My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me! - These words are quoted by our Lord from Psalm 22:1; they are of very great importance, and should be carefully considered.
Some suppose "that the divinity had now departed from Christ, and that his human nature was left unsupported to bear the punishment due to men for their sins." But this is by no means to be admitted, as it would deprive his sacrifice of its infinite merit, and consequently leave the sin of the world without an atonement. Take deity away from any redeeming act of Christ, and redemption is ruined. Others imagine that our Lord spoke these words to the Jews only, to prove to them that he was the Messiah. "The Jews," say they, "believed this psalm to speak of the Messiah: they quoted the eighth verse of it against Christ - He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. (See Matthew 27:43;). To which our Lord immediately answers, My God! my God! etc, thus showing that he was the person of whom the psalmist prophesied." I have doubts concerning the propriety of this interpretation.
It has been asked, What language is it that our Lord spoke? Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. Some say it is Hebrew - others Syriac. I say, as the evangelists quote it, it is neither. St. Matthew comes nearest the Hebrew, עזבתני למה אלי אלי Eli, Eli, lamah azabthani, in the words, Ηλι, Ηλι, λαμα σαβαχθανι, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani .
And St. Mark comes nearest the Syriac, Mark 15:34, Alohi, Alohi, l'mono shebachtheni, in the words Ελωΐ, Ελωΐ, λαμμα σαβαχθανι, Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani . It is worthy of note, that a Hebrew MS. of the twelfth century, instead of עזבתני azabthani, forsaken me, reads שכחתני shechachthani, Forgotten me. This word makes a very good sense, and comes nearer to the sabachthani of the evangelists. It may be observed also, that the words, Why hast thou Forgotten me? are often used by David and others, in times of oppression and distress. See Psalm 42:9.
Some have taken occasion from these words to depreciate the character of our blessed Lord. "They are unworthy," say they, "of a man who suffers, conscious of his innocence, and argue imbecility, impatience, and despair." This is by no means fairly deducible from the passage. However, some think that the words, as they stand in the Hebrew and Syriac, are capable of a translation which destroys all objections, and obviates every difficulty. The particle למה lamah, may be translated, to what - to whom - to what kind or sort - to what purpose or profit: Genesis 25:32; Genesis 32:29; Genesis 33:15; Job 9:29; Jeremiah 6:20; Jeremiah 20:18; Amos 5:18; and the verb עזב azab signifies to leave - to deposit - to commit to the care of. See Genesis 39:6; Job 39:11; Psalm 10:14, and Jeremiah 49:11. The words, taken in this way, might be thus translated: My God! my God! to what sort of persons hast thou left me? The words thus understood are rather to be referred to the wicked Jews than to our Lord, and are an exclamation indicative of the obstinate wickedness of his crucifiers, who steeled their hearts against every operation of the Spirit and power of God. See Ling. Brit. Reform. by B. Martin, p. 36.
Through the whole of the Sacred Writings, God is represented as doing those things which, in the course of his providence, he only permits to be done; therefore, the words, to whom hast thou left or given me up, are only a form of expression for, "How astonishing is the wickedness of those persons into whose hands I am fallen!" If this interpretation be admitted, it will free this celebrated passage from much embarrassment, and make it speak a sense consistent with itself, and with the dignity of the Son of God.
The words of St. Mark, Mark 15:34, agree pretty nearly with this translation of the Hebrew: Εις τι με εγκατιλεπες ; To what [sort of persons, understood] hast thou left me? A literal translation of the passage in the Syriac Testament gives a similar sense: Ad quid dereliquisti me? "To what hast thou abandoned me?" And an ancient copy of the old Itala version, a Latin translation before the time of St. Jerome, renders the words thus: Quare me in opprobrium dedisti? "Why hast thou abandoned me to reproach?"
It may he objected, that this can never agree with the ἱνατι, why, of Matthew. To this it is answered, that ἱνατι must have here the same meaning as εις τι - as the translation of למה lama ; and that, if the meaning be at all different, we must follow that evangelist who expresses most literally the meaning of the original: and let it be observed, that the Septuagint often translate למה by ἱνατι instead of εις τι, which evidently proves that it often had the same meaning. Of this criticism I say, Valet quod valet, Let it pass for no more than it is worth: the subject is difficult. But whatever may be thought of the above mode of interpretation, one thing is certain, viz. That the words could not be used by our Lord in the sense in which they are generally understood. This is sufficiently evident; for he well knew why he was come unto that hour; nor could he be forsaken of God, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The Deity, however, might restrain so much of its consolatory support as to leave the human nature fully sensible of all its sufferings, so that the consolations might not take off any part of the keen edge of his passion; and this was necessary to make his sufferings meritorious. And it is probable that this is all that is intended by our Lord's quotation from the twenty-second Psalm. Taken in this view, the words convey an unexceptionable sense, even in the common translation.
Eli, Eli - This language is not pure Hebrew nor Syriac, but a mixture of both, called commonly “Syro-Chaldaic.” This was probably the language which the Saviour commonly spoke. The words are taken from Psalm 22:1.
My God, my God - This expression is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense Jesus was “forsaken by God.” It is certain that God approved his work. It is certain that he was innocent. He had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God. As his own Son - holy, harmless, undefiled, and obedient - God still loved him. In either of these senses God could not have forsaken him. But the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances, namely:
1. His great bodily sufferings on the cross, greatly aggravated by his previous scourging, and by the want of sympathy, and by the revilings of his enemies on the cross. A person suffering thus might address God as if he was forsaken, or given up to extreme anguish.
2. He himself said that this was “the power of darkness,” Luke 22:53. It was the time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. It was said of the serpent that he should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15. By that has been commonly understood to be meant that, though the Messiah would finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he should himself suffer “through the power of the devil.” When he was tempted Isaiah 53:4-5 that “he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes we are healed.” He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us Galatians 3:13; he was made a sin-offering 2 Corinthians 5:21; he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God‘s hatred of sin, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by Him that was due to us, and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.
The love of God was Christ's theme when speaking of His mission and His work. “Therefore doth my Father love me,” He says, “because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17). My Father loves you with a love so unbounded that He loves Me the more because I have given My life to redeem you. He loves you, and He loves Me more because I love you, and give My life for you.... Well did the disciples understand this love as they saw their Saviour enduring shame, reproach, doubt, and betrayal, as they saw His agony in the Garden, and His death on Calvary's cross. This is a love the depth of which no sounding can ever fathom. As the disciples comprehended it, as their perception took hold of God's divine compassion, they realized that there is a sense in which the sufferings of the Son were the sufferings of the Father.... TMK 69.2Read in context »
Christ was crucified, and in His death the powers of hell seemed to prevail. But even when on the cross the Saviour cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He was conqueror over the power of darkness. When the words, “It is finished,” came from His pale, trembling lips, darkness like the darkness of midnight hid His dying agony from the eyes of the spectators. Through long hours of agony He had been gazed upon by the jesting multitude. Now He was mercifully hidden by the mantle of God. LHU 235.5Read in context »
Inanimate nature expressed a sympathy with its insulted and dying Author. The sun refused to look upon the awful scene. Its full, bright rays were illuminating the earth at midday, when suddenly it seemed to be blotted out. Complete darkness enveloped the cross and all the vicinity about, like a funeral pall. The darkness lasted three full hours. At the ninth hour the terrible darkness lifted from the people, but still wrapt the Saviour as in a mantle. The angry lightnings seemed to be hurled at Him as He hung upon the cross. Then “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34. SR 226.1
In silence the people watch for the end of this fearful scene. Again the sun shines forth, but the cross is enveloped in darkness. Suddenly the gloom is lifted from the cross, and in clear trumpet tones, that seem to resound throughout creation, Jesus cries, “It is finished.” “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Luke 23:46. A light encircled the cross, and the face of the Saviour shone with a glory like unto the sun. He then bowed His head upon His breast and died. SR 226.2Read in context »
His ministry was nearly completed; He had only a few more lessons to impart. And that they might never forget the humility of the pure and spotless Lamb of God, the great and efficacious Sacrifice for man humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples. It will do you good, and our ministers generally, to frequently review the closing scenes in the life of our Redeemer. Here, beset with temptations as He was, we may all learn lessons of the utmost importance to us. It would be well to spend a thoughtful hour each day reviewing the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it point by point and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene, especially the closing ones of His earthly life. By thus contemplating His teachings and sufferings, and the infinite sacrifice made by Him for the redemption of the race, we may strengthen our faith, quicken our love, and become more deeply imbued with the spirit which sustained our Saviour. If we would be saved at last we must all learn the lesson of penitence and faith at the foot of the cross. Christ suffered humiliation to save us from everlasting disgrace. He consented to have scorn, mockery, and abuse fall upon Him in order to shield us. It was our transgression that gathered the veil of darkness about His divine soul and extorted the cry from Him, as of one smitten and forsaken of God. He bore our sorrows; He was put to grief for our sins. He made Himself an offering for sin, that we might be justified before God through Him. Everything noble and generous in man will respond to the contemplation of Christ upon the cross. 4T 374.1
I long to see our ministers dwell more upon the cross of Christ, their own hearts, meanwhile, softened and subdued by the Saviour's matchless love, which prompted that infinite sacrifice. If, in connection with the theory of the truth, our ministers would dwell more upon practical godliness, speaking from a heart imbued with the spirit of truth, we should see many more souls flocking to the standard of truth; their hearts would be touched by the pleadings of the cross of Christ, the infinite generosity and pity of Jesus in suffering for man. These vital subjects, in connection with the doctrinal points of our faith, would effect much good among the people. But the heart of the teacher must be filled with the experimental knowledge of the love of Christ. 4T 374.2
The mighty argument of the cross will convict of sin. The divine love of God for sinners, expressed in the gift of His Son to suffer shame and death that they might be ennobled and endowed with everlasting life, is the study of a lifetime. I ask you to study anew the cross of Christ. If all the proud and vainglorious, whose hearts are panting for the applause of men and for distinction above their fellows, could rightly estimate the value of the highest earthly glory in contrast with the value of the Son of God, rejected, despised, spit upon, by the very ones whom He came to redeem, how insignificant would appear all the honor that finite man can bestow. 4T 375.1Read in context »