This is too good not to share, especially as Easter approaches and as we read through and study Jesus' death and resurrection. What DID Jesus mean when He asked God from the cross why He had forsaken Him?
One of Jesus’ famous last words on the cross were “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). What did Jesus mean by this?
I’ve heard a couple of different explanations to these words of Jesus. Most frequently, I’ve heard people talk about how in this moment, God the Father placed the weight of sin upon Jesus which caused a mysterious separation from God’s presence in the moment in order for Jesus to bear the weight of the sin of the world. The lesson from this is that when we sin, we are separated from God and it causes great agony in our lives.
I’ve also heard people explain that in this moment Jesus felt as if God abandoned him, but God never really did abandon him because God is always faithful. The lesson here being that even though there are times when we’re being faithful, we won’t feel God’s presence and it causes great confusion in our lives.
I think that while these first two interpretations are possible, they miss the mark just a bit. What many people miss is that Jesus’ words here are not original. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1. He’s sharing the song of David in this moment. The parallels between Psalm 22 and the passion of Jesus are astonishing. In Psalm 22, David talks about his hands and feet being pierced, his enemies mocking him and gambling over his clothes. All of these things happened to Jesus while suffering on the cross.
So what’s the connect? The connect is that Jesus is identifying himself with David. Jesus is saying that he is another David. David was the ideal King of Israel, and God promised that the long awaited Messiah would be born in David’s family. This indicates that Jesus was not simply saying that he felt abandoned by God, but that he IS the True King of Israel that the world has been waiting for.
This interpretation lines up quite well with other elements of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. First, he is being crucified because he claimed to be the King of the Jews. This is evidenced in the sign hanging over his head on the cross (Matt 27:37). Also, he wears a crown of thorns and they dressed him in purple robes prior to his crucifixion in order to mock his claim.
In fact, everything about the crucifixion underlines the kingship of Jesus. This, again, supports the interpretation that “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” is much more than Jesus expressing his feelings. He’s claiming to be the King of the World.
So, what’s the lesson here? Well, there are many, but I want to focus on just one, and I believe it to be the primary lesson wrapped up in the event of the suffering and death of Jesus. I believe the lesson here is that God loves people so much, that he’s willing to take their very rejection of him, and turn it around to save them; in other words, ferocity of the grace and love of God for people. Humanity can spit in God’s face, curse him, condemn him, and reject him, and his love will never, ever fade. His love, like the love of a father, is unconditional and faithful. He will take their very acts of evil and turn them into what’s best for them.
This is the ultimate code of ethics, and it is the calling of the Church. We are to do the same, as Christians. Love your enemies, and be generous with God’s grace.