Question: In Matthew 27:46, Christ spoke from the Cross, saying “...My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” If Jesus was God in human flesh; why did He ask this question when He should have known the answer! I am a Christian as Jesus is my Savior; and I am asking sincerely. I have inquired of several clergy, but haven’t received a satisfactory answer. I would really appreciate your input on this.
Answer: You are the first in 36 years of ministry to ask me this question. It is an excellent question and I thank you for it.
- The Background: We need a little background to realign our thinking in understanding why Jesus made the statement, “...My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He did not ask this question because he did not know the answer; because He did. He knew exactly why God had forsaken him, for Isaiah had prophesied in 53:6, “The LORD (Jehovah) hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Christ knew this was why God had separated Himself from the Son.
One must remember that Christ had been with the Father from eternity past up until the Cross. He would be separated from God, the Father, for 6 hours, while on the Cross, until he submitted Himself (i.e., His body) to die. In Matthew 26:38 He told His disciples “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto (i.e. until) death.”
Why did He say “until death?” Because at death he would again be joined with the Father as he had been from eternity past, and would no longer be sorrowful. Dr. Luke in Chapter 23, Verse 46, makes this perfectly clear.
“...he (Jesus) said, Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
He then took the believing thief with him to Paradise, never to be separated from the Father again. In Luke 23:43, Jesus states...
“...To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Christ’s exceeding sorrow was the thought of being separated from the Father. All of the pain, suffering and humiliation he endured, never once brought a complaint from His lips. The crown of thorns thrust upon His head, ripping His skin to pieces, the nails driven into His hands and feet never brought a complaint from the Lord Jesus. He feared nothing they could do to his body. In Matthew 26:39,42,44, He prayed three times,
“O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”
He was not wishing to bypass the Cross, but in dying on the Cross, was there any way to avoid being separated from God. He knew the answer and stated in Verse 39,
“...nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In other words, He loved every human being so much that He was willing to be separated from God, “being made sin for us, who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The innocent, suffering for the guilty; the sinless, dying for the condemned.
Christ knew he would be separated from the Father while paying for your sins and mine; making it possible for “whosoever will” to come by faith; and never be separated from God. Therefore, there must be another reason why He cried out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me.” As we continue we shall see the reason.
- Christ’s last words of challenge and conviction to those who falsely convicted and executed Him. (Matthew 27:46). Peter, on the day of Pentecost addressing the Jews, stated in Acts 2:23,
“...ye have taken, and by WICKED HANDS have crucified and slain:” (i.e. Christ).”
They could have lifted him up on the Cross with holy hands, as their Messiah, knowing His Resurrection would take place three days later as promised.
Now, let us examine Matthew 27:46 and then proceed to analyze several aspects of this verse which will culminate in answering the original question presented to us.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a LOUD voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
- “Ninth Hour.” Mark, Chapter 15, gives all three hours of time that Christ was on the Cross. He was crucified at the third hour (i.e. 9 A.M.): (Verse 25). The sixth hour was noon: (Verse 33). The ninth hour was 3 P.M.: (Verse 34). Christ had now been on the Cross for six hours. It was then that he yelled the words
“My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”
Next, someone took a sponge of vinegar, put it to his lips to drink in mockery. (Verse 36). Then Jesus cried with a loud voice (Verse 37). What He cried here is only recorded by the Gospel of John in 19:30,
“...It is finished...”
He then said,
“...Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46).
Not one Gospel gives every detail, but a correlation of all the Gospels gives us a chronological order of events precisely as they occurred. Today this would silence the skeptics and agnostics who claim the Gospel writers copied from each other; thus denying the inspiration of the Scriptures.
- “Loud.” Greek “megas” meaning “exceedingly great, greatest, very great, high and large.”
- Not only did Matthew record that Christ spoke with LOUD voice, but so did Mark. In Mark 15:34 we find that, "Jesus cried with a LOUD voice.” Dr. Luke also records the same in 23:46, “and when Jesus had cried with a LOUD voice.”
We might sum up the meaning of this word “megas” when “Jesus cried with a LOUD voice,” i.e., He screamed, or yelled it with as much force as His lungs would put forth. It was evidence His body was not weak, His mind was as sharp as ever, and what he was about to say, he wanted everyone to hear.
- “My God, my God.” The Greek for “God” is “theos” from which we get our English word Theology; i.e., the study of the Doctrine of God. Jesus was shouting to all that were there that the true and living God, “Theos,” Creator of the heavens, Earth, and all humanity, was His Father.
One must remember that the scribes and Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) claimed that “Theos” was their God also; but, denied that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Messiah. John, Chapter 8, records Christ’s encounter with these same sects. Here they accused Christ of being an illegitimate son. Notice in V. 41,
“...Then said they to him (Jesus), We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” (Greek “theos”).
These claimed to worship “theos,” the God of the Bible, but they were liars. Christ addressed them in V. 42,
“Jesus said unto them, If God (“theos”) were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.”
In Verse 19 Christ made it perfectly clear,
“...Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.”
Isn’t this just like the cults today, who want you to believe how much they love God, but deny Christ’s finished work on the Cross for salvation? Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Deity of Christ, Mormons the same. Catholicism denies the finished work of Christ for salvation and offers you the dumpster of sacraments for salvation.
Martin Luther in his catechism says he believes in God; but, also denies that Christ completed the payment for our sin with His crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. Luther says that baptism washes away your sins, frees you from the devil, makes you a child of God and gives you the Holy Spirit. (Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism, Pg. 16, Par. II. (1), "The Blessings of Baptism.")
All these, and more, claim God is their Father. These cult leaders are nothing more than the offspring of the scribes and Pharisees of 2,000 years ago.
In John 8:44, Christ had previously told this same sect of religious unbelievers the truth, that Satan was their god. Here is the record.
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do. He was a murderer (just as you) from the beginning, and abode not in the truth (just as you), because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie (just as you), he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar (just as you), and the father of it.” (“Just as you” is my insert for emphasis.)
Now, just before His death on the Cross, the Lord would scream at the top of his voice, twice, “My God, my God.” In other words, “Theos” the true and living God of the Bible, is my God and my Father. This was Christ’s indictment against them for, if “Theos” had really been their God, they would have loved Him instead of crucifying Him. These words, “My God, my God” were intended to pierce the heart, soul and spirit of these religious pretenders, using “Theos,” the God of the Bible to promote their own self-righteousness and deceive the people. I hope one can begin to see that there is a lot more meaning behind these two words than appears on the surface.
(4). “...Why hast thou forsaken me?” Did Christ know why He had been forsaken? Absolutely He did! Christ did not make this statement from the standpoint of ignorance; but to challenge the thinking of those who crucified Him to realize He was paying for their sins.
When a person dies in unbelief, their eternal destiny is in the Lake of Fire, separated from God for all eternity. Matthew 25:41 states,
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Christ was separated from God, paying for their sins, so they would never have to be separated from God, if they would only believe.
The religious leaders were thinking only in humanistic terms, that God had forsaken Him; because He was a pretender, and not the Son of God. The Holy Spirit had prophesied this in Psalm 22:1 and it was spoken by Christ, in fulfillment, on the Cross for a purpose. The purpose was to pierce their minds to understand that you cannot forsake someone you have not previously been with! “Forsaken” in the Greek is “egkataleipo” and means “to leave behind in some place, to desert or forsake.” This is an excellent translation into our English language. But, their hearts were hardened, their eyes were closed and their ears were deaf to the truth.
- “Why hast thou forsaken me?” should have “rung a bell” in their minds. How could God forsake the Son, if He had not been with the Son. The thought-provoking statement bounced off of dead ears. The prophet Isaiah had foretold this as recorded in Matthew 13:14,
“And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.