At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Mark 15 recounts the events of Jesus’s crucifixion. In verses 24-26, Jesus is nailed to the cross, with a sign identifying him, ironically, as “The King of the Jews.” Then, “at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (15:34).
These words appear in italics in our translation because they are a quotation from Psalm 22:1, which reads, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” In his time of extreme anguish, Jesus cried out to his Heavenly Father in words that he heard many times in the synagogue. These words allowed him to express the cry of his heart.
Jesus’s citation of Psalm 22 raises all sorts of vexing questions. We might wonder: Did Jesus know the answer to his “why” question? In what way did the Father abandon Jesus on the cross? How can God forsake God? Though we can offer speculative answers to these questions, in the end, we must recognize that we are confronting one of the greatest mysteries in all of life. What we do know, however, is that by dying, Jesus bore the penalty for our sin. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus did not become a sinner. Rather, the sinless one took upon himself the judgment for our sin. To put it simply, Jesus entered hell so that we might enter heaven.
Because Jesus experienced abandonment from the Father, you and I don’t have to know this experience. To be sure, there are times in life when we feel as if God has abandoned us. Sometimes our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. God can seem distant, or even worse. Perhaps we’re going through a crisis in our family. Or maybe we’re overwhelmed by the challenges or injustices of our workplace. In these times, we are comforted by the fact that Jesus is a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). Moreover, when we focus on his sacrifice for us, we are reminded that no matter what we feel, God has not abandoned us. Because of what Jesus did on Good Friday, we can celebrate the truth of Easter. We can rejoice in the fact that God’s love triumphs and claims us as his own forever.
As it says in Romans 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thanks be to God for this amazing, life-changing, world-changing truth!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever felt abandoned by God? When?
What reassured you of God’s presence and love?
How does the death of Christ on the cross make a difference in your life?
Gracious Lord Jesus, thank you for being our Savior. Thank you for bearing our sin on the cross. Thank you for dying so that we might live.
In particular, we thank you for entering into the “hell” of separation from the Father. Though we don’t really understand this, we believe that you experienced this for our sake — and the sake of the world — that which our sin deserved. You took our place so that we might take yours.
We find it comforting, Lord, to know that you understand how it feels when the Father is distant. And it is even more wonderful to realize that, because of what you suffered, the Father, no matter what we feel, will never abandon us.
All praise be to you, Jesus, for your sacrifice. All praise be to you, for your steadfast love. Amen.