Friday, April 28, 2006

Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani

Was Jesus Forsaken by God?

Here's the Gospel of Matthew (ESV) on the context:

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 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?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Also, here's Mark (ESV):

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

As a Christian growing up, I was taught and believed (Answer # 1 in the link) that when Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me!" on the ninth hour on the cross, he did so because at that exact time, all the sin of the world was laid upon Him, and the Father -- who cannot look upon sin -- turned away in that moment. And, I believe, there are many Christian scholars, many renowned Christian scholars, who still hold to that view.

However, at this point, I think I'm going with Answer # 2, which is that Jesus was pointing His followers to Psalm 22 and everything that Scripture meant.

Here's Psalm 22 (ESV):

22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me;they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” 9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me,for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water,and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet —17 I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword,my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28 For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. 29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

When I think about Jesus, and when I think about His relationship to and with the Father and then also with His disciples, I have to think He was pointing to and showing them this Psalm - both for the prophecy (such as in verses 16 and 17) and then also for the glory that comes at the end of this Psalm. "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you!" How great is that? Jesus, dying for humanity on a Cross, being scorned by those around Him, still showing us the way and telling us why He is doing what He is doing. Not only that but forgiving those killing Him and mocking Him at the same time. And I love the centurion's reaction in Mark 15:39 - "Truly, this man was the Son of God!" Yes!

What do you guys think?


DugALug said...


This is awesome, thanks for sharing some really cool insight.


Rich said...

On the contrary, thank you, Doug. Those are kind words.

Insight's usually tough for me, because a lot of times to get insight, you kinda need to be insightful. And I spend most of my time in the shallow end of the pool playing with the kids. But that's only because I'm im-MATURE, and please stress the MATURE part of that word when referring to me. Thank you (again).

DugALug said...


As usual, you sell yourself short.

God Bless

codepoke said...

All news to me, Rich! Thanks.

What brought you to this question?

I certainly don't have an answer now, and probably won't for some time. This is a toughy! Very cool.

Rich said...

Anytime I have something ingrained in my head for so long that I'll spit it out by rote whenever the question is asked, but then, I hear something that turns my view upside down yet still makes a lotta sense... I want to check it out.

Our Sunday School teacher asked our class a couple of years ago about this phrase Jesus shouts from the Cross. So, I -- figuring I knew the only right answer -- spoke the bit about God turning away because of Jesus taking on sin. However, another guy (my Bible Study leader now) voiced that he didn't think that at all. He gave an eloquent account of how rabbis at the time (of Jesus) often would quote first lines from ancient scripture, and their audience was taught or had learned the rest of the verses following and that's what the rabbis would teach on. He pointed out, like the link, verses that say God won't turn away from the righteous. Although our prayers may be affected by our sin, God still sees us when we sin - He doesn't turn away and certainly doesn't forsake us. He looked upon Adam (and Eve) when Adam first sinned. And then the guy sort of recited parts of Psalm 22, and how it ended so gloriously. That's, he stated, what Jesus was telling his followers - those at the foot of the Cross, and the Jews of that time would have had more than an inkling of what Jesus was telling them.

All that has been stewing in me for some time, and I've done a little research (not that much). But it makes so much sense to me that I almost don't know why I didn't see it before. Of course, I can still go online or ask people at church or even read books by famous Christian authors and hear what I used to believe. But when I think I might have heard something really cool, it makes sense to share it. Others can hold it up for themselves to the light of day and see if it carries water. Cuz I'm not saying that what I believe now is definitively what Christ was saying (God seems to leave a little mystery in His Word, and it's up to us to seek truth), but it is what strikes me as most like Him (and the Father as well).

If you'll note, in my Drunk on the Tears - SQOTW post, I listed Bill Mallonee's lyrics that stated, "...dripping in blood that flows from a tree, where Father and Son part company, come back together for you and me...", so it seems my favorite recording artist doesn't see it as I do.

Most Christians probably don't. And that's okay.

japhy said...

My Church Bible study talked about this a couple weeks ago. I'd never really thought about the impact of God actually abandoning Jesus, and while I knew it was a reference to Scripture, I hadn't read the entirety of Psalm 22 until that week.

I have no doubt Jesus was referring people to the Scripture, and I believe Jesus would never have taken Scripture out of context to serve his purpose (that is, whatever he said from Scripture, the surrounding passages are also appropriate -- see this for an examination of "the very stones shall cry out" from Jesus's entrance into Jerusalem). Therefore, the entirety of Psalm 22 certain applies.

But I also don't think Jesus just went around quoting Scripture for Scripture's sake; he wasn't "showing off". If Jesus prayed to God to let the cup pass him by in Gethsemane, it is possible he felt alone while dying on the cross, carrying out God's will. When things are hardest, we tend to believe God isn't looking out for us, when it's really the opposite. In my blog I've made several arguments for Jesus being our perfect example, and this is just another reason: at death, he felt alone, if only for one brief moment -- at his final act on the cross, "giving up the spirit", gives us a different picture of his mindset at the very moment of death, one of acknowledging God and giving entirely to His will.

So certainly, Jesus was alluding to Psalm 22, but I don't think it was just to get the people watching to go to the temple to read Psalm 22 to figure out what Jesus meant. I think it was what he felt in his heart for one moment. And then, meditating on the rest of that Psalm, he realized that God had not forsaken him, and with that, he willingly gave up his spirit.

Milly said...

Thank you.

It's alway good to hear about the cross. We are so Blessed.

DugALug said...

Just a small thought here.

I have always taken these three statements to be from Jesus the man:

1) "If it be Thy will, let this cuo pass.

2) "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"

3) "It is finished"

All three reflect the battle between the flesh (Jesus the Man) and the Spirit (Jesus the Lord). Even the reference to Psalms was to David, who made his battles between flesh and Spirit and open book for all of us to read.

God totally showed us that for one to live, the other must die. Death ultimately comes, but what God has provided to us is the gift of eternal spiritual life. God demonstrated to us through Jesus, what couldn't be articulated through Scripture alone.


God Bless

Rich said...


Those are great thoughts!

I may have inferred this, but I don't think I meant Jesus merely wanted His followers to go read Psalm 22. Actually, I think a lot of them may have known it by rote. I do think he was sort of putting two and two together for them, however. Not showing off, but explaining, which he had to do many times with His disciples. And let's face it, there was a lot that crew didn't understand. He had to explain many of the parbales He told to them. In this case, on the cross, He couldn't take them aside and do that. I'm thinking, instead, He called out that first line, a first line to a Psalm they probably knew, to best illustrate what was going on here (as well as to glorify God).

At the same time, you may well be right. He may have felt alone, and that Psalm's line might have echoed His feeling where He was. Many times I feel totally alone, and the Holy Spirit lives in me. Despite my feelings, I haven't been abandoned, yet I can't shake the feeling.

Nonetheless, I don't think the Father abandoned Him, even for an instant.