by David Gatch
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) The fourth words from the cross, the first reported by Matthew and Mark are taken by some as the Father’s abandonment of the Son, a Sovereign departure, as somehow, they say, God separated from God. However, such division between the Father and Son is in contradiction to the Son’s insistence of oneness with His Father (“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30) and His declaration in John 16:32, “…you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” Was Jesus caught unaware by the actions of His Father? How do we explain this cry? Was it real? However insoluble the cry may be to us, it must not be interpreted as a contradiction of the oneness of the Father and Son as if there were two Gods on that dark day at the place called Golgotha.
We should never forget to maintain both the deity and humanity of Christ. To emphasize one over the other quickly eliminates the other. Why not take the cry at face value? This is a real cry, a cry of one who is fully human and who felt forsaken; yet, He is fully God. Are we to understand this as the Father abandoning the Son? How can God abandon Himself? He cannot.
There should be little doubt to the realness of Jesus’ cry. The text says, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice.” The language is dramatic and disturbing, especially coming from a man who claimed to be the Son of God. And it caught the attention of “some of those standing there.” This fit right into their taunting One who “claimed” to be the God’s Son. Matthew 27:39-42 demonstrates their disbelief. “Save Yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself!” So, those there understood it to be a cry of a man in anguish.
Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, and surely, He knew the entire Psalm. This is the same Psalm that prophesied in verse 16, “they pierced my hands and my feet,” an obvious reference to His crucifixion. In verse 18 there is reference to Matthew 27:35, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.” The psalm continues with cries of “don’t be far away” (vs 19); however, the tone changes in verse 21, “You have rescued me” and in verse 24, “For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help.” The Hebrew writer quotes verse 22, “I will proclaim Your name to my brothers’ I will praise You in the congregation,” which we cannot miss the implication:
“For it was fitting, in bringing many sons to glory, that He, for who and through whom all things exist, should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying: I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation. Again, I will trust in Him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave Me.”
The author of Hebrews couples together Psalm 22:22 with another quote from 2 Samuel 22:3, let’s take a look at that text. The quote is “I will trust Him.” But look at the entire quote:
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, My God, my mountain where I see refuge. My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, and my Savior, You save me from violence. I called to the Lord who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies.” 2 Samuel 22:2-4
Certainly, the Lord Jesus was aware of 2 Samuel 22. But think a moment of the cry that in this dark hour wrung from His lips in such an expression of grief and overwhelming sorrow. Even the cry was addressed to His Father, and came in a firm expression of trust. The truth that the One who is one with the Father, who at the same time could cry with strong feelings of aloneness, belongs to the mystery of the incarnation.
God Was In Christ
Jesus Christ gave His life in accord with the will of the Father. Paul is explicit about this in Galatians 1:3-4, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” It’s important to notice that the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life away and that it was not given away by the Father. He gave His life away in accord with the Father’s will. Jesus Christ is the beloved Son in whom the Father takes delight. (Mark 1:11) The giving of Himself did not represent the Son who is friendly to man and the Father who is hostile. It is the Father’s love that is behind all redemption. The Father doesn’t love because the Son died for us. The Son died for us because the Father loved us. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But can it be said more demonstratively than 2 Corinthians 5:18-19:
“Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself.”
Here is God Himself coming in human flesh (that is, He became a man) and reconciling the world unto Himself. God reconciled the world to God - in Christ. Could it have been done any other way except that God did it Himself? Jesus Christ is in the Father and the Father is in Him. “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” (John 14:10-11) That statement is fundamental to saving faith. Believe Christ when He says that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. It’s absolutely essential to faith in the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus even prays in His high-priestly prayer for the oneness of those who make up His church based on the reality of His oneness with the Father. “May they be one as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You…May they also be one as We are one.” (John 17:21 & 22) Isaiah 9:6 emphatically demonstrates the oneness of the Father and Son. "He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
The declaration to His disciples, “…you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” was in no way contradictory to His cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and in no way contradicts His insistence of His oneness with His Father. God did not turn His back on Christ. It is but a clear expression of the One who was truly human and felt forsaken, but that was not to the exclusion of His deity and it could not have been to the Father’s abandonment of the Son. We must, as Jesus said, believe that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. God the Father did not forsake God the Son; all others did!
is pastor/teacher at BIBC ~ Big Island Baptist Church in Deville, LA.
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