|Posted on 15 October, 2015 at 9:15||comments (3)|
“ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI”
Jesus had endured an all-night illegal trial before the entire Sanhedrin, chaired by the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-75). At daybreak, on Friday morning, accompanied by a throng of angry Jews, He was delivered bound to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor (Matthew 27: 1-2). Obviously, Pilate was aware of what had been taking place and seems to have been waiting for them to arrive (John 18:28-29). The governor would certainly have been informed of the Lord’s arrest in advance, since this involved a man who claimed to be the long-anticipated Jewish Messiah. In fact, the group that arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane included a “chiliarch,” a high ranking commander in the Roman army (John 18:12).
Delivered to Pilate shortly after 6 A.M, Jesus was subjected to another round of interrogation (John 18:33-40), after which He was “scourged” (John 19:1). Bruised and covered with blood, with a “crown of thorns” crushed onto His head, our Lord was then subjected to public spectacle, where He had to hear a rowdy horde of people crying out, “Away with Him, Crucify Him” (John 19:15). After Pilate symbolically washed his hands of what he knew was a miscarriage of justice, he authorized the crucifixion of the Son of God (Luke 23:23-25).
At about nine A.M. (Mark 15:25 – the “third hour},” the large iron nails were driven through the hands and feet of our Lord. His anguish on the cross would last six horrible hours. At 12 noon (the “sixth hour”} a mysterious “darkness” covered the land until 3 P.M. (the “ninth hour”}. Suddenly, when the darkness was ended, the Lord’s anguished voice cried, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” which Mark translated for us, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!” (Mark 15:34). Shortly after this terrifying cry to God, Jesus again “uttered a loud cry,” and died (Mark 15:35).
This outcry from our dying Savior was not accidental. Jesus was quoting during His final minutes a verse of Scripture written nearly nine hundred years earlier by King David, the prophet-poet and author of many of the Psalms (Psalms 22:1). When David penned these words, he had no idea that he was foretelling the death of the Messiah. David was no doubt voicing to God a very personal and heartfelt prayer to Jehovah, asking the Almighty why He had forsaken him, David! The “groaning” which David wrote about were his own! David was speaking of himself when he wrote, “I am a worm and not a man” (Psalm 22:6). The “enemies” that surrounded David were his own (Psalm 22: 12) and David could see his own death approaching. So he cried out to God, saying “O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance” (Psalm 22:19).
The fact that Jesus purposely repeated David’s obvious prophecy of His crucifixion does not diminish His suffering. We need to remember that our Lord Jesus suffered as a man! He was yet in the flesh and His suffering was real. In view of the fact that Jesus, as a man, had a profound knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, it is completely natural that His final words would be a citation from Scripture. And it is obvious why He cited this particular psalm. So, even as He cried out to God as he died, Jesus was testifying to all who heard Him that He was indeed the promised Messiah, in fulfilment of David’s prophecy.
This question – “Why have You forsaken Me” – should not be understood to mean that God had actually “forsaken” His divine Son. God had not forsaken King David, although David may have thought it so. I think that God realizes that because humans have never seen Him, they may sometimes waver in their faith. To us who cannot see God, it may indeed seem that He is “far” from us, even that He may not care what happens to us! David, in his psalm, continued saying, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:2). And unbelievers may taunt us, saying, “Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver [you]! “ Let Him rescue [you] because He delights in [you]!” (Psalm 22:8}. So we commit ourselves to God and we beg Him to rescue us, but He is silent! He does not answer! And we do not receive what we ask for! So we begin to doubt that there is even a God, or at least that He cares!
Then we remember Jesus, who prayed to the Father in the darkness of the night, asking Him for deliverance, knowing the dreadful suffering He was about to endure the next day. And we observe that God did not deliver Him from that suffering. And we remember that just as David did not deny God, neither did Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Then he urges us not to “grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
So, when we are tempted to accuse God of having “forsaken” us in our moment of suffering, let us remember that He is by our side, and that whatever happens, we will have the final victory through Jesus Christ.
Donald R. Taylor