Why Have You Forsaken Me?

In Matthew 27:46, Jesus is recorded as quoting from Psalm 22. When he did this, he was explaining the cross to everyone. He was letting everyone in on the meaning of the events that were transpiring before them.

He looked around, and right before him, all the parts of Psalm 22 were being played-out. They were dividing his cloths, an the leaders were wagging their head at him, as to say, “Let God save him.” And Jesus, by quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, was explaining the meaning of all this — he was exposing what was happening right then and there.

And to add sorrow to sorrow, while he was expositing the Old Testament (showing how the Psalm is about him), someone said, “Oh, he is calling on Elijah.”

Right as he was giving the meaning of the Cross (and hence the meaning of Psalm 22), people perverted his words, and wondered who he was talking about (twisting the words of God, to the face of God, as the Word of God explained the words by word and flesh). This is Satanic.

This is how the word of God gets perverted. Right there, on the cross, explaining the Psalm and the Cross, people wanted to play ignorant — not because Jesus was vague, but because they were hard in their hearts and hated the Good.

In explaining Psalm 22 by quoting the first line, he is also expressing the real pain of what it is like to die on a cross. Over and against this, people read into that word (“forsaken”) something behind the cross (something in the attitude of God in terms of his wrath or anger). But one thing we know certainly is the pain that is really felt when humans suffer (the pain of nails going into hands, and spikes in the head). Jesus felt. He felt pain, and his cry, “Why have you forsaken me?” was not because he didn’t know why he was on the Cross. He cried this because he was in pain, and also for their sake (and ours). For our sake so we can know the meaning of it. Jesus knew that the rest of Psalm 22 goes on to say (v. 24): “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.” Jesus was not just confessing verse 1, but the whole Psalm. And quoting the first line is sufficient to communicate the whole (unless we want to be like the people who think Jesus is vague).

Jesus was in pain, for sure, and so it was because he was in pain that he could say what it feels like to die. In that dying, he was NOT saying that God had turned his face from him — indeed, the Psalm goes on to tell us what the suffering Man really knows. Jesus knew the Psalm — that is why he could quote from it.

By invoking the first line of Psalm 22, Jesus was evoking the whole Psalm.

When they divided his cloths, and when they said, “He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him” (quoting Ps 22:8), they were actually invoking it first (in their own perverted way). Jesus invoked the Psalm because they had. They invoked the Psalm with acts, and he was pointing it out. He was condemning them as being the wicked ones in the Psalm. But quoting the first line, he was naming the wicked for who they are.

Now, reading Psalm 22, notice it speaks of God being silent. What does the silence of the LORD mean in Psalm 22? Does it mean he is always silent? No! Of course he acts! He does not stay silent. So when the Psalmist speaks of God being quite, and of the suffering One sorry for being left to die, we go on to hear that God speaks, and he comes to defend the suffering One. God answers the abandoned one. God hears.

Jesus was saying that God would answer him. By quoting the first line of the Psalm, he was saying that God was watching, and God would answer. But God would not bring Jesus off the Cross alive — God was going to bring Jesus out of the tomb alive. Jesus knew this (and he did not forget it). Jesus knew when he went to the Cross that he would die there. Jesus said over and over that he knew he had to go to Jerusalem and die and be raised. He thought ahead of time about all this. So to make Jesus think that he was without hope, or truly abandoned, is not fair. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 to indicate more than his feelings, but to indicate the end of the Psalm as well as its beginning. Jesus knew God had not turned his face! That’s the point of Psalm 22, and Jesus was indicating all this.

So when he was on the cross, did he forget the rest of the Psalm (because of the severe pain)? NO! He was explaining the Psalm and the Cross. On the Cross, by quoting the Psalm, Jesus was explaining both, and it was an act of kindness. He was gently preaching the Sermon even as he was being the Sermon. Jesus preached the Scriptures from the Cross, as he enfleshed the Scriptures (the Word was flesh). The Scriptures are about Jesus, so as he died, he preached a Christ-centered sermon. It’s the only kind of sermon there is. Jesus lived this sermon, and he died it.

And our job is to study the Psalm and the events from that Friday, and see all the connections. Jesus gave us the connections, even as he was dying. While he was dying, he was upholding the world by the word of his power (Heb 1), and was tending to YOUR knowing. He was shepherding YOU from the cross. In his dying, he was gifting us — not only with his death, but also the explanation of it!

He is the Gentle Savior. The very utterance under discussion is Gentle, because it is kind to the human mind. It goes to the way that we are human (we have minds made for reason), and he reasoned with us from Psalm 22 as he died. He died the Virtuous Death.

This article was published under Pslams, Suffering, The Atonement.

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