Easter 2018 - My God, My God, Why have you Forsaken Me?

Jesus’ darkest words from the cross.

At our church’s evening meeting on Good Friday we have seven speakers preach from the seven things Jesus said while on the cross. Creatively called: Words from the Cross

This year I have the 4th “word”. Matthew 27:46

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).


Although the NIV has “forsaken”, other translations use “abandoned” (such as the Christian Standard Bible I’m currently using as my main Bible). Both words aren’t bad translations. And I’ll start with “abandoned”.

The first thing which pops into my mind with abandoned is a ghost town, probably featured in a horror movie, zombie apocalyse series or rogue-like survival game. This is strange because I don’t watch those movies or play those games. But Dr Who (which I do watch) does this very well.

The scene: an abandoned town. Empty houses. Everyday items lying discarded, as people left in great haste. Everyone knows there’s some kind of monster around, just a matter of time before it appears.

The question on everyone’s mind is “what happened? What went wrong”? And it makes the hair on the back of our neck stick up, as we worry that the hero will suffer the same fate.

Abandoned People

As much as an abandoned town makes us worried, the real pain of abandonment is between individuals.

I recently read Maggie Hartley’s Who Will Love Me Now?. It’s a slightly tear inducing story about a foster mum who suddenly finds herself looking after a 10 year old girl. This girl has been abandoned by every person in her life: never knew her biological parents, thinking she caused her previous foster mum’s near death, turfed out of her school because of her behaviour.

She asks “who will love me now?” when she thinks her new foster mum (the hero of the story) considers giving her up as well.

My God, My God, Why have you Abandoned Me?

This is the blackness caused by one person abandoning another.

This is the pain parents endure because of a wayward child. The loss felt when a friend suddenly walk away, never speaking to you again. The broken life left by a husband who leaves his wife. The empty heart of the girl stood up on a date.

Abandoned people hurt.

The Divine Relationship

So consider the eternal relationship between God and Jesus. The Father and the Son have been in perfect relationship since before the beginning of time. An eternity of love and delight in one another.

And it is this Jesus who cries “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me?”

Something is terribly wrong here! As painful and bad as abandonment in relationships is, this takes it to a new level!

To show how dark a place Jesus is in, read a bit of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me and from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

For an eternal and perfect relationship between God and Jesus, this is unprecidented new territory. And it should freak us out more than any abandoned town.

Forsaken & God’s Wrath

It gets worse. Even darker. Because Jesus is forsaken, not just abandoned.

Forsaken is stronger than abandoned. It implies a more deliberate action, rather than a potential accident.

God is deliberately withholding his goodness from Jesus. More than that, he’s deliberately sending Jesus into danger. And pushing things further again, he’s deliberately throwing Jesus to the wolves (and a ravenous bunch they are - crucifying him)!

To get a real sense of just how forsaken Jesus is, look at the verse immediately Jesus cries out - Matthew 27:45:

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

This is written in such plain language its easy to miss the significance of darkness. We’ll ignore exactly what caused the darkness (mostly because Matthew isn’t interested in the how), and ask “why?”

Matthew loves his Old Testament, and darkness is code for “wrath” or “judgement” in the Old Testament. In particular, God’s wrath.

Eg: the 9th plague on Egypt was darkness. Which was God’s wrath on the Pharaoh and Egypt at large.

Eg: Amos 8 talks about the Day of the Lord as a time when “the sun will go down at noon” and “the earth is darkened in broad daylight”.

Eg: Joel 2 says much the same thing, describing the Day of the Lord as “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness”.

Darkness represents God’s wrath.

And Matthew talks about a highly unusual darkness which happened right before Jesus cries out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. It seems Matthew wants us to connect God’s wrath on a forsaken Jesus.

And that needs a moment to really sink in: Jesus on the cross is receiving the full force of God’s wrath. That is, God the Father is deliberately hurting his beloved son.

That is very, very dark.

It Should Have Been Us

It’s very tempting to ask searching questions of why God would do such an aweful thing to his own son. In other words, why would God punish his own son for something he didn’t do? That’s not a bad question to ask, and I’ll give a partial answer as I go on, but I’m not trying to address this in great depth.

The worst of all this darkness is that is should have been us on the cross. That is, Jesus shouldn’t receive God’s wrath, we should. Indeed, if it weren’t for us, Jesus wouldn’t need to have died on the cross.

There’s no way around it: we are 100% responsible for Jesus being on the cross - if we had no sin, he wouldn’t need to die in our place.

There’s a different darkness from the one I’ve talked about already (God’s wrath). A darkness which is inside each person. Christians call it “sin”. It’s a taint, or blemish which permeates us so completely we cannot get rid of it. It’s what causes us to hurt those around us, even when we don’t really mean to, even when we desperately try not to.

While sin doesn’t mean we are all totally evil to the core, it does taint all parts of our lives. It’s the darkness which we can never quite get rid of. The temptation to do what we know too well is wrong - and then carrying out that temptation, knowing the consequinces.

This is why Jesus, with none of this sin darkness in him, suffered and died on the cross. The darkness in you and I, causing Jesus to be forsaken by his own dear father.

In my experience, there are few worth feelings than seeing someone you love get punished for something they didn’t do. Doubly so when its you that did the wrong thing.

The Goodness of God

The utterly astonishing thing is that this whole terrible event of the cross was God’s plan all along. That is, ever since human beings sinned, he knew and planned to pour out his wrath on Jesus.

Rather than the darkness of God’s wrath falling on us, it hits Jesus instead. Very deliberately. So we can avoid it altogether.

Jesus takes our darkness (sin) on himself, so we can walk in God’s marvelous light. Or, looking at it a different way, God shines his light onto us through Jesus to drive the darkness (sin) out.

What an amazing, astonishing and utterly life changing act of love!

We may well wonder to ourselves “who will live me now?” - God does, he always has, he always will. And we know that because of the cross.

We may cry out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” - but he has most definitely not forsaken us, it was Jesus who was forsaken in our place.

This is the God who loves the unlovable (that’s us) and withholds his wrath from those who deserve it. The God who rescues us from the darkness within by pouring his darkest wrath on Jesus. And, on Easter Monday (aka resurrection day) we find Jesus’ light outshines all the darkness, ever.