SEVEN SAYINGS FROM THE CROSS
A THEOLOGY ON SUFFERING
"MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU
1. This morning, we will continue in our series on the seven sayings from the cross.
IV. THE FOURTH SAYING FROM THE CROSS IS FOUND IN (MATTHEW 27:46).
§ “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave Him along. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him” (Matthew 27:45-49).
A. THIS MORNING, WE WILL FIRST OF ALL TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS STORY.
1. After Jesus had been nailed to the cross, He cried out in a loud voice at the ninth hour (3 p.m. in the afternoon), saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
2. These words spoken from the cross are certainly perplexing. How could Jesus be God and yet be forsaken by God? Martin Luther said it best "God forsaking God who can understand that?” I don’t know for certain, but here are a few thoughts that I have on this passage.
3. The word forsaken here carries the idea of “abandonment.” Jesus’ statement reflects the fact that His greatest suffering upon the cross was not physical but was rather spiritual.
4. Why was He suffering spiritually? Why was His soul in agony? He was hurting spiritually because He was bearing the guilt of the entire world on Himself. The Bible says that Christ “became” sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). And this fact brought an agony to His soul that was unparalleled. Jesus became the sinner’s substitute.
5. But the question is…did God the Father actually abandon His Son…the Son whom He loved with all of His heart? Did God turn His back on Jesus and forsake Him?
6. After studying this passage, here is my humble conclusion. God did turn His back on Jesus judicially but not relationally.
a. In other words, God did forsake Jesus judicially because He was bearing all the sins of all men for all time and God cannot look on sin (Hab. 1:13). Remember, God will not allow unrepentant, uncovered sin in His presence. Jesus was temporarily forsaken judicially by the Father that we might never be forsaken by the Father.
b. On the other hand, God loved His Son Jesus and did not abandon Him relationally. God didn’t stop loving Jesus and turn His back on Him for good. For Jesus once told His disciples in (John 8:29), “The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” God did not abandon Jesus relationally even Jesus said that God would never do that.
(1) You see, the words cried out from the cross are from (Psalm 22)…a psalm which parallels the suffering of David with that of Christ. The psalm begins with despair but ends in its closing verses with renewed trust in God (read Psalm 22:1-2, 24-25). Jesus was pointing to the reality that even though He sensed judicial separation from the Father, He knew it was temporary and that His relationship with the Father was strong and would be restored.
B. HERE ARE SOME LESSONS THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THIS STORY.
(1) FIRST, DURING OUR TIMES OF SUFFERING, GOD IS NEAR EVEN WHEN HE SEEMS SO FAR AWAY.
1. When we experience difficult trials and tribulations, we normally pray to God and ask Him for immediate relief. However, as we all know, God answers prayer in His own time, so we may not receive immediate help from Him. We may have to go through many days, or weeks, or months or years of trying times.
2. And after suffering awhile we start wondering why God hasn't intervened. We begin questioning ourselves. What have I done to deserve this and then we begin to question whether or not God even cares. We feel as though God has abandoned us and that He is nowhere to be found. We feel alone and isolated from God.
3. Have you ever felt this way?
a. In the Bible, many great men of God experienced these types of emotions.
(1) For example, David experienced a feeling of isolation from God when he was running for his life from Saul.
§ We read in (Ps. 13:1), that David cried out to God and said, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” If you read the rest of the Psalm, you will realize that David, who was obedient to God at this time, believed that God was not with him during his time of intense trials. He felt isolated from God.
(2) Job, who lost everything--his children, his wealth, his servants, his reputation, and his friends--experienced despair and isolation from God.
§ Read... (Job 23:1-9).
4. Brethren, it is common and natural to feel Isolated from God when we experience difficult times, however, the Bible assures us that God is present even when He seems far away!
5. Even when God seems 1,000 miles away and uninterested in our affairs, He is with us step-by-step during difficult times. A wonderful illustration of this unseen presence is described in (Luke 24:13-35 esp. vs. 15).
In this passage, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking toward a village called Emmaus. They just came from Jerusalem and were undoubtedly very upset and depressed because they witnessed the crucifixion of their Lord Jesus. They were not only discouraged because Jesus was dead, but also because it was the third day and they had hoped that Jesus would have been raised from the dead, as their Lord promised.
They must have given up hope on Jesus’ resurrection and decided to head home, back to their old way of life. But as they were walking, something marvelous happened. In (vv. 15 &16), the Bible said, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…”
These men, who were most certainly experiencing emotional and spiritual pain because of Jesus’ death, did not know that Jesus was walking right along with them the whole time. During their time of anguish, Jesus was next to their side.
6. My friends, if we are faithful, God is walking right along with us especially during our times of suffering, even when we feel isolated from Him. He has not abandoned us, just like God didn’t abandon Jesus relationally on the cross. We are His children and He loves us and cares for us. We must realize that He is watching over us and is doing what is best for us.
§ (1 Pet. 5:7) tells us to cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Does this sound like a God who cares little about our problems?
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you the most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
7. When we suffer, we may feel isolated from God, but the reality is that God is with us step-by-step and many times He is carrying us through our difficult times…
(2) SECOND, DURING OUR TIMES OF SUFFERING, WE MUST REMAIN FAITHFUL TO GOD EVEN IF WE FEEL ISOLATED FROM HIM.
1. Although on the cross, Jesus felt isolation and abandonment from God, He didn’t give up on His faith or on His mission to save mankind from their sins. Jesus didn’t give up. He didn’t curse God and blame Him for His circumstances. Instead, Jesus trusted in God and remained faithful to Him.
2. When Job lost his sons and daughters, his wealth, his servants, and was stricken with painful soars that spanned throughout his body, it would have been easy for him to blame God and abandon his faith.
3. However, the Bible says that Job “fell to the ground” (Job 1:20) and worshipped God. He held onto his faith in God even thought his life was full of pain and agony.
4. When we go through tough times, the most important thing for us to do is to keep our faith in God. Faith is important to God.
§ (Hebrews 11:6) “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
5. Brethren, we must never give up on God and our faith just because we go through suffering situations. We must “be faithful, even to the point of death” and the Bible says that Jesus will “give us the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
1. In closing, we have learned several lessons from Jesus' fourth saying from the cross.
a. First, we have learned that during our times of suffering, God is near even when He seems so far away. God did not abandon Jesus relationally on cross, and if we are faithful, He will not abandon us as well.
b. Second, we have learned that during our times of suffering, we must remain faithful to God even if we fell isolated from Him. Although on the cross, Jesus felt isolation and abandonment from God, He didn’t give up on His faith. Instead, Jesus trusted in God and remained faithful to Him.
2. I hope and pray that this lesson has given you hope and encouragement. At this time, if you would like to respond to the Lord's invitation, please come as we stand and sing.
Primary Resources Used To Develop This Lesson: