Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" --- Mark 15:33, 34
The above quote is considered the "fourth word" spoken by Jesus as He hung on the cross during His crucifixion 2,000 years ago.
It was this word on which I was asked to speak during the Good Friday Community Service held at First Christian Church in Ebensburg PA USA starting at 12 noon on April 2, 2010.
The word "forsaken" in the original New Testament Greek literally means to abandon or desert -- that is, when it comes to persons, one totally abandons another and leaves the abandoned one to be absolutely alone with no other person present.
In order to try to grasp a bit the frantic plea of Jesus at this point in the crucifixion of being abandoned by God the Father, I drew on the experience of a man as revealed by Jesus earlier in His ministry. The details are given in Luke 16.
There was a rich man and a beggar by the name of Lazarus laid outside the rich man's gate hoping for something to eat from time to time. He also had sores on his body which the dogs would lick. Death came to Lazarus and he was carried by the angels to a paradise where Abraham lived.
The rich man died, was buried, and we are told that in Hell he looked around, being in torment. He spotted Lazarus and Abraham a ways off beyond a great chasm which separated him and the other two.
The rich man's experience in Hell helps us to see a bit more clearly the anguish of Jesus as He frantically cried out that He had been abandoned by the heavenly Father.
Notice that the rich man:
- had unrestricted vision -- he could clearly see a paradise where Abraham and Lazarus were living, but was not able to experience it for himself -- he was in Hell! Torment was intensified in knowing some were in a trouble-free environment, but he was not!
- had unsatisfied desires -- part of his plea was that Lazarus come over and place at least a drop of water on his tongue, but Abraham denied that request and so the agony of a thirst never being quenched continued and continues even today!
- witnessed an uncrossable chasm -- it was like a bottomless pit which separated the rich man on one side in all his misery and Abraham and Lazarus on the other in their paradise on the opposite side. There was no bridge -- no way to cross over into the trouble-free, pain-free, sorrow-free and disease-free environment Abraham and Lazarus were enjoying!
- had unclouded memory -- Abraham at one point in the conversation told the rich man to remember how it was in the former life -- the memory was crystal clear -- he had enjoyed many things in the former life, but obviously, by implication he had made wrong choices which resulted in his being in Hell -- part of the torment would be the memory of missed opportunities -- the times he could have made a choice in which he too would have ended up in Paradise instead of Hell!
- experienced unanswered prayer -- the rich man appealed to Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers about this place of torment -- if someone went to them from the dead, he reasoned, they would listen. Abraham's rebuttal was that they already had sufficient information through Moses and the prophets and if they did not listen to those sources, they would not listen to one who had come back from the dead! So the prayer was unheeded.
- experienced unrelieved torment, no matter in what form that torment existed -- the rich man's total being was in torment and never so much as one second of relief was available to him. This would be his constant experience as eternity rolled on and on and on and on.....!
What was happening to Jesus when He uttered that frantic question about being forsakened by the Father? It was in that moment that He was literally experiencing Hell on behalf of every single human being -- He was bearing the punishment we all deserve to receive because of our sins against a holy God! He stepped in and became our substitute -- satisfied the demands of God's justice against all sin in order that we could be forgiven and restored to righteousness -- and as a result, we are accepted in God's sight as though we had never sinned one time!
Now there is a condition here -- that is, we must repent and express to God that we are sorry for the wrong we have done, ask His mercy and forgiveness, receive Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives, and seek by His help not to continue to sin as we were used to doing in the past!
Jesus endured the torment and agony of Hell, the abandonment of God, and separation from God in order that we would not have to experience it ourselves! When was the last time you thanked Him for being willing to go through all that for you?
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. --- 2 Corinthians 5:21