In his final hours on the cross, Jesus spoke his “Last Seven Words.” Not simple words, but phrases rich and deep with meaning for those who proclaim him “Jesus, Savior, Redeemer and Lord.” We continue our exploration of these extraordinary words of our Lord.
The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34, NRSV) [see also Matthew 27:45-46]
When writing a sermon on this text, Martin Luther reportedly exclaimed “God forsaken by God – who can understand it?” I think with this one, I can wholeheartedly relate to Luther’s exasperation at not being able to comprehend why Jesus, God from God, would cry out to God the Father about being abandonded. If Jesus’ cry of “why have you forsaken me?” were directed at the disciples who had run away in fear, we would understand. Or if he were asking you or me, who consistently forsake him in favor of our own will, we would have no trouble understanding why he would be questioning us about our abandonment to sin.
Echoing the words of Psalm 22, Jesus utters the most profound and personal words from the cross. The words of the Psalm gave voice to Jesus’ agony. The Lutheran Study Bible (©2009 Augsburg Fortress, p. 1657) explains this passage in words that I believe truly express its meaning: “The darkness is a symbol of God’s judgment on the earth and of mourning. Jesus’ cry of abandonment needs to be taken seriously. For our sake, Jesus experienced the complete abandonment by God that is hell.” Jesus was completely rejected by the Father. God abandoned Jesus so that the entire weight of the sin of the world rested on his shoulders. He did it for our salvation. In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess our belief in Jesus’ atonement for our sin and his descent into hell.
Perhaps these words were not a question, but an expression of the extreme agony of human being crucified. When I think about it in this way, I am once again reminded that our Savior Jesus Christ, was fully human. He suffered and willingly gave up his life to open the door to eternal life for you and for me. Incomprehensible.
I also believe that this passage gives us “permission” to cry out to God when we, too, feel that God has forsaken us in the trials and tribulations of this life, which most certainly come. When times are dark, the sky is gloomy, and there seems to be no hope, we can cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” but because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have Jesus’ promise that he will walk beside us. He has already taken on our punishment and God will not forsake us. Instead, we shall one day be in paradise with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, our Holy Triune God.
Heavenly Father, help us understand the incomprehensible suffering of your Son in his agony and abandonment. Let the cry of his heart penetrate deeply into ours. We praise you for all that you are and all that you have done out of love for us, your children. In the name of your crucified and risen Son we pray. Amen
Trying to comprehend,