From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). MT 27.45-46
For 3 hours, from noon till three in the afternoon, Jesus hung on the cross in total darkness, a supernatural darkness which engulfed the land. This darkness was a picture of the much deeper, terrifying spiritual darkness that engulfed Jesus’s soul. At the end of 3 hours he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” quoting PS 22, which is a prophetic picture of Jesus on the cross:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. (1-2)
David, who wrote this Psalm feels like God has forsaken him. But he knows God has not really forsaken him, for he says in v24
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him. (24)
In Luke 18:31 Jesus had told his disciples they were going to Jerusalem to fulfill everything the Prophets, including David, had written about him. Look what else Jesus fulfilled from Ps 22:
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (6-8)
This was exactly happened to Jesus. He was scorned, mocked and despised. The leaders of Israel mocked him, saying “He saved others; he cannot save himself. MT 27.42
Ps 22 also says:
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (14-18)
Crucifixion didn’t exist in David’s time. Yet whatever situation David found himself in foreshadowed Jesus hanging on the cross, limbs stretched out of joint, strength evaporated, tongue parched, surrounded by wicked mockers who’d driven cruel spikes through his hands and feet. Jewish leaders gloating over him, and Roman soldiers casting lots for his clothing. And as David felt abandoned, Jesus experienced what it would be like to be utterly forsaken by God.
For as he hung there, Jesus took upon himself every sin – every murder, every rape, every act of immorality, every lie, every wicked thought, every curse word, every blasphemy against God, every crime, every single sin you and I ever committed and ever will commit – God counted them to Jesus as if he had personally committed them, then poured out his unimaginably horrific wrath upon Jesus for each and every sin.
For all eternity, Jesus and his Father had enjoyed infinitely perfect, joyful, unbroken fellowship. For all eternity the Father absolutely delighted in Jesus more than anything else, for Jesus was infinitely beautiful, holy and delightful. But now in a way, Jesus is the opposite. For in God’s eyes, he has so taken our sins upon himself, that he has “become sin.”
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 1 CO 5.21
Jesus so identified with our sin that God looked upon him as if he were sin itself – the most abhorrent, vile and despicable thing in God’s sight, the very opposite of God’s holiness: as it says in Hab 1.13:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, (13)
God will have nothing to do with evil. Nothing. He cannot and will not “look upon it.” So in a sense, God turned away from Jesus and cut off Jesus’ experience of fellowship as he counted Jesus to be sin and poured out his wrath on him.
And Jesus did all this for us, to bring all who believe in him into fellowship with God. Because God counted Jesus to be guilty he counts us to be holy. Because he “cut Jesus off” he can graft us in and make us one with himself and we will never be cut off. Because Jesus was condemned, there’s no condemnation for us. Because Jesus was “forsaken” we will never be forsaken. Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe he is God who became man, perfectly obeyed his Father then bore God’s wrath for you, died, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven as Lord of Lords? If you believe, you have eternal life and Jesus wants to give you a life of victory and joy as you follow and obey him.
Jesus hung in unimaginable darkness to bring us into his everlasting light. He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” So we can cry, “My God, my God, why have you accepted me? Why do you love me so? Thank you that you will never forsake me!”