And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
More chilling words, I can’t imagine. The crying out of our Lord Jesus in lament for his suffering. Still, these words leave much to be considered; the language that Jesus was speaking (most likely Aramaic), the quotation (Psalm 22) and the meaning behind the statement.
What did Jesus mean that he was being foresaken by God?
So much of these questions are discussed at length. Here are two great and brief reads; from Carm.org and GotQuestions.org. What particularly came to my mind on this Good Friday as I reflect on this passage, is the lack of bitterness in Jesus words.
Theologically, the weight of the world’s sins—past, present then and future—are pressed down on him there on the cross. As well, at that moment of death, Jesus would have been enduring a tearing away of his singularly unique relationship with the Father. As the creeds follow, He was being crucified, was dying and was to be buried as spiritually he was descending to the dead (or hell as many struggle with today).
The foresaking was the action of abandonment. According the Greek rendering of the Aramaic (the second quotation), Jesus was being left, left uncared for or abandoned. (Consult an online Greek dictionary for “Egkataleipo” for more detail.) But Jesus’ cry isn’t tainted with the usual bitterness or disgust that we would generally accuse God of when we experience abandonment or seasons of separation from God.
Even as a Pastor, I have moments and sometime seasons where I feel forgotten by my God.
It may come during a season when I’ve been especially obedient and having taking strides in my walk. Suddenly, I can be washed over with feelings of spiritual loneliness or neglect. I might not see the fruits for my labor that I think I should be enjoying. And, I can think to myself, “My God, why does it feel like You’re not there?” But I know my cries of abandonment are tainted with passivity and aggression.
What I really mean in my moments of crying out is “Why aren’t You honoring me?” And I think sometimes that if I have a big enough fit that God will feel sorry for me and give in to what I want.
Jesus, even at His worst moment does not tinge his cry with any of that subtle bitterness. He fully knows this moment on the cross is His time. And even as the Lord experiences that pain of separation and abandonment, he remains faithful. As Jesus crise out, preparing to breathe his last, he continues to affirm God as his Father. “MY God, My God.”
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. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. [Psa. 22:1-6]
I hope that I begin to follow Jesus’ example. Because it’s by faith that that I walk, not by sight. Sometimes, I know that I can’t see how God is using those moments when I feel separated, or even abandoned, to reveal more of His glory with me. But I pray that my cries will not be tinged by bitterness as I wait for resurrection.