Eli, Eli
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 19 Jan 2014
Part 2 of 3

In our previous article, we looked at the context of Matthew 27:46 and considered four things that it does not mean. In this article, we will look at what this verse does mean.

What it does mean

First, this text means that Jesus experienced the agony of unanswered prayer. We see this more clearly in Psalm 22 verses 1-2, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.”

It appears that Jesus cried out to the Father again and again during those three hours of utter darkness, but the Father gave Him no reply or answer whatsoever. The heavens were as brass. His prayers could not penetrate them. All He heard were the echoes of His own voice. He cried but He was not heard.

Now we do not know what Jesus prayed to the Father for.  Perhaps it was for a little smile or benediction from Him or some small token of His mercy or some sign of His presence and favour. But whatever it was, He received no answer at all.

Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.”

Unanswered prayers and cries to God can be a very difficult thing to endure. Have you experienced that before? You pray but you have no sense of assurance that God hears your prayers. You wonder if your prayers ever penetrate or go beyond the concrete walls and roof of your room.  You wonder if God exists at all or if He cares for you in the least.

Dear Brethren, be encouraged that the Lord Jesus understands what it is to go through and experience the agony of unanswered prayers. He is our great high priest who can sympathize with us in such moments.

Second, and closely related to the first, this text also means that Jesus endured the misery of an unbearable burden.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…” That word “bruised” can be translated crushed or broken or oppressed. Christ was crushed for our iniquities. And again in Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise (or crush) him…”     

In fact, so bruised by God was Jesus on the cross that He cried out in great agony and His cry was like a roar. Psalm 22:1 says, “why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” This roar or this lamentable outcry is forced out of Him by the intolerable burden that was crashing upon Him wave after wave after wave.

Think about it, we do not read of Jesus crying or screaming when the soldiers cruelly flogged Him or mocked Him or buffeted Him repeatedly or crushed that crown of thorns upon His head. He said nothing when they put Him to open shame by stripping away His garments or when they pierced His hands and feet to the cross. He uttered not a word when the crowds and the religious leaders and even his fellow sufferers beside Him taunted and reviled and insulted Him again and again.

Not a cry escaped from His lips in response to all that He suffered at the hands of man. Ah but when the hand of God was heavy upon Him and crushed Him, He could not contain but cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The horribly wicked and cruel things which the Romans soldiers and the Jewish crowds did to Him were nothing in comparison to what He suffered, both body and soul, in the hands of God. Yes, Jesus experienced the full brunt of hell during those three hours of darkness.

On the cross, Jesus laboured and was heavy laden and weighed down with an unbearable burden and there was no one to give Him any rest or relieved, and no one whom He could cast His cares upon.   

The mocking words of the chief priests and scribes and elders proved to be true in an ironic way, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” Indeed, He bore the burden of others but there was none to bear or even to share His unbearable burden.

Third, this text teaches us that Jesus experienced the horror of unmitigated sin. The word “unmitigated” means without any holding back or lessening or reduction. Jesus experienced the full measure and load of sin.

All the sins and iniquities of His people since the beginning of time until the end of time were gathered together and compressed into one huge heap and then offloaded onto His shoulders. Peter says of Christ in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree,”

The sinless Son of God was transformed into the sin-bearing Son of God. He was made to bear every single one of the sins of His people. A sense of His sinnership, as it were, so overwhelmed Him that He does not cry out, “My Father, my Father,” but rather “My God, my God.”

He is conscious of who God is – the thrice Holy One, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil; and of who He was at that point in time – the ugly and hateful and repulsive bearer of sins too many to count. What an awful thing to experience!

Perhaps a little illustration here might help. Imagine a person who is very upright and godly and virtuous being forced to live in a house full of the vilest and foulest and most evil sinners the world has to offer. These people are constantly breaking God’s law in their every word and action. The name of God and of Christ is blasphemed every single moment. How unbearable that must be for the godly person!

But think about Christ, who is absolutely sinless and pure and righteous. He has such an infinite abhorrence and hatred for sin, and loathes all sin and shrinks back from every one of them. And yet on the cross, a great multitude of sins were presented before the eyes of His soul and not only that but they were attached to Him so that He becomes, as it were, the vilest and foulest sinner in this whole universe. If you can imagine being fully immersed in a sewer; only for Christ on the cross, it was infinitely worse than that.     

None of us really see sin as it truly is. None of us ever see the full heinous and seriousness and wickedness of sin, either because there is still a remnant of corruption in us that blinds us to it or else because our eyes and understanding are just so limited that we cannot see all that sin is. And because of that, we are not always as horrified by the sight of sin as we should be.

But not so for Jesus. As the God-man, He can and He does see sin for what it truly is – sin in all its ugliness and offensiveness. And He was made to bear and suffer for each one of those many sins.     

The fourth thing that this text means is that Jesus experienced the anguish of utter abandonment and forsakenness.

Sin separates a person from God. Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

When Jesus was on the cross during those three dark hours, He experienced something He had never experienced before. He experienced the total separation and utter abandonment of the Father. Christ was completely forsakenness by Him.

The word “forsaken” is a very strong word in the English language. It brings to mind some really serious and sad situations like a man forsaking his wife for another woman or a child forsaken by his parents, who do not want him anymore.

There is an article in the wikihow.com website entitled, “How to drop off an unwanted baby.” The first paragraph reads, “New laws in the United States (“U.S.”) have made it possible for unwanted newborns and/or infants to be dropped off at various locations, known as safe havens, no questions asked, and without the threat of prosecution. The baby must be unharmed, and showing no signs of neglect or abuse. To drop off an unwanted baby, follow the steps below…”

My eyes started to tear as I read the rest of the article. Now I do not know all the reasons why mothers or parents would want to drop off their unwanted babies, but it is very very sad when that happens.

Now these legal abandonment laws generally allow for only babies 1 year old or under to be dropped off. At least the baby at that age will not really be aware or remember the experience of being abandoned.

But things are very different in the case of the Heavenly Father forsaking His Son. He is the beloved Son of God. He is the One whom the Father declared twice from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5) He is the One who said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:7-8) And again in John 8:29, He said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

All His earthly life, the Lord Jesus enjoyed perfect communion and fellowship with His Father and His Father had an infinite delight in His Son.

But on the cross, everything changed. Jesus was forsaken by the Father, and abandoned and left to suffer all by Himself. It is one thing to suffer greatly but with the presence and assistance of God to see you through. It is another thing to suffer the worst torments of hell and to do so alone and utterly forsaken by God.

For those moments on the cross, many of the most comforting passages of scripture did not apply to Christ.

For example, Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Psalm 27:9-10, “Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”

Isaiah 43:2, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” 

Such verses did not apply to Him while on the cross. He went through the waters of judgment alone and was overwhelmed by it. He passed through the fires of hell and was badly burned by it. And unlike after His forty days of temptation when the angels of God came to minister unto Him, Jesus received no help from the angels at all.

Instead of light there was pitch darkness. Instead of love there was wrath. Instead of joy there was sorrow. Instead of peace there was war. Instead of support there was opposition. Instead of warm affection there was coldness. Instead of nearness there was distance.

But fifth and finally, this text also points us, in a wonderful way, to the unwavering faith and commitment of Christ to His Father.

Yes, He could not cry out to Him, “My Father, my Father” because He was bearing the sins of all His people, and His Father had withdrawn from Him His favourable presence and comfortable communion. Nevertheless, He could still cry out, “My God, my God.” The God of heaven and earth, the living and true God was still His God.

The repetition of the words “my God” indicate to us the strength of His faith and commitment to His God. Christ still clung on to God by faith despite all that He was feeling and experiencing. His feelings were telling Him, “No God, No God,” but His faith cried out, “My God, my God.”

Christ drank the horrible cup of suffering down to its bitter dregs and He did not at any point give up. The Father forsook Him but He did not forsake the Father and neither did He give up the mission that His Father had sent Him to accomplish.

The author of Hebrews puts it this way, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb 12:2-3).

Jesus the author and finisher of our faith was Himself a man of unwavering faith and endurance and perseverance and commitment to the very end. He never gave up even under the most horrific circumstances possible to man.

In our next article, we will consider what this verse means for us….

…to be continued, next Issue

—Linus Chua