This symbolized God the Father’s judgment on sin. At Calvary, all the sins of all the world were all on Jesus –God’s sacrificial lamb. In the Scriptures, darkness is associated with judgment of sin (Joel 2:30, 31; Matt. 24:29, 30). This is precisely why our sins separate us from experiencing fellowship with God. Here, God who is holy and of pure eyes, could not look on the sinless Son who was made sin for us on the cross (Hab. 1:13).
Now then, we find some meaning in Jesus’ bewildering cry. God, as it were, turned his back on Jesus, because on the cross, Christ was bearing our sins in his body and God himself had allowed this to be laid on him (Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 2:24). As our sin-bearer, Jesus who knew no sin, actually became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God through his sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:21). In the wisdom of God, this meant being isolated from the intimate, precious communion that Jesus had always shared with his Father God. Indeed, from Jesus’ personal cry there is an inspirational message for us.
First, Jesus on the cross is demonstrating to his followers, what we must do in our darkest moments –turn to God! Second, although Christ is not on the cross today, his resurrected presence assures us of God’s help and salvation (Heb. 13:5, 6). In any event, we can be confident in that when we abandon our lives in the Father’s hands, God is going to fulfill his greatest purposes in and through us. Third, when we really think about it, the only people who will ultimately face such God forsaken-ness are sinners who deliberately reject Jesus’ sacrifice as God’s gracious provision for their sins. Yet, for as many as received Jesus, to them God gives the authority to be called his very own sons and daughters (Jn. 1:12). Fourth, and most humbling, is the fact that God allowed his only Son to be in darkness and experience death so that his children can walk in the light and experience his Life. In short, God forsook Jesus so that all those who put their trust in Christ will never ever be forsaken!