“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

(Matthew 27:45-46 – Midweek Lent 4 – March 23, 2022)

Matthew 27:45-46 – Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The darkness that overcame all the land that day cannot be explained by any natural phenomenon. It lasted from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, which would be about from noon until 3:00 in the afternoon. It could not have been caused by an ordinary eclipse of the sun, for a solar eclipse can occur only at the time of a new moon, when the sun and moon line up on the same side of the earth. But this darkness occurred during the Jewish Passover, which according to God’s Law, always took place during the full moon. Furthermore, this darkness was not merely caused by a cover of clouds, or confined only to the immediate area around Jerusalem. According to the testimony of antiquity, this darkness was observed even in far-off lands such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, and even China.

No, this darkness cannot be described by any normal phenomenon of nature. But, it can be explained by the fact that presently, the very Creator of all nature Himself was dying on cross. The light of the sun was hidden that day, because He who is the Sun of Righteousness and the Light of the World, was being extinguished in death.

That outward darkness which was witnessed by human eyes was but a faint symbol of the dreadful darkness which the Son of God and Son of Man was experiencing in His soul as He cried out those fourth words from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Already, from 9:00 in the morning, Jesus had been hanging on the cross. Who can describe even the physical anguish He endured, as one hanging from those nails, gasping for each breath, feeling the life ebbing away from His tortured body? Men had done their worst to Him, from the unjust sentence, to the merciless beatings, to the excruciating crucifixion and mockery.

But now, as darkness overcame the land from noon until 3:00, who can even begin to imagine the deepest suffering and anguish Jesus felt in His soul as He was forsaken by God? How are we to understand this, that the Son of God, who is eternally begotten of His Father, and who is one with His Father as God, could be forsaken by His Father?

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We could easily understand it if these words had been cried out by a guilty man, like that blaspheming criminal next to Jesus who was suffering the just reward of his deeds. We could understand if such a man, having rejected God, was now rejected by Him, and if such a man now felt in death the terrors of hell taking hold of him, as mocking demons dragged him down to the bottomless abyss. We might expect such a lost soul, cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, to cry out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

But the sinless Son of God – what had He ever done wrong? Was this not the same Jesus of whom the Father had again and again testified during His ministry: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 Matthew 17:5)? Was this not the pure and holy Lamb of God who had come into the world “without blemish and without spot”; “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 1:22; 2:22; Isaiah 53:9)? Yes, it was even He, the perfect Son of God, who now cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

We cannot explain how this could come to pass. As Martin Luther put it: “God forsaken of God, who can understand it?” But we can explain why; for Scripture tells us. On the cross, the innocent Son of God was taking the place of us all as the condemned sinner.

Here we must come to grips with the gravity of our own sinfulness in the sight of God. For what the innocent Son of God suffered on the cross is exactly what we had coming as sinners. Jesus was forsaken for all the ways we have forsaken God and His holy will for our lives.

The Law of God tells us what He expects of us: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”; and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). That Law says: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Yet when it comes to our relationship to God, how many times have we forsaken Him as our first love? We have made excuses for going around what His Word said, so we could put our will first. Like the prodigal son, we have taken the riches the father has lavished on us and run off and squandered them in sinful ways. In seeking happiness and self-fulfillment, we have served sinful pleasures; we have made idols of our wealth, accomplishments, and pride; instead of living for the glory of God and His Kingdom.

And when it comes to our relationship with people God puts in our lives, how many times have we forsaken those we were supposed to love just as ourselves? We have not always been there for others, even those closest to us. In our self-absorbed thoughts, we have been distant instead of being there to listen, understand, and love. In our selfish pursuits, we have served ourselves first, instead of thinking of others’ needs.

The sinful nature always wants to come up with a way to justify ourselves: “Yes but… I’m not as bad as those criminals, those evildoers, who are getting the just rewards of their deeds… I’m not as bad as those people who hurt me, who deserve to get the just rewards for their deeds…”

But when it comes to justice, the Law of God makes no exceptions when it says: “Be perfect!” It makes no exceptions when it says: There is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”; and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23). If God were to give us the just rewards of our deeds we would all be cast into that outer darkness, that God-forsaken place, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).

But at the cross of Christ, the perfect justice and wrath of God against sinners meets with the perfect mercy and love of God toward sinners. In Christ crucified, God’s Light of salvation shines in the darkness with forgiveness for the worst of sinners.

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us what God, in His boundless love, was willing to do to His own innocent Son, to save us from the wages of our sin: “He made Him, who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Galatians 3:13 also says: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).”

So on the cross, we hear the innocent Son of God crying out in the God-forsaken darkness of hell’s anguish. As the one bearing all our sin and guilt, Jesus felt that justice and wrath of God in our place. He bore that awful curse for us.

Because of all the agony Jesus suffered for our sin, now there remains for us only the comfort of God in His salvation. Because Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” now we will never be forsaken by God in all eternity. Because Jesus was made sin for us, now we are made the righteousness of God in Him. Because Jesus suffered hell for us, now we will live forever in His heavenly courts. Because the perfect Son suffered the curse for us, now we receive the Father’s blessing as those He has reconciled to Himself, as those He has accepted and restored to His favor as His children and heirs of everlasting life with His Son.

What true comfort this is, the comfort of God for us. Our sins are now fully atoned for; our debt has been paid in full by God Himself, by the precious blood of His Son. Nothing more remains to be done by us or for us, but only to believe it; for God has promised it to us.

Therefore as the children of God by faith in His Son, let us joyfully take to heart all that Christ suffered to win for us. Let us receive with thankful hearts that good news of His Gospel:There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2 ).

As we stand in this grace of God, as His righteous children through faith in His Son, we have access to Him as “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). As we cry out to Him in our needs, He will never turn away from our prayer; our Father in heaven promises to answer for the sake of His Son.

In those dark times when we feel overwhelmed by trials, pains, and hardships, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel; in those dark times when we feel all alone and forsaken by others; even then our loving God and Father says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We have His promise in Psalm 34:15-17: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry…. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”

When we feel the darkness of accusing conscience, and Satan tempts us to feel we are forsaken of God for our sins; even then our loving God and Father reminds us in Romans 8:33-34: Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

As we stand in this grace of God our Father, nothing can separate us from His eternal love for us. Because of His unfailing promises in Christ, we can say with Romans 8:38-39: I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When we pass through that final dark valley of the shadow of death, even then nothing can separate us from the love of Him who gave Himself for us and rose again. Jesus will say to us at last: Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). As the children of God in Christ, we will be brought into that glorious Kingdom of Light, where it is said: There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.