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Why hast thou Forsaken Me?

By: Scott Morton

While the Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross and was taking care of the issue of sin, there are several things that are recorded that He said. These are often referred to as the Seven Sayings on the Cross. In this article, we are going to look at the first of these sayings:

Matthew 27:46

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Mark 15:34

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The first thing that can be noticed from this is that the Lord Jesus Christ is asking God why He has forsaken Him? This can be a confusing passage to look at when some of the errors man has came up with are used to interpret Scripture.

There are many who would state this is being said because Jesus Christ is not God. Some would state He was just a good man whom God used a prophet and was not any different than any of the other prophets in Scripture, such as Isaiah or Habbakuk. Others would state He was a created being for a specific purpose. The purpose He was created for was to function as a messenger of God and would end up being the equivalent of one of the angels, such as Michael.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is one third of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9). There are several passages that show there are three members of the Godhead and they are all equal individuals:

2 Corinthians 13:14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

1 John 5:7

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

All of the members of the Godhead have the same essence, as they all have the same attributes. They are all also identified as distinct individuals in Scripture. This is a unique trait in Christianity, when it is compared with other religions, which are either monotheistic (Judaism and Islam) or polytheistic (where there are many gods who are individuals and also have different attributes). Many of the cults also struggle with this, as they do not give the Lord Jesus Christ the attributes that would be true of Him according to what Scripture says.

Here is a brief chart to look at the three members of the Godhead and how they are all alike:

 

Attributes

FATHER

SON

HOLY GHOST

Called God

Philippians 1:2

John 1:1,14

Acts 5:3-4

Creator

Isaiah 64:8, 44:24

John 1:3

Colossians 1:15-17

Resurrects

1 Thessalonians 1:10

John 10:7

Romans 8:11

Indwells

2 Corinthians 6:16

Colossians 1:27

Ephesians 1:13-14

Everywhere

1 Kings 8:27

Matthew 28:20

Psalm 139:7-10

All knowing

1 John 3:20

John 16:30

1 Corinthians 2:10-11

Sanctifies

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Hebrews 2:11

1 Peter 1:2

Life giver

Genesis 2:7

John 1:3

2 Corinthians 3:6, 8

Fellowship

1 John 1:3

1 Corinthians 1:9

Philippians 2:1

Eternal

Psalm 90:2

Micah 5:1-2

Romans 8:11

A Will

Luke 22:42

Luke 22:42

1 Corinthians 12:11

Speaks

Matthew 3:17

Luke 5:20

Acts 8:29

Love

John 3:16

Ephesians 5:25

Romans 15:30

Searches the heart

Jeremiah 17:10

Revelation 2:23

1 Corinthians 2:10

 

This chart shows what is true of the Godhead. There are three individuals, who all have distinct personalities. However, they also have the same attributes, because they are one Godhead. This is truly a remarkable thing the Bible shows us.

The Bible also shows this plurality through the use of the word Elohim. This is a plural pronoun used the describe God. This can be seen in the following passage:

Genesis 1:26

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

We see in this passage the plurality that is used. Man is made in the image of God at creation. Genesis 1:26 uses the words us and our in this description of the creation of man. These are plural pronouns that show the nature of the Godhead, as there would be more than one part that would make it up, if these pronouns are being used. We have already seen that God is made of three parts, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

Why would He be forsaken?

Jesus Christ asks why God (the Father) has forsaken him in the passages we started with. The big question is why would part of the Godhead forsake, or have no fellowship with, another part of the Godhead?

The answer comes with what Jesus Christ came to do during His earthly ministry. He came to deal with the issue of sin. This would have been for the nation of Israel, but we also see in Paul’s epistles the application this has to the Body of Christ. He came to take away the sin of the world. During the earthly ministry, there are many passages that show the Lord Jesus Christ is the way for them to receive eternal life. This is one example:

John 3:14-18

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. [18] He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Israel should have been able to see they were being offered eternal life by accepting who Jesus Christ was, the Messiah that had promised in the prophecies in the Old Testament. They needed to have this salvation if they were going to have a relationship with God. However, there would be the issue of why they needed to have this offered to them:

John 1:29

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

This was clearly presented to Israel, so they had no excuse about knowing the truth of why He had come to them. John the Baptist identifies that Jesus Christ has come to take away the sin of the world. While they had the sacrifices to temporarily cover their sin, they were now being offered a removal of their sin. This is being presented in John, which is the gospel account that shows Jesus Christ as God. It is important to note that the things He was doing during the earthly ministry were happening in order for sin to be dealt with for the nation:

John 5:1-14

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [2] Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. [3] In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. [4] For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. [5] And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. [6] When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? [7] The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. [8] Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. [9] And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. [10] The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. [11] He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. [12] Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? [13] And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. [14] Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

In this passage, Jesus Christ is performing a healing miracle, which is part of the early ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is going to heal this individual and there is an issue that comes up related to the Sabbath. It was against the Mosaic Law to do anything that was considered to be a work during the Sabbath. Jesus Christ performs this healing miracle, which clearly was not a work. If it was a work, then He would have been guilty of breaking the Law and would not have been able to be the Savior of mankind.

After the individual is healed, there is a further discussion about what had happened. He informs the individual that he has been whole (the healing is complete) and that he is to sin no more. The issue of the sin that he had committed is shown here to have an immediate impact on the individual. He has been given an affliction that the Lord Jesus Christ heals. If he were to sin again, this condition could come back, or something else could happen. This is why he is told that he needs to sin no more, so that he can have the benefit of the healing that has been performed.

How can the Lord Jesus Christ take away sin? Who is able to actually forgive the sins of an individual. The following verses help show this:

Joshua 24:16-22

And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; [17] For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: [18] And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God. [19] And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. [20] If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. [21] And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. [22] And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.

Mark 2:7

Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

John 16:8

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

The issue is that Jesus Christ will be taking away sin. Only God can remove sin, because God is Holy and has never committed sin. The nation of Israel had an understanding of this and they knew that only God was capable to taking away sin. If Jesus Christ was able to take away sin, this would indicate he was God. This is one of the reasons why the Pharisees looked at Him as a blasphemer, because they did not think He was God and felt He was putting Himself on a level that He did not deserve.

The Lord Jesus Christ was completely without sin. This qualifies Him as the Savior, because only someone who was without sin could offer Himself in this manner. The following verses show how He was without sin:

Isaiah 53:9

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

2 Corinthians 5:21

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.

Hebrews 7:22-26

By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. [23] And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: [24] But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. [25] Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. [26] For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

1 Peter 2:21-23

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: [22] Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: [23] Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Jesus Christ was completely without sin. This is important, because God cannot have anything to do with sin. This goes against the nature of God, as He is righteous and this righteousness does not have any part of sin. This is why it is so important to realize the dual nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had to be full man and full God. He was full man because He had to be tempted in the same ways we are. He also had to be God in order to be sinless. If He was nothing more than a man, then we all would have the possibility of being able to be without sin. The Bible points out very clearly there is none righteous before the eyes of God (Romans 3:10).

However, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, He took upon Himself the sins of man. This was what was being accomplished at the cross. This holds true for the program of the nation of Israel (Prophecy) and for the Body of Christ (Mystery). Israel was able to understand who He was and what had been accomplished by what the passages in the Bible said:

Isaiah 53:3-8

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [4] Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. [6] All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. [7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. [8] He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

This was a passage that had been written many years before Jesus Christ was on earth. It speaks of the Messiah coming and taking upon Him the transgressions and iniquities of the people (Israel). Now the passage is very clear to us today, as we are able to see what was meant by this and have a clear understanding of the issue of sin being dealt with. They were not able to see this clearly at all. When Jesus Christ started to teach His death, the disciples rebuked Him for this (Mark 8:31-34). They did not understand what the death was going to accomplish and were going to fight against this, thinking about it from the aspect of the flesh.

It is not until their eyes are opened in Luke 24:44-45 that they actually gain an understanding of what was happening with the issue of sin. They were able to see what these passages meant and now knew what had been accomplished and why He did have to die. They are able to start explaining this to others, as is seen in Acts 8, when Philip is explaining this passage to the eunuch, which leads to his salvation.

The forsaking of God

Why would God the Father forsake one part of the Godhead? The answer comes back to the reason Jesus Christ came here to the earth. He had taken the sins of the world upon Himself at this time. God cannot have anything to do with sin, so He has forsaken Him. This would coincide with the following event:

Matthew 27:45

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

The absence of light shows the forsaking by God. This is because God is light (1 John 1:5). Light is associated with the glory of God. Moses’ face shown with light when he came down from speaking with the Lord in the mountain (Exodus 34:29-33), so that Israel was afraid of him. The mount of transfiguration showed the glory when the face of the Lord Jesus Christ shown (Matthew 17:1-8). When the new heaven and new earth are established, there will be no need for the sun, because the glory of God will shine and act as a light for all of mankind (Revelation 21:23).

The things that were being said here by the Lord Jesus Christ was not something new that Israel would not have heard. The words that are spoken here actually come from one of the Psalms:

Psalm 22:1

<To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.> My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

This would have been one of the passages that Israel did not have an understanding of. They could read the verses, but they did not have a real understanding of what was being said. They would have thought that this was something experienced by David during either the time he was fleeing from Saul or during the rebellion created by Absalom. There would have been little understanding that this could possibly have been speaking about their Messiah. They viewed Him as a powerful leader who would be coming back to free them from the captivity they were in. They did not have an understanding that there would be a first coming (what was going on while He was with them now) and a second coming (where He would be fulfilling all of the prophecies that spoke of the establishment of the kingdom). There is no way that these things could have been speaking of David:

Psalm 22:14-18

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. [15] My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. [16] For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. [17] I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. [18] They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

There is only one individual who this passage would describe. This is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ and the events on Calvary. This passage would have been showing Israel what was going on. They should have been able to look at the beginning of this Psalm, and see the same words being used (My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?). This would have shown Israel where they were in Scripture and the events that were going to transpire had been prophesied.

Instead, they are affected in a manner where they are saddened by what has gone on. They look at the cross as a sign of the defeat of their program, because the Messiah had been killed. They did not see this from the viewpoint of God.

Israel could not see the issue of their sin being placed on Him. They could understand this, which is a demonstration of the wisdom of God. He knows what has happened here. He knows His Son has taken the sins of the world upon Him. Because of the sin, He could not have anything to do with Him. He needed to separate Himself from Him for a period of time so the penalty for sin could be taken care of. This is why God the Father had to forsake God the Son.

What about the difference in the words?

One thing that people do struggle with in this passage is why are there two different words being used, Matthew using Eli and Mark using Eloi. Some make an argument that Mark uses the proper Aramaic word and Matthew is using a version of this. Others state this is a copyist error and that the two should be the same, choosing whichever of the words they want to use as being the one that is correct. However, there is something much more that is meant by this.

Matthew uses the term Eli, which means Mighty God. This is the declaration of the king (Matthew’s presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ) about who God is. The king would make a declaration of the power of God based on a king displaying power.

Mark uses the term Eloi, which means My God. Mark presents the Lord Jesus Christ as a servant. The servant would show deference to those in authority, which is demonstrated by the use of Eloi instead of the use of Eli.



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