“Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?”

Posted: April 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Tonight (or since it’s A.M. now, last night) I was privileged to speak on Matthew 27:45-46, on Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I hope this transcript is encouraging and I invite your comments/questions/critiques.

Forsaken for My Sin – Matthew 27:45-46
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:45-46
On a hot and humid day, a man is beaten and flogged. Guards drive nails through his wrists and feet into a wooden cross, while a crowd gathers to watch in shock and disbelief. The pain is excruciating, as the man hangs in suffering, occasionally crying in anguish. Blood drips from the crown of thorns on his head and the gaping wounds on his back. Surprisingly, this scene takes place not 2000 years ago, but 48 years ago and every year since. In 1962, Artemio Anosa began the tradition in Phillipines of modern day crucifixion to commemorate Good Friday. The purpose is to identify with Jesus’ suffering on the cross in order to become more grateful for his sacrifice through this sort of empathetic ritual. Now, several people participate every year in these crucifixions, experiencing the physical pains Jesus Christ himself experienced.
But they cannot empathize with the suffering Jesus experienced. For our Savior was forsaken by God himself, stricken and abandoned by the Father, leading him to such a level of distress that he cried with a loud voice, in Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Charles Spurgeon says of this cry of lament, “I do not think that the records of time or even of eternity, contain a sentence more full of anguish. Here the wormwood and the gall, and all the other bitternesses, are outdone. Here you may look as into a vast abyss; and though you strain your eyes, and gaze till sight fails you, yet you perceive no bottom; it is measureless, unfathomable, inconceivable. This anguish of the Saviour on your behalf and mine is no more to be measured and weighed than the sin which needed it, or the love which endured it.” (Spurgeon, Lama Sabachthani).
This was the prospect which caused Jesus to sweat drops like blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just a chapter before his cry of abandonment on the cross, Matthew 26:38-39 recounts Jesus’ experience: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death….And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Picture this account: the Son of God, who has been foretelling his death to his disciples over and over, suddenly falls to the ground and is sorrowful almost to the point of death, pleading with a silent Father for removal of the cup. I don’t think it is the thought of nails or the beatings that haunt the Christ in this moment. He doesn’t plead, “All things are possible. Take the cross away. Ease my pain. Keep me from being flogged or mocked.” No, he requests that God the Father remove the cup of his wrath. For he knows he is going to be utterly forsaken. The perfect pleasure of the Father which our Savior felt since eternity past is going to be intentionally withdrawn for those hours on the cross, as he will bear the cursed punishment for the sin of the world in solitude.
And it is not the feeling of betrayal from friends that Jesus questions on the cross. In the same Garden that caused him torment of heart and anguish of soul in prayer, he is betrayed by his disciple Judas. But Jesus reacts to this betrayal in a calm, gentle spirit. And Peter, a dear disciple and friend, vehemently denies any affiliation with him in his hour of trial. Yet Jesus is not reported to have said anything afterward regarding Peter’s denial. Jesus has experienced great betrayals of trust and friendship, but none of them provoke the anguished cry like his abandonment from the Father. In a loud voice, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Returning again to our passage, Matthew records that “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” This word used for this darkness is ekleipo, literally it failed, was omitted, left out, quit, ceased, stopped. This word doesn’t represent some sort of gradual dimming, where one might have thought a thick cloud was temporarily fading the sunlight. This word depicts a complete, pitch black darkness, a failing of the sun. Science hasn’t been able to explain this three hour void, since the crucifixion was taking place during Passover, the middle of the month. As John MacArthur points out, the beginning of the month always began with a new moon, meaning it would have been a full moon by Passover. A full moon means it’s on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, and can’t eclipse the sun. So here we have an entirely unexpected blackout from noon to 3 o’clock, doubtless an eerie and chilling phenomenon for all spectators. Our Savior’s entry into the world was marked by a blessed bright light in Bethlehem, but now he is cursed in darkness by your sin and mine as his earthly life closes. It’s as if to say to all, “In case it isn’t clear enough, I’m withholding none of my wrath! I’m pouring it all out, and you dare not look upon such wretchedness!” Imagine the Son of Man, the King of Kings, hanging in darkness, unable draw any comfort from the faces of his beloved family or disciples. Yet this inability to see their faces around him in his hour of suffering was infinitely outweighed by the Father deliberately turning his face away. The Father cannot look on him, for “it was the will of the LORD to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10).
My temptation now is to turn immediately to the Resurrection…to proclaim that yes, this suffering was endured, but now he’s raised. It’s over, it’s history. One cannot dwell upon these events comfortably, for it causes such distress of heart, such uneasiness and discomfort. We want to think merely of Jesus being raised victoriously all the joy that attended his triumph. And these things are absolutely worthy of our meditation and celebration in their time. But right now I believe God would have us reflect solemnly and quietly on this different manifestation of his love for us; a love expressed through the cursing of the Son in our place for our sins. It was for our rebellion that God the Father forsook His Son. So we view this scene which might appear to some as only ugly and despicable instead with grateful, humbled hearts. We stand, or perhaps more precisely, fall to our knees, in wonder and praise at this moment in history, recognizing its eternal power in the salvation of our souls. Let us close with these words, once again from Charles Spurgeon:
“You shall measure the height of his love, if it be ever measured, by the depth of his grief, if that can ever be known. See with what a price he hath redeemed us from the curse of the law! As you see this, say to yourselves: What manner of people ought we to be! What measure of love ought we to return to one who bore the utmost penalty, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come?” (Spurgeon, Lama Sabachthani)

Lama Sabachthani?
Delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, March 2nd, 1890,

God’s Commentary on The Passion of Christ
by John MacArthur, Jr.

  1. Michelle says:

    Wow, this is awesome. I didn’t know people actually reenacted the Crucifixion… that kind of creeps me out, actually. But the way you described Christ’s experiences vs. human experiences was extremely convicting.

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