Bible Text: Mark 15:33-34/Ps. 22-24
These verses, though not about the resurrection of Jesus, help me to embrace his resurrection. I have to examine these verses before I can even contemplate the resurrection and what it means.
33 When the sixth hour (noon) came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. (3:00 pm)
The ninth plague in Egypt was a three-day darkness, followed by the last plague, the death of the firstborn (Ex 10:22-11:9). The darkness at Calvary was an announcement that God’s Firstborn and Beloved Son, the Lamb of God, was giving His life for the sins of the world.*
34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
Other translations of forsaken in other Bible versions are: abandoned, rejected, and forgotten.
Peter, in Acts 2:25-28 tells us this about Jesus:
For David says of Him, ‘ I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.
26 ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;
27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.
28 ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’ (Ps. 16:8-11 NASU)
What I believe about this saying:
Jesus said this, to point the listeners to David’s Psalm in Psalm 22, which prophesies this event of the cross:
Psalm 22 is the prayer of a just one who suffers innocently, of one who is surrounded by enemies and mocked precisely because of his faithfulness to God. When God hears this cry, and delivers, the one suffering offers praise and thanksgiving to God.
Ps 22; 23, and 24 form a trilogy on Christ the Shepherd.
- In 22, the Good Shepherd dies for the sheep (John 10:1-18);
- in 23, the Great Shepherd lives for the sheep and cares for them (Heb 13:20-21);
- and in 24, the Chief Shepherd returns in glory to reward His sheep for their service (1 Peter 5:4). **
Jesus DOES cry out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. He uses the exact words from Psalm 22!
It is a cry of lament, because, Jesus, as the savior, is constantly pointing the way to salvation, and this Psalm is that! What would you do if you knew you were leaving your children behind? You would want them to be taken care of, to continue to believe in life, and to trust that their own lives could continue in joy, and that eventually you would all be reunited. Psalm 22 is the cry of David, first calling out to God in his distress, then ending with his salvation by God, a God he can completely trust. Jesus is telling those around him that the scriptures tell the story of his crucifixion and that God will save in the end! Jesus thought of others throughout his crucifixion:
- giving Mary into the care of John;
- and telling the thief crucified beside him that he would be in paradise that very day.
This cry is just another example of Jesus pointing others to the care and deliverance of God.
Look at how closely Psalm 22 follows what Jesus went through:
6 But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8 ” Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.”
Mark 15:29-30 is similar:
Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”
Many bulls have surrounded me;
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.
they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.
This Psalm prophesies how the Messiah would die!
Why does prophecy assure your faith? If it was predicted, and came true, it’s a confirmation of what is happening; but also it gives you complete confidence in the person who prophesied the event; complete confidence in the predictor.
If something is going according to plan, even if it’s a very scary event, it takes the fear out of it, it means someone is in control. When the pilot tells you in advance, we will experience some turbulence…. it’s still scary, but it helps to know he knows!
A verse in Acts talks about Jesus being crucified by the foreknowledge of God (Ac. 2:23: delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God).
Jesus is crying out these verses to let people know that this horrific event was predicted in the scriptures they already had; that God knew it would happen and was in complete control.
Jesus was completely human, like David, in his agony and suffering and his calling out to God, feeling everything from a human standpoint the events happening to him. Jesus identifies with the human experience completely,
But, like David, who had the help of the Spirit of God, his ultimate trust in God’s will for his life wins out, and the last verses of Psalm 22 proclaim victory!
He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
Posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
31 They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it. [It has been finished!]
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
This message is about Jesus crying out Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, and how he was showing us two things:
- He was identifying himself as a human being and feeling everything we feel;
- He was also pointing us to a psalm of lament that ends in rescue and praise, not only for the one being killed but also for an entire people.
God will save! Because God, and the Son He sent, are saviors. They cannot save themselves from saving us! Their identity and their love for humanity make it impossible for them to turn away from the plight of a helpless people needing rescue.
Jesus is proclaiming his humanity and in so doing, he is showing that a human can withstand the brutality of the cross if God is with them. Even in all our weakness in our frail human bodies, with God, we can withstand any circumstance. Even in our emotional humanity, our anguish and anxiety, Jesus is confirming the validity of all of our feelings by pointing his listeners to the previous lament of King David in Psalm 22.
He’s telling everyone by his actions that it’s ok to feel forsaken by God and lost when horrible things happen to you. The God who will deliver you expects and understands our humanity. He created us as emotional people who experience the full range of all emotions. Our emotions don’t cause God to reject us or be disappointed in us; rather, they touch his heart and cause him to listen to our cries and rescue us.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. (NASU)
This message is that Jesus is not forsaken by God, but instead delivered by God. That Jesus is so close to God that he shouts out the word of God and points others to that word. Jesus can be honest before God and so can we!!
Our humanity was taken on by Jesus and he is showing us that our humanity does not make us forsaken by God the Father.
Haven’t we all said in trying circumstances, “Where is God? Why is he not doing anything to change things for me?” Without that question, your faith cannot give you the answer. The help, the assurance, the answer, comes after the cry, and the cry is the magnet for God’s compassion because he understands those very feelings of being forsaken and forgotten.
We can be who we are and feel how we feel, and God will finish out our cry of lament by delivering us, just as he did for David at the end of Psalm 22: So much so that David declared in amazement in Psalm 23 that the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want!
Just as God delivered David and made him the beloved sheep of his pasture, so God did that for Jesus as well. Jesus was delivered from death, rescued from death, and given a new life to live before God eternally. Jesus knew the pattern of a Father’s heart; the son cries out and the Father answers! It is the cry, the affirmation of our helplessness,that makes the Father swoop in and deliver.
If your child or your dog or any other helpless person or creature cried out to you, you would swoop in to save! The cry causes the salvation. We can have faith in our humanity because Jesus knew the Father would respond to his humanity with sureness and compassion.
When we are in trouble, the first thing we should do is cry out to God and tell him that we feel forsaken and lost. It is our transparency of emotions that touches the chords in God’s heart. The sooner we cry out, the sooner we will be delivered. Don’t attempt to bear it alone! This is true of human relationships in life: transparency garners closeness
Even with all of our imperfections and wrongdoings, our humanity does not stand in the way of God delivering us.
God never lost his faith in humanity; he believes in us and is there for us even when we are not there for ourselves. It’s ok to make mistakes! It’s ok to not be perfect!
It’s true that we live this life attempting to right our wrongs and prove ourselves worthy of being created, but the sooner we restore our own faith in our humanity before God, knowing it attracts him rather than repels him, the sooner God can act as a loving unconditional Father and help the world make sense to us.
Jesus had so much faith in humanity that he became a human who was simply following the will of God and relying on his protection. God had so much faith in humanity that he gave his one and only son to human parents to be cared for and protected. He had so much faith in humanity that he allows us to proclaim the good news of Jesus’s resurrection and make communities of faith that offer friends to walk the journey with us.
Our dogs have faith in us and do not worry about our human shortcomings. They also respond when we cry out, and we respond to them in the same way.
Helplessness does not make us less approachable but more.
And it saves our lives. Dogs are not worried about letting us know when they are in trouble; it’s very much like a wolf pack, whose smallest members have no problem crying out for their parents whenever they feel helpless or threatened. They know they need someone bigger and stronger to lift them out of danger.
People claim that Jesus was crying out because God had forsaken him, literally. That Jesus had taken all of our sins, our badness, our mistakes, our shortcomings on himself, and that because of that sin, God had to look away from Jesus, had to separate himself from the sin of humanity that Jesus had taken on.
This never made sense to me because Jesus had said things like: “I and my father are one”; and he had said “I’m never alone because the Father is always with me”, and he had said, right at the point of death, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit”. Jesus had promised his followers that absolutely nothing and no one could snatch someone from his Father’s hand.
Peter declared in Acts 2 that Jesus would never be abandoned and that God’s presence was always with him
Were all of those words becoming untrue because of sin?
Was it our sin that destroyed that ultra-bond of Jesus and the Father? Also of us in the Father with Jesus? That never seemed like God’s true character to me.
I think the sins of humanity, rather than causing the Father to look away from Jesus, caused the Father instead to envelope Jesus, the hug God gave Jesus plunging the world into darkness. At the end of that hug in the darkness, the light returned and Jesus cried out the words of the prophecy in Psalm 22 to show a clear path out of our own darkness: trust that God is in control!
I think rather than God turning from his son in that darkest hour, he was holding the Son close, full of compassion and mercy for the sins that we think takes God away from us. God was living out the message of the Bible in Jesus: Jesus became our sin and God did not reject him, but rather loved him and accepted him in spite of them. Because of this, we can be sure that our sins and our mistakes will never leave us abandoned or forsaken by God. Jesus took on all our sins; we only have the sins of our own life. If God could accept Jesus with all our sins on him, he can certainly accept us with our individual sins!
I felt for so long: that my sins kept me from God. That he would not embrace me if there was any sin left unconfessed, which was impossible for me. I don’t want you to be afraid of God, no matter how bad you think you are, and I want you to know that you cannot make yourself good enough to be accepted by God. This is impossible too. I want you to not be ashamed of yourself or your life, that you are doing the best you can with what you know, and that if you will simply turn to God no matter how bad you think you are, God will lovingly embrace you. You cannot sin enough to keep God from being there for you!
Romans puts it this way, in Romans 5:20:
Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
(New Living Translation)
In reality, our sins make him all the more ready to help, all the more ready to save and deliver, all the more available and willing to listen because God sees the plight we are in. Our mistakes and shortcomings are the whole point of the Resurrection!
We ourselves think that our badness, our mistakes, and our failures make God less drawn to us. It is our focus on our own unworthiness that actually makes the barrier, because we are so unwilling to come to the hand that is offered due to our shame at our own weakness.
We need to be bold like the leper who came to Jesus for healing and realize that the leprosy itself is what makes God want to heal.
Come boldly to God with your sins! He knows they are part of what and who we are, and he promises not to reject us or turn from us.
It is only when we pretend we have nothing wrong with us that God cannot reach us. If you refuse to see that you need to be rescued, no one will be able to save you because you will not let them.
You say, “Well what kind of a world would that be, where people are no longer afraid that their sins keep them from God? If that were the case, then people would just rampantly sin and enjoy themselves and think they could be close to God in spite of sins!”
But love is a funny thing: when we come close to God, we want to sin less, not more. When we feel God’s love and acceptance, we want to work in partnership with God; we want to be better than we are! Be the person your dog thinks you are!
The reality is, we can have restored faith in our humanity, like God does. Even on our worst days and in our least perfect ways, we bear the image of God, and we act with his compassion and mercy when confronted with those who are helpless and weak, or in situations beyond their control. Watch this video:
Restoring Faith in Humanity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRTlqZm6TyY
We bear the image of God! We act as our Father acts when given the chance to do something good! A rescuer does not ask someone who is desperate to be saved what their sins are. And a person needing to be rescued never asks the one who saves them about the bad things they’ve done!
I want you to have a restored faith in humanity. I want you to believe in humans again as you see the video and realize the world is full of good people who do great things. We are not forsaken as a world or as a people. The evidence of goodness is all around us every day. Believe in the goodness of people and of the world. Believe that you are valuable and accepted and that you have something to contribute that helps save the world. There is always a new beginning, no matter the darkness behind you; there is always a person to be with you in spite of feeling like you are crucified and forsaken. You are not forsaken or abandoned! Others are watching and help will come. You can feel forsaken, but you must believe you are not. The truth is that you are never forsaken when you both give and receive from others. Be human, be honest, feel what you feel, make mistakes, but know the truth! The truth is that no matter how you feel, salvation is waiting if you just trust that it will happen.
The ones who sin rampantly and out of control are those who think that their sins are so bad they can’t go to the light, to the goodness of God. They think they can never be rescued! They continue in sin because of shame and fear, and they have given up on themselves.
People change with acceptance and love and inclusion, not judgment and hatred and turning away and abandonment. Forsaking a person never helps them return to a different way of life. I think those three hours of darkness were an enveloping of Jesus in the arms of God, temporarily blocking out the light of the s-o-n and the s-u-n as God enfolded the suffering Jesus in his arms and tenderly rocked him toward the anticipation of resurrection.
When the sun and the son came back to being seen, the whole world had been changed. God said in effect, “Everything is different now! My son bore the worst that humans could offer, and I accepted him and will bring him back to life!”
He was safe through the darkest night, just as we are!
Nothing bad can ever keep us from the goodness of God. God is too big for the darkness to take him away from us! In fact, because of the Resurrection, no mistake is ever too big to come back from! We can try and try and try again and Jesus gives us new life after every effort.
The darkness becomes simply a tender rocking time as we endure the circumstances of this world and our imperfections. And we rise stronger than ever because we have the new assurance that nothing stops the new life of God. Because of the Resurrection, it’s ok to be ourselves!
II Cor 5:18-22: God has removed the forsakenness and the sin; he has made the way open and we simply have to turn to him. There is nothing barring us from the love and salvation of God!
2 Cor 5:19-21
19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. [Holy Bible, NLT]
We too can be crucified, put into a tomb, and rise to walk in resurrected life! We sometimes live out death after death, yet Jesus gives us life after life; no matter how much we are slain and how much we feel forsaken, God is there to deliver us time after time. We get brand new beginnings anytime we ask for them.
We simply have to look for the stone to be rolled away and we will see the opening leading out to the light. We are never forsaken in actuality, even through suffering, through burial, through absence and darkness, through failures and mistakes, we are not forsaken, forgotten or rejected or abandoned. We only think we are. But in truth, God has always been there and always will be because he is the answer to everything in our lives, both things we can control and things we can’t.
If your dog went out and rolled in the mud, and then came running to you, would you reject him until he went and cleaned himself up? You might not like the mud, but you would certainly know that you were his only chance of getting clean again! Your dog can no more go and give himself a bath than we can go and wash off the dirt of our mistakes and failures. God lets us run to into his open arms, mud and all, and delights in the fact that the mud doesn’t keep us from his love, his acceptance, and his willingness to make us completely clean. Because of love, because of acceptance, because of God, and because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are never forsaken….we are Forgiven and Beloved.
*(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
** (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)