The Fourth Word

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

When we consider the seven words of Christ from on the cross, we cannot but be amazed at the richness of the blessings that flow to us from Him. It is truly a hard heart that cannot be crushed by what we see or be softened by what we hear as Jesus hung on the cross. That is no less true of the 4th Word that our Savior spoke.

The reality of the Father’s love in promising a Savior is overwhelming to the penitent who knows what was lost by the sin of Adam and Eve, and who recognizes the on-going nature of sin in one’s own life. The manner of His conception of the Holy Ghost and birth of the Virgin Mary is no less overwhelming because it is so contrary to nature. But we believe the miracle, and gladly so for it declares to us that Jesus is without sin. That He should bear the sins of the world and suffer for all people is beyond reason. But one of the most overwhelming events, and some of the most incomprehensible words recorded in the Scriptures are these spoken by Jesus from the cross in mid-afternoon. It was at three o’clock in the afternoon, the very hour when the lambs for the evening sacrifice were slain that Jesus said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

If there is nothing else that strikes the penitent sinner with the enormity of sin, surely it is these words that express the forsakenness of Jesus by His Father. There is no hell on earth when we understand what hell is. There may be things on earth that mimic hell, but hell in the real sense is being forsaken by God. Being forsaken of God is the epitome of punishment. God is not in hell, nor can those in hell call upon God. The Father forsook His Son! Who can grasp it? Penitent sinners cannot grasp it but are thankful that that is the way it was. Much less can the denier of Christ to whom the preaching of the cross is foolishness understand it (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The question of Jesus underscores the reality of His suffering and shame. What He endured was not a charade. It was real! In the very question we can appreciate the severity of what it is from which we have been delivered. The answer to the “Why” of Jesus lies in the Father’s determinate will to spare sinful man from the dreadfulness of eternal condemnation. For us, it is not a flippant proposition of “Better He than we.” Nevertheless the blessed truth is that because Jesus suffered it, none who believe in His meritorious atonement will suffer it. Having been reconciled to God through the merit of the Lord Jesus we have peace with God. We still cannot fathom it, but as Christians we in faith believe that the Father forsook His Son in order that all who believe might have the daily assurance in life and at the moment of death, that the Father will not forsake us.

Thanks be to God the Father, and to His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and to the Spirit for giving us the faith to believe what is beyond comprehension.