Mark 15:22-41 says, “22And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. …33And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (pronounced elo-EE, elo-EE, la-MA sa-bak-tha-NEE) “which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”
Did Jesus’ agony really cause Him to doubt God? I do think Jesus felt forsaken at the moment God laid the sins of the world on His shoulders, the moment when God made His perfect Son to be sin for us. However, I do not believe that Jesus doubted God during His moment of feeling forsaken. What follows is why I believe that way.
What Jesus was doing on the cross:
- He was going to give his life to deliver us from this evil world: (Galatians 1:4 KJV) “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father….”
- He was going to bear our sins that we might be made alive to righteousness: (1 Peter 2:24 KJV) “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
- He was about to become sin for us in order that we might be made the righteousness of God: (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV) “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
- He was going to let his body, which had become sin for us, be destroyed in order that we should not serve sin: (Romans 6:6 KJV) “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
- He was going to shed his blood to cancel out our debt to God for our sins: (Matthew 26:28 KJV) “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission [release from bondage; cancellation of penalty] of sins.”
- He was going to shed his blood to save us from the wrath of God and justify us before God: (Romans 5:8-11 KJV) “8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
- He was going to cleanse us from all sin: (1 John 1:7-9 KJV) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
- He was going to make it possible for us to be holy in the eyes of God: (Hebrews 13:12 KJV) “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
- Summarizing, Jesus’ blood thus remits you from your sins [i.e. releases you from bondage to sin and cancels the penalty for your sin]; His blood justifies you [“just as if I’d” never sinned]; and His blood sanctifies you [makes you holy].
Jesus was very clear about why He was dying. His will was now committed to do the will of His Father in heaven. He could not be more highly motivated and had taken on the job of being the perfect sacrifice on our behalf in full knowledge that He was God’s beloved Son. Now let’s look at the total of Jesus’ last seven sayings on the cross. The whole mood of Christ on the cross is no different than His mood at any other time: love, forgiveness, and rescuing the lost. He did NOT denounce God, as did one of the thieves hanging beside Him. Study the nature of Jesus’ mood looking at the whole of what He said:
- Forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Lk. 23:34
- Love and nurture: “Woman behold thy son.” Jn. 19:26; “Behold thy mother.” Jn. 19:27
- Concern for salvation of another: “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Lk. 23:43
- Feeling the rejection of God on our behalf: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mk. 15:34, 27:46.
- Physical suffering: “I thirst.” Jn. 19:28
- Elation and joy: “It is finished.” Jn. 19:30
- Yielding and trust: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Lk. 23:46
Jesus suffered beyond our ability to imagine on the cross, but I believe He never lost faith in God. Let’s look more closely at the original language of Jesus in His fourth saying:
- The Aramaic: Mark 15:34, “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani” is Aramaic, transliterated into Greek.
- The Hebrew: Matthew 27:46, “eli, eli, lama” is transliterated 1st century Hebrew; “sabachthani” is a transliteration of the Aramaic. The Hebrew is pronounced “eli, eli, lamah ‘ngatz-abat-ani” – the difference is that the Aramaic is a Hebrew dialect, with only negligible differences from the Hebrew. Notice that Mark’s gospel, probably dictated by Peter, uses the Aramaic (common ordiniary speech of a fisherman) while Matthew (tax collector, educated) starts with a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew and ends by giving a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic, probably so as to give, as close as possible, the sound of the actual utterance of Christ.
- The source: Psalm 22! Ps.22 begins with these words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But wait! Check out the whole psalm!
I suspect Jesus had psalm 22 memorized. Then what was Jesus really thinking when He uttered these words? Here are selected verses, in the New Living Translation. See the change from a desperate cry for help in the beginning to the faith and assurance at the end. Jesus was quoting a psalm prophesying His manner of death, His psalm, a psalm that ends in a paean of praise and trust:
Psalm 22 (New Living Translation) “1My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help? 2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. 3Yet you are holy. The praises of Israel surround your throne. 4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. 5You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in you and were never disappointed. … 7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, 8′Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him! If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!’ 9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you when I was a nursing infant. 10I was thrust upon you at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born. 11Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. … 14My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. 15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. 16My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. 17I can count every bone in my body. My enemies stare at me and gloat. 18They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments. 19O LORD, do not stay away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid! 20Rescue me from a violent death.… 22Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people. 23Praise the LORD, all you who fear him! Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel! 24For he has not ignored the suffering of the needy. He has not turned and walked away. He has listened to their cries for help. 25I will praise you among all the people; I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you. 26The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the LORD will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.”
Next time we will look even closer. Why was Jesus willing to suffer like that? Because of His love for YOU!