The dying words of any man are significant — much more so when they belong to Christ.
Jesus made seven statements on the cross. One has become the subject of many Easter sermons: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Most preachers explain that Jesus had taken upon Himself all the sins of the world, and God had to turn away. Ask these same ministers if God is almighty, and they’ll say, “Absolutely!”
That’s why the explanation is wrong. God is all powerful — He doesn’t have to do anything. No amount of sin is too much for the Almighty.
Why then do these preachers limit God? Because they don’t know what else to do. Scripture is sacred - Jesus said these words, they are important, and we have to somehow explain them.
There are other theories. Some pastors say God didn’t leave Jesus, but “Jesus was so overwhelmed that Jesus thought God had left Him.”
Completely at odds with Scripture.
Was Jesus overwhelmed when stakes were driven into his body? If our Lord had thought God had deserted Him, this would have been the time to say it.
Instead, look at what Jesus does. He thinks of His mother. Jesus says to her, “Behold, your son!” indicating his beloved disciple. Then Jesus says to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” John 19:26, 27
Our Lord also comforts the thief saying, “…today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
Jesus even thinks of those mocking Him. “Father,” He says, “forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
And it’s Jesus who gives up His own spirit. ”Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46. Then Jesus breathes His last.
Our Lord never loses His mind. He’s in control every moment on the cross. Saying such a thing denigrates Him.
So, if God is almighty and Jesus was clear in His thinking, why did He say, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34
We aren’t 1st century Jews. Those who heard Him would have known.
In Jesus’ day, the numbering of the Psalms was confusing because there was both a Greek and Hebrew version of the Bible. So, when a teacher referred to a Psalm, he wouldn’t say “Psalm 23,” he’d say the first line, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is the first line of a Psalm. A Messianic Psalm. It tells a prophecy of the crucifixion of the Messiah. Jesus says that first line to identify it. This isn’t my theory — I can prove it.
Jesus always spoke to God saying, “Father.” But that doesn’t happen when He speaks on the cross. When Jesus says, “My God,” He does so twice, using an archaic Hebrew word, the same one used in that Messianic Psalm.
There’s no doubt our Lord is quoting that first verse, identifying that Psalm.
But why? Out of everything he could point to in Scripture, why this particular Psalm?
God’s people had sung the Messianic Psalm generation after generation for 1,000 years. They knew it by heart and now could see the verses happening before their eyes.
The Roman soldiers had nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross. The Psalm says: “…they have pierced my hands and feet.” 22:16
Jesus’ bones would have been out of joint from hanging from nails. The Psalm says: “I can count all my bones—” 22:17
The Romans gambled for Jesus’ clothes. The Psalm says, “They cast lots for my clothing.” 22:18
But Psalm 22 does much more. It claims the Lord will be told to generations to come throughout the whole world and they will believe.
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord … posterity shall serve Him…” Psalm 22:27-31
Today, Christians outnumber those of any other faith in the world. There are 2.4 billion of us, according to Pew Research. Nearly one person out of three across the world is Christian.
The Psalm ends triumphantly and every Jew at the cross knew it. Jesus is telling them with one line: This is not over!
The Rev. Mathews is a faith columnist, seminary graduate, and the author of “Reaching to God.” Reprinted with permission from “Reaching to God.” You may contact Mathews at Letters@RAMathews.com. Copyright © 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021 R.A. Mathews All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on The Star: The final words of Christ