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“Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

"Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

Sermon Transcript

High noon. It’s the time in the classic western by the same name when a brave sheriff, played by Gary Cooper, single-handedly took on a ruthless gang of evil men to save a once peaceful town from their criminal influence.
High noon. It’s the time when 2,000 years ago, another man of courage and principle took on the gang of all gangs ... the gang led by Satan, sin, and countless demonic cohorts. What makes this shootout the shootout to end ‘em all is it didn’t occur on an empty, dusty street, but on a barren, rocky, skull-like hill just north of the city wall in Jerusalem. Also, unbelievably, no bullets were fired at close range from well-aimed six-shooters. No. Unmerciful, brutal soldiers
literally crucified the Sherriff in behalf of their real Emperor, Satan, for daring to walk into his “town” and seek to clean it up with a message of hope and holiness. Yes, this is what makes this

some kind of spiritual duel of all duels for the good-guy didn’t leave the bad guys all lying face-up in the street. Quite the contrary. They took him down.

But this is what makes this historical story so intriguing. Only God, in all of His
omniscience and perfect wisdom, could manufacture a shootout where the bad guys were defeated by the death of the good guy. Who would have thought this is the way God would fulfill the ancient prophecy of Genesis 3, verse 15? You remember it, don’t you?

“15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed
and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the
heel.”

Speaking to Satan after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God prophesies there will be a continual struggle between Satan’s evil seed, and the woman’s holy seed, between light and darkness, and good and evil. Further, the ancient prophecy promised that Satan would only bruise the coming Seed, the Messiah Jesus, on the heal, which is a non-lethal blow, but Satan would eventually receive a deadly head-blow. On the hill of Golgotha that fateful Passover day, Satan, despite what he thought, only bruised the heal of Jesus in the crucifixion. The death blow to Satan and his evil gang would come with the death of the Savior and His glorious resurrection three days later. This is God’s version of a shootout to end all shootouts, and it all happened at high noon. Matthew tells us
this much:

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘ELI, ELI, LAMA
SABACHTHANI?’ that is, ‘MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?’”(Matthew 27).

In Jewish time reckoning, the sixth hour was high noon, twelve o’clock high. By this time, Jesus had hung on the cruel cross for three long, arduous hours, and He had also said three amazing things with what little strength He had left:
• “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
• “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
• “’Woman, behold your Son! Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!”
(John 19:26-27).
These were the last words Jesus would speak in the light of day, because at high noon a supernatural darkness descended on what the gospel writers call “all the land” (Matthew), and “the whole land” (Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Lexically, the phrase can denote a local (Luke 4:24) or a global darkness (Romans 10:18; Revelation 5:6). I believe it was the latter because Christ fought the sin of the world on the lonely hill.

Concerning this unusual darkness, Luke says “the sun stopped shining” (NIV,
Luke 23:45). The Greek term he used isekleipo, from which we get our word eclipse. But this was no solar eclipse based on the position of the sun and the moon at this time of Passover. Solar eclipses have a maximum darkness which only lasts a few minutes, not hours. The solar eclipse in the United Sates back in 2017 only had a maximum darkness for 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds. This is a far cry from the darkness which covered all the land for three long, ominous hours (Matt. 27:45: Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). Interestingly enough, Luke’s account says the sun “stopped shining” (Luke 23:44-45). The Lord God Almighty, who created light and darkness, merely used His infinite power to turn the lights out in the cosmos for three straight hours while His only begotten Son took on sin and Satan. Why? Why did the Father use darkness as His Son died?
Although Scripture is silent on this matter, we can offer reasoned suggestions:

• Darkness biblically represents sin (Matthew 6:23; John 3:19; 2 Cor. 6:14).
• Darkness biblically represents the sinner (Ephesians 5:8).
• Darkness biblically represents the power of Satan (Ephesians 6:12), and it
was this darkness Jesus would defeat on the cross (Colossians 2:15).
• Darkness biblically was used in the Exodus story to demonstrate God’s
ultimate power over the pagan god’s of Egypt (Exodus 10:21-22). I believe
divine darkness was employed at the crucifixion because a greater
deliverer than Moses was here (Deuteronomy 18). Obviously, deep
darkness which lasted for three days was no solar eclipse, but represented
a miracle only the living God could pull-off (Ex. 10:22). In both of these
historical events, God used darkness to set up a time of great deliverance
for slaves. In Exodus, the slaves were Israelites, while the point of the
crucifixion was to free people slaves to the darkness of sin.
• Darkness sets up the most powerful ironic event ever recorded, in my
view. God, who is light and dwells in light because He is holy, used
darkness to defeat darkness (1 Tim. 6:16). What a masterful move.

Of all of these reasons, perhaps the most important to consider is darkness biblically speaks of the day of God’s wrath against sin. One cannot read through the Old Testament and not encounter this motif:

“For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, 2 A day of darkness and
gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Joel 2).
“18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the
day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; 19 As when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5).

Christ’s battle with Satan and sin on Golgotha was, therefore, a Day of the Lord, a day in time and space where God successfully took on the darkness of sin. At high noon an eerie darkness enshrouded the world. The Lord’s Day of judgment had arrived on planet earth. An eerie silence from the cross of Christ caused
sadistic spectators to wonder what was really going on, and then the Messiah, in full control of the situation, uttered those bone-chilling, agonizing words of despair just before the fateful hour of 3 o’clock:

“‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken
Me?’” (Matthew 27:46).

Jesus quoted directly from Psalm 22, verse 1, a psalm He probably recited word for word as hung on the cross. Amazing, isn’t it? When He battled Satan in the wilderness, He also used Scripture to defeat his ferocious foe (Matthew 4). Now one last time He uses the Holy Word to not only confound His archenemy, but to express His feelings and to garner comfort and strength. As a side note you must stop and ask yourself a personal faith question: Am I using the power of the Word of God as I battle sin and darkness in my own life? Let Christ, your Lord, be your model.

What were Christ’s feelings when He uttered this gut-wrenching statement? He,
for the first time in His existence, felt the abandonment of the Holy Father. He, for the first time in His existence, sensed a rupture, a distancing in His relationship with His Father. There on the cross, in the depth of despair and at the height of pain, Jesus, the perfect God-man, showed us His complete humanity as He cried out to His Father. “Why, God? Why have you deserted Me at this most critical time in my life?” Interestingly enough, this was the only time Jesus referred to His Father as God, and rightly so because His humanity, gripped by the total misery of the moment, yelled these moving words toward heaven as deep darkness enveloped the land. Why did the Father pull away or turn away from the Son? Better yet, how can one member of the trinity distance themselves from another? In response I ask you, “What finite man or woman can even begin to understand the depths of this dark, seemingly bottomless chasm?” We can only grope at the plan and operation of the infinite, can we not?

Paul’s words to the Corinthians several years later give us some much needed
insight into the first question:

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5).

Because Christ, as the ultimate Passover Lamb, bore all the sin of all time on that cruel cross (Isaiah 53:5; Romans 4:25; Galatians 3:13), the Father, by definition of His nature, had to mysteriously turn, as it were, from the Son ... momentarily. He, whose eyes are so holy He cannot look upon sin with favor (Habakkuk 1:3), had to look away from the magnitude of sin piled upon His Son. More precisely, all the sin of all time was, in fact, placed on Christ as He, the Holy One, hung there. If you could weigh this volume of sin, it would have been incalculable.

Imagine how difficult this must have been for the Father to do. Never had He
turned from His Son. Never had He any reason to. They always had a perfect
relationship bathed in unity, but now, for this brief moment in time, the grotesque nature of sin caused even the Holy Father to avert His holy, loving eyes.

No wonder Christ cried out with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you
forsaken Me?” I’m sure the emphasis could easily be placed on the last word, “Me.” “How can you turn from Me?” But He did.

I must admit, I find these words mind-numbing. I stumble trying to fully
understand them and to articulate their rich meaning to you. However, I do learn from them. More precisely, I must say I learn from Jesus’ words here as He stared down His own mortality.

First, I am awed by the fact He, the Holy One, would bear our sin: past, present
and future. Who can understand such immense, abiding, fathomless love?
Second, I am thankful for my Savior who taught me how to face my own
mortality. Truly, no one ever died like this man. None of us can ever say we’ve seen a death full of such horror and atrocity. Yet, even in the depth of despair, when His agony and misery couldn’t have been more profound, Jesus taught us it is quite human to articulate how you feel to God. He openly shared His feelings, but they were built upon the bedrock of the Word of God. Perhaps you might need to read over that last sentence again. Psalm 22, verse 1, is the Davidic cry of feeling forsaken in the middle of a dire trial, however, it is not the whole story either. Verse 24 illustrates Jesus knew that regardless of the calamity we encounter the Father is never truly far from the cry of the righteous:

"For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He
hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.”

Jesus also understood that Psalm 22 ends with the ushering in of the long-awaited kingdom of the Messiah:

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the
families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth will eat and
worship, all those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, even he who
cannot keep his soul alive. Posterity will serve Him; it will be told of the Lord
to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a
people who will be born, that He has performed it.”

Despair is heard in Christ’s cry, but not despair without hope. Far from it. Christ quoted from this Psalm, and the gospel writers are careful to remind us how various actions during Christ’s crucifixion fulfilled this Messianic Psalm (cf. Psalm 2:7 with Matthew 27:39; Psalm 22:8 with Matthew 27:43; Psalm 22:15 with John 19:28; Psalm 22:16 with Matthew 27:35 and John 20:25; Psalm 22:17 with Luke 23:27, 35; Psalm 22:18 with Matthew 27:35) to teach us that the cross always precedes the crown, that tragedy precedes triumph, and that consternation precedes coronation for the godly. It is true: No matter how bad things get, there is always hope for a better ending. You might need to read that
one more time to get it into your heart and mind. Why is this true? Because the God of all wisdom and love is always working out a glorious plan which, when fulfilled, will echo in eternity to His praise and glory and to our understanding.
Saint, take courage, for your Savior has gone before you. Darkness may descend
upon you, you may even reach a low point where you feel God has forgotten you, but be not dismayed for He is with you, guiding you to glory ... as He did with His Son.

• He’s working in and through your disease.
• He’s working in and through the loss of your child.
• He’s working in and through the breakup of your marriage.
• He’s working in and through your dysfunctional marriage.
• He’s working in and through your singleness.
• He’s working in and through the abuse you have suffered.
• He’s working in and through your addiction.
• He’s working in and through the darkness of your last medical diagnosis.
• He’s working in and through the racism you experience.
• He’s working in and through your job loss in the change between the two
presidential administrations.

Even when you don’t see or sense it, the Father is working. Even when you feel abandoned because of the weight of sin on your life, the Father is working. We know He is working because He worked overtime while His Son hung on that cross for our sin. He worked in and through the bleakness and bitterness of the moment to provide a way, really, the way for sinners to become saints.

Yes, remember Jesus. Remember His fifth statement from the cross.
Just after Christ spoke these emotionally charged words, he uttered one short
phrase: “I thirst” (John 19:28). Having endured the horrors of the crucifixion process without so much as a sip of water, Jesus’ mouth was dry as a bone, devoid of any moisture. So, it is no wonder at this point, just prior to His death, He basically asked the Roman crucifixion detail for a drink and they obliged:

"A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour
wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.”

Believe me when I tell you it was no accident this phrase became His fifth statement from the cross. I say this because 1 Corinthians 15, verse 3 is quite clear that Jesus “died according to the Scriptures.” Christ’s miraculous birth and life fulfilled all of the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah (Matt. 1:22; 2:15, 23; 4:14; 5:18; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:54, 56), and His death was no exception ... down to the words He chose. Psalm 69, verse 21 is another Psalmic verse about what the Messiah would endure once He arrived on earth:

"They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to
drink.”

These words found their fulfillment when Jesus cried, “I thirst,” and a Roman soldier then reacted compassionately by giving him a sponge to get a small “drink.” All of this underscores Christ’s total control of the shootout at high noon, plus His total commitment to being obedient to fulfillment Scripture concerning Himself. Had He been a charlatan or a lunatic I seriously doubt quoting and fulfilling the inspired Word would have been His focus. These words from His lips can only be adequately explained when He is seen as the true Messiah, the Suffering Servant Isaiah prophesied would come (Isaiah 53).

So, even in His death, Jesus teaches us about the need for obedience to the Word
of God. What about you? How is your obedience to His Word? Is it perfect, partial, or paltry? Do you pick and choose what you will obey, or do you seek daily, as He did, to conform your life to God’s teachings? Everything about Jesus was devoted to the Word.

How can we live any different?

Beyond this, I have two practical points from this fifth statement. First, the statement is highly ironic because He, the Creator (Col. 1:16-17), created water in all of its complexity. Regarding this amazing earthbound substance, one Christian apologist once quipped:

In . . . about two swallows full [of water], there are 6 x 1023 molecules of H2O.
How much is 6 x 1023? A good computer can carry out ten million counts per
second. It would take that computer two billion years to count to 6 x 1023.
He, who effortlessly created the highly complex nature of water, asks for a drink. He could have easily just spoken a drink of water into existence, or merely stated that His mouth was no longer parched. But He didn’t. Why? He had to bear our sin as the God-man, with heavy emphasis here upon his utter humanity. Imagine possessing the raw power at your disposal to meet your need and willfully choosing not to exercise it so you could fulfill your appointed mission. What
commitment and obedience to the Father’s providential will.

Second, irony drips from this short phrase insofar as Jesus, the water of spiritual life (John 4), experienced physical thirst. More precisely, He endured physical thirst as our sin-substitute so that we might one day partake of the river of life flowing freely from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1-5). Again, I must say, who can understand such love? He thirsted on earth so you won’t thirst when you come to know and walk with Him. The question is, “Have you drunk, by faith, from this life-giving well?” The water is available today to all sinners who want to come out of the darkness and into the light of His presence. And don’t forget how this was made possible for you.

At high noon 2,000 years ago, countless people stood in thick darkness on
Golgotha waiting for one particular Jewish carpenter from Nazareth to die. Satan and his minions were there too, hoping His death would be the end of Him. With their godless guns drawn, they fired their best shots at Him, but He overpowered them with short, concise, and all-powerful statements:

• “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
• “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
• “’Woman, behold your Son! Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!”
(John 19:26-27).
• “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matthew 27:46).
• “I thirst” (John 19:28).

Yes, the good-guy was dying. His words, conversely, showed He was not only in control of the crucifixion conflict, but His death would be His victory . . . and ours, too, when we drink of the water of faith, Jesus the Christ, who is the living water (John 4:13-14). In light of all of this, I must ask, “Are you ready today to drink, by faith, from Christ?” Are you prepared to say, “Yes, Lord, forgive me and me the spiritual water which gives me life unto eternity”?

Numerous bottles are ready for you to take for free today at the front of the church. Come and take one and let it symbolize the fact that today was the day you embraced Christ who is the living water.