“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV)
Among the many books I have on my shelves is a massive tome that is at least 7 inches thick. It runs about 2,500 pages and is Webster’s unabridged twentieth century dictionary, the second edition.
I doubt there is a word used today in the English language that is not included in that weighty volume. I consult it often to ensure accuracy of speech for my spoken and written communications.
At times I am reading a book and a word appears in the text that eludes clear definition in spite of my big dictionary and its suggestions.
The quotation we look at in our text today is often called the fourth word from the cross. If we have our chronology correct the first three words were uttered from the cross by Jesus between 9-12 noon. All of those words had to do with the needs of others.
A dreadful astronomical miracle had happened between noon and 3pm that day. There was an inexplicable darkness over the entire land.
Judging from the cry Jesus uttered at the end of that period of darkness we can imagine that was the time Jesus was stricken by the Father for the sins of His people. (See Isaiah 53:4-5).
Our sins were laid on Jesus and He bore the punishment they deserved during that awful time on the cross.
This is why we find it so difficult to define this word from the cross. How do you put into words the full import of the hell our sins merited? Even Dante’s Inferno misses the mark.
This is the only occasion in the four Gospels where Jesus addresses God without using the warm familiar term “Father” that He taught us to use in prayer. The intimate fellowship that existed between Jesus and the Father had been broken. The Father had deserted the Son during that horrific time.
There seems to have been some sense of astonishment or incredulity in Jesus’ statement. It is as though Jesus was amazed that He could be put out of the Father’s presence. Jesus had certainly endured rejection by His own family and countrymen. So He was familiar with the idea of rejection. But to be abandoned by the One Whom He always pleased was incomprehensible.
Such was the suffering of Jesus for the sake of sinners. It was a demonstration of love that has no equal. As the hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it:
Was it for crimes that I had done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
If Jesus willingly suffered this for us can we not come with great confidence to Him to receive the grace we need for our life issues? He suffered more than you and knows how to help those in need. Why not come to Him and come now?