“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani ? that is to say, My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
“And about the sixth hour!”
God is a God of wondrous order and precision. He inhabits eternity, but His hand and counsel rules time and the hours. And the Holy Ghost is rather specific about time: He has measured distance in the garden of Gethsemane; here He is measuring the time of the AFTERNOON’S SACRIFICE!
I am going to change one word in a beautiful song, a song which you have sung very often:
“The offering on the altar burned gives great delight to Thee!”
Yes, it gave great delight to God, this sorry spectacle of the AFTERNOON’S SACRIFICE.
It is well that we emphasize the time element: God is our Mentor, Teacher.
This awful afternoon, at about the sixth hour is the fullness of time. It is the moment when time is full, the time that God has reserved from all eternities. It is the time when God has shown His sweetest and most glorious manifesto: the groaning and crying Godhead on the cross. You may live to everlasting, but you will never see anything sweeter, more glorious than this spectacle: God going to nethermost hell so that you may sing, sing, sing on and on to all eternity.
Oh my God! Why forsaken by Thee whom I love with all the love of My pure heart?
It is so that all the world may see how adorable We are!
Hour of the greatest of divine mysteries!
At about the sixth hour!
At about the sixth hour!
Did I speak of mysteries?
Well, what would you? I hear of desolation for Him who is in the bosom of God!
Did God forsake God? ‘God, who is sweetest UNION personified?
Isn’t the union of two natures in the person of the Son of God, even in this terrible hour?
Do we see the obedient Servant of God forsaken?
Why is obedience so rewarded? Even at this so supreme moment of His obedience? Is God able to forsake virtue personified in His beloved Son?
Moreover, why this questing cry? For what reason does Jesus ask this question of the Godhead, and why does He give it all this terrible publicity? The whole universe has heard, and this question has been repeated on a million tongues. Does He not know? The answer, we may as well anticipate here, the answer is: for My redemption’s sake! I, the Triune God, desire to glorify myself in Thy horrible suffering! Does the Son not know that which was determined in the secret counsels ere the world was?
The Christ of God saw, experienced the awful mysteries of salvation. He knew that obedience was to be rewarded with punishment. He knew, better than any other, that He had come to die. It was the very reason for His coming into the world. Many times He had told His disciples that He would be taken, maltreated, crucified, and, finally, that He would die.
Well, He that came to die and knew it, crying out for a reason?
We have read many attempted explanations of this cry of Jesus. I say: attempted explanations. And the trouble lies in that word: explanations. We, mortals, do little explaining of anything. I am told that an attempt to explain that two times two makes four is not as easy as it seems. And if that be true, what shall we say of one of the most exalted mysteries of God such as we contemplate at this terrible hour?
No, I am afraid that we shall not be able to explain things here.
However, although we cannot explain, fathom, comprehend, this awful phenomenon of the crying Savior, we are able to say something about it. And we are able to do this only because God has given us His Word. That Word sheds light upon our path. Yes, and also upon the dying Christ.
And listening to that Word, we may safely say that God was not forsaken of God. That is eternally impossible. That militates against all that the Word tells us about God. That Word taught us that the very idea of the Godhead is union, oneness, the covenant! God cannot be forsaken of God. The Father cannot forsake the Son. Such a terrible idea annihilates the Godhead.
Neither cannot it be that we see here a negative separation of God. God cannot forsake His creature, and Jesus is also a creature. At the very moment that Jesus cried with a loud voice: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? at that moment the law of God was applicable to Him which saith: in Him we move and have our being. God was very near to Jesus when He uttered this cry. For Jesus was also a creature, a very man.
If I may speak in a seeming paradox, I would say: the very presence of God causes this feeling of forsakenness of our Savior. And this awful presence, nearness of God is symbolized by the three hour darkness. God was very, very near to Jesus. It was an awful nearness to Jesus.
No, I cannot explain here, but this I know: Jesus tasted at this hour the bitterness of an awful cup: God withdrew the taste of His favor and experience of His blessed communion and fellowship! Remember that Jesus longed for God’s communion with all the yearning of His pure soul and body. It was His very life to feel the nearness of His loving Father.
But what did He experience?
This: God made Him taste the vengeance of righteousness, holiness and outraged truth. God made Him taste that which devils and reprobate men will taste unto all eternity. No, God was not far away from Jesus, He was very near to Him in this woeful hour, but He was near to Him in His wrath.
In His wrath!
O God, we must be so careful with our speech. Words are so dangerous! What shall I say?
This I must say at this juncture: God did not hate Him at this hour. When God pours out His wrath upon devils and reprobate men in hell, it is the outpouring of His hatred.
But let me say it a thousand times: God never hated Jesus. That is also impossible. For He was the faithful and loving and obedient Servant, in this hour and in all the time of His sojourning.
And when Jesus must hang there between heaven and earth in the thickness of darkness which spoke of wrath and wrath and wrath of His God, He realizes that this wrath is not deserved by Him. He knows that He is not the recipient of all these bruising strokes because of His own sin. Hence, the cry.
The cry is really the answer to God’s demand: Love me! Love me, even when I make Thee experience my hell! Love me! Thou standest in the room of my beloved people, and they did not love me. Now love me in their stead, and do it in Thy very hell in this my darkness.
And Jesus gives the answer: My God! My God! Oh, note that possessive pronoun. It is more than mere possession. In it throbs the love of Jesus for His Father, even while that Father makes Him taste a hell such as devils shall never taste.
May I be so bold as to add to Jesus’ cry? God forgive me if I am wrong. But I understand Jesus to say: My God, my God, Thou knowest that I love Thee so. Therefore, why forsakest Thou me now in this dreadful hour?
Well, God might say through David: Terrible things, I will answer thee in righteousness!
And through Isaiah: In these (that is, in sin and wrath) is eternity, that Israel might be saved.
Awful mysteries of the cross!
Why, O My God? Why?
Shall the divine answer come?
Well, Jesus seems to be without an answer. Time was when the heavens were rent and a VOICE came down from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son!
But at this hour there seems to be no answer.
And yet there is. I would have you note the great, the divine TIMEKEEPER AT THE CROSS. At about the ninth hour Jesus cried this pitiful cry. It was the last drop in the bitter cup of an eternity of death. The answer of God is heralded in the departure of the mob from the hill called Golgotha. There they go, beating their breasts. As so many whipped dogs. It is a prophetic spectacle of the judgment day.
O yes, Jesus did receive His answer. Only a few moments, and with trembling voice He will say: It is finished!
Oh yes, the answer came. Objectively, for the light returned. Subjectively: it is finished!
The answer came. Ponder that answer of God.
Here is your answer:
For God’s sake: justice must be satisfied. And my eternal love must find a way. Thou in all Thy misery art that way!
For Christ’s sake: Thou must merit Thy choice reward; Thou must reveal the Father in all His loveliness so that heaven and earth, united, may sing of it forever.
For your sake: your damnable guilt must be borne and borne away; you must be made happy for evermore.
I am going, Lord; I am going. I am going to sing of Thee unto all eternity! Amen and Amen.