“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?’” Matthew 27:46
Growing up, I have spent my fair share of time in the garden. I have been involved with responsibilities from cleaning up, to planting, and everything in between. Something that did not make sense to me when I was young was the idea of fertilizer. As you may know, you use fertilizer to help the plants grow faster, but once the flowers grow, you rip them out of the ground and throw them either to the side or into a garbage bag. This would always make me mad because we spent so much time making this area so beautiful, and then we throw away the product of our work. The issue that I did not realize at this age was the flowers that we were throwing away was every child’s favorite weed, the dandelion.
What things did not make sense to you at a young age, but became clearer over time?
This idea of things seeming one way and not becoming clear until a later time is very prevalent in today’s verse. When reading this verse, there are two main ways that we can view what is happening. Today we are going to go down both of these avenues.
1. The Literal Context
When we first read through that verse, we see Jesus on the cross in pain. Anyone looking at this story that is unfolding would not question Jesus for His pain and frustration that He is portraying in this verse. It is easy to look at the times in our lives like this and focus on the hard times that go along with this pain and suffering.
What struggles have you had where you have felt helpless?
I cannot help but read this and feel a sense of abandonment going on in Jesus’ heart. Throughout His ministry, He has had people by His side. We have all been in a point in life where we are sitting in a house all alone and just feel loneliness truly kick in and drain us. Here Jesus had left His throne in Heaven, came to Earth in the form of man, and was now abandoned and left to die.
However, we know, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b).
What is the importance of this verse in your life?
We are so blessed to have a God, that even when we feel alone and abandoned, He is still there with us. He proves this in Matthew 27:51-53, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
At what times in your life has God shown Himself to you?
We should view this as a blessing, that we have a God who cares about us so much, that whenever we feel alone, we can take comfort in the thought that He is here.
2. The Prophetic View
The problem with the first view is that many people can view Jesus as questioning God. This is a trap where many of us fail. When I was seventeen, I broke my back and was supposed to be paralyzed. My immediate thoughts were to question God and even be angry at Him.
What times in your life have you questioned God?
The question that comes to many people’s minds is, “If Jesus is truly one of the persons within the Godhead, why would He be questioning Him?” The first thing we must understand is that Jesus and God see a bigger picture than we do. Sometimes things are not clear to us at first, and then they become clearer as time passes.
Can you think of a time that you did not see God’s plan in a situation until later?
Something interesting about Jesus in the Bible is that we see Him fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament in the New Testament. This is something that is very helpful in proving His status as the deity and the true Messiah.
Outside of the verses we are discussing today, can you think of any examples of this in the Bible?
In order to understand further what is going on here, let us take a look at the beginning of Psalm chapter 22.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1a
On the cross, Jesus quoted this passage from the Old Testament. This is something that is very interesting that Jesus does throughout His time with mankind. Usually, there is some sign that He is trying to portray. The significance in this is what the rest of this Psalm contains. If we continue to read through this Psalm, we see correlations between what Jesus is going through here on the cross.
“For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” Psalm 22:16
Knowing that this Psalm was written before Jesus’ birth, what stands out about this verse?
This Psalm is believed to be written 1000 years before the birth of Christ. The reason this fact is important is that crucifixion was not even invented by the Persians until 400 BC. We have David describing the crucifixion of Jesus before crucifixion was even being used.
Read Psalm 22:18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” What stands out to you about this verse?
What Jesus is doing here is showing the people that He has come to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. We are extremely fortunate to have a Messiah that has come and fulfilled not some, but all of the prophecies. It is situations like this, where Jesus solidifies Himself as the one and true Messiah. Based on the book of Matthew, these were the last words spoken by Jesus before His passing.
What do you think is the significance of this being Christ’s last words?
Jesus knew the plan all along. While sometimes in our lives, we may feel deserted, we need to remember that God always has a plan for us.