Matthew 27:46-47 (HCSB)46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!”
Those who say that Jesus never said that He was God often use this scripture to try and prove their point. On the surface it does look like Jesus is talking to someone other than Himself. In fact He didn’t even address Him as Father (another augment those same people make). This is the only time in scripture that He does not address God as Father.
Jesus was actually quoting from Psalm 22. This is a Messianic Psalm and is all about the crucifixion.
Psalm 22:1 (HCSB)1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? ⌊Why are You⌋ so far from my deliverance and from my words of groaning?
Remember Jesus had been claiming to be the Son of God, being equal with God and, as the Jewish leaders believed, He was claiming to be God (see Jesus Is God)
God being somehow separated from God is a miracle that we can’t explain. There are some things that God has determined that we will not understand or be privy to.
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT)29 “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.
Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)2 It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.
Romans 11:33 (NLT)33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
God reveals the truths He wants us to understand when He feels we are ready to understand and apply them. When we don’t understand something, it doesn’t mean we are less of a Christian or not as smart as another. God, in His infinite wisdom, keeps some things hidden from us until just the right time, and guess what God determines that time.
Back to the theme of this post that when Jesus said “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, that in no way meant that He was acknowledging that He was not God.
Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person that includes the Holy Spirit (The Trinity is another post). Since He is divine He couldn’t die to His deity. He could however suffer the agony of separation, because at this point He was carrying the weight of mankind’s sin;
Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
Romans 4:25 (NLT)25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
God couldn’t look upon sin even in or on His Son.
Habakkuk 1:13 (HCSB)13 ⌊Your⌋ eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do You tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are You silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?
Because the Son had taken sin upon Himself, the Father turned His back. In some way and by some means, in the secrets of divine sovereignty and omnipotence, the God-Man was separated from God for a brief time at Calvary, as the furious wrath of the Father was poured out on the sinless Son, who in matchless grace became sin for those who believe in Him.
Think about this, with Jesus’ birth there had been a separation of sorts. He had separated from His divine glory for our sake.
Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT)6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
This separation wasn’t one of nature, essence, or even substance. Jesus didn’t, to any degree, cease to exist as God or as a member of the Trinity. He didn’t stop being the Son, any more than a child who disobeys his human father in a major way, stops being his child. Jesus did for a time however lose the intimacy of fellowship with His Father much like that same disobedient child loses the normal, intimate loving relationship with his or her human father.
Admittedly this is a tremendous mystery but as I said earlier God has some things that He has not revealed to us. This mystery is far too deep for even the most devout and mature believers to comprehend. But with help from the Holy Spirit (also God) God has revealed the basic truth for us to accept and understand to the limit of our human ability. There is nowhere in scripture we can understand the depth of Jesus’ sacrificial death and His anguish other than the separation from His Father, however that happened, as he hung on the cross because of sin.
The Jewish leaders mocked Him by saying “Let’s wait to see if Elijah comes to save him”
Matthew 27:47-49 (NLT)47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”
They obviously believed that He claimed to be God. The proof that Jesus’ claims, including the one to be The Son of God, which the Jewish leaders said was blasphemy, were true was in His resurrection.
Jesus was God then just as He was from the beginning and will be for all eternity.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.