August 31, 2011

Hard Sayings XX: "Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani" - "My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me"

"Into Your Hands"
by Jeffrey Smith

אלהי אלהי למא שבקתני
ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι

"About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). ~Matthew 27:46

"...and at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). ~Mark 15:34

To me this is the hardest saying. To Jesus it was certainly the hardest. I unequivocally know what it means in its context but how it actually happened is no easier to understand or explain than the Trinity itself. After this outburst from Jesus in Mark and Matthew, He eventually expires on the Cross. This is not an utterance that could’ve been manufactured. A cry of abandonment and pain from One utterly alone. If Jesus is part of the Trinity from before time until eternity, how could Jesus possibly have been abandon by the Father? This is the conundrum for the ages and to the theologically uneducated proof that Jesus wasn’t really God…or was He? If He was really God and God’s Son the Father should’ve saved Him right? Wrong. Jesus had to act as the propitiatory sacrifice for man’s sins to settle their account with God and be deemed justified and righteous in Christ.

One thing we cannot do is use these words as a gauge of what truly is going on inside of Jesus at the moment of utterance. Many theologians and others have ventured a guess at why this is uttered and what motive solicited the words. To me to try and pinpoint with absolute certainty in my mind is full-hardy. Why Jesus utters this is not stated in Scripture. In respects to this cry Scripture is silent. What can be said with near certainty is that He is quoting Psalms 22:1

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning." Psalms 22:1

The words in Psalms were in Hebrew but Jesus almost certainly said them in Aramaic. Although Psalms 22 starts as a lament Psalm 22, while it begins with a cry of absolute despair, it is really an expression of faith and thanksgiving as noted here.

We know with certainty the author of Hebrews believed there was an association with Psalms 22 and Jesus outside of the first verse. Hebrew’s author quotes other passages from Psalm 22 and ascribes them to Jesus. According to Hebrews we know that Jesus...

“...offered up prayers and supplications, with loud crying and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear; Son though he was, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” ~Hebrews 5:7-9

This is reflected in Psalms 22 in terms of the sufferings which Jesus endured and is acknowledged in Psalm 22:24:

“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

When the author says Jesus' prayer to him who was able to save him from death was answered, he does not mean that Jesus was delivered from death on the cross. Goodness no! What the author means is Jesus having died was listened to by the Father and was brought back from the dead (Hebrews 13:20).

We know as readers and believers that Jesus willing offered up His life as an acceptable sacrifice in perfect obedience to the Father. We know that instead of resentment and hostility to His persecutors and murders He prayed the Father would forgive them because they did not understand what they were really doing. His dying was in place of the sins of the world. These are the list of the known(s). So why do we see the absolute display of abject anxiety of isolation and separation?

I need to now walk through this explanation very slowly, clearly and methodically as I will be flirting with the line between truth and heresy in this next passage. Jesus had come to give His life as payment on a debt for many. At the sound of these words Jesus goes even deeper to a place that is hard to understand knowing that He has been one with the Father since time beyond time. I believe it is here that Jesus goes even deeper into the area of God-forsakenness which is the eventual destination of all mankind that does not find Christ and repent of their sins. He was made sin for us. For this to happen He had to temporary disengage from the Father as a truly holy God cannot look upon sin. Sin is sin and God is wholly “other”. The two cannot meet without God in His perfect justice passing judgment on it. It is here at this moment that the disengagement begins and judgment commences.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered (as we must also). Jesus burden of the Crucifixion was the crown of His glory. Between the hours of noon and three the Father turned His back (anthropomorphism) and left the Son forsaken. At least that is how the passage reads. I don’t know how, nor can I even begin to explain it but I believe this is what Scripture tells us. This is why supernatural cosmic occurrences took place like the preternatural darkness in the afternoon in the Mediterranean area. Sorry folks, eclipses do not last 3 hours. They cannot exceed 8 minutes. Celestial phenomenon are on full display during these hours of God-forsakenness for Jesus. The Temple veil at the Holy of Holies is also torn. Please understand that the veil is not a bed sheet easily torn by human hands. It was an enormous dense cloth at least 60ft high, and according to Flavius Josephus:
"the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart."
The divine God man had fully immersed Himself in the lot of man. Like a man condemned to separation from God, so too Jesus. There was no mistaking Jesus had committed Himself 100% to humanity and their suffering. Sin was conquered because our Savior having experienced it all. The worst being the separation from God. Worse than torture, worse than slow painful death, worse than cancer, worse than slow suffocation, drowning, burning and whatever other horrible end you can imagine. Jesus surmounted them all when Jesus was God-forsaken. There is now no desertion or abandonment known to man that Jesus had not already gone to or through. There was no profundity unvisited by Jesus. He was therefore made perfect or as Hebrews 5:9 says:

And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. ~Hebrews 5:9

When the author of Hebrews says Jesus was made perfect it means Jesus was perfectly qualified to be a helper or advocate…even in our deepest hole of sin…even in our greatest need which is the forgiveness of sin itself. So when we cry out these same words in whatever language we speak whether it be Aramaic, English, Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, French, German...we know that we will be heard. We will be heard even if we say nothing, as the Holy Spirit will intercede for us. Not only will we be heard we can know that Jesus has been there before us and walked through that hell that we are in and in the end salvation is ours. He will be there to give us strength in all we do…even though no one had been there for Him…no one.

Praise His mighty name. There is no other that could do this, only Jesus Christ.

{Note to readers: As the Fall Semester 2011 begins tomorrow this will be my last post for this series. This series is actually the fruit and fallout of my own studies over the last month that I have had off from school. My posts will more than likely now return to "one-offs" until overflow from school begins to come in. I have also been called to preach more and those sermons may show up on SoulJournaler also- God bless, Andy}

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Interesting thoughts. I didn't know that the veil was reported to have been so thick. I wonder how it was weaved in the first place.

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