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My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Mar 07, 2018

Passage: Matthew 27:45-47

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Wednesday, Lent


Note: Most of this sermon is from the sermon within the series “Crosswords” by David Peter (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, 2014)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. “Few experiences in life are worse than being deserted and abandoned. A baby is left in a trash container. A wife is abandoned by her husband as he runs off with another woman. A child is left to fend for himself as each parent deserts him. Debt befalls a business partnership and one party is left to pay the bills. An elderly parent is all but forgotten by her children and grandchildren who rarely telephone her or visit her (Peter, 25).”

“Each of us recoils from scenarios as these. We come to trust certain people in our lives – parents, children, partners, teammates. But when they fail us and forsake us, we are grieved. There is no hurt greater than that of being abandoned by one you loved and trusted (Peter, 25).”

The LORD Jesus Christ, our dear Savior and Best Friend, also knew what it meant to be forsaken. The prophet Isaiah recorded: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3).”

And He was not only forsaken by a few. He was forsaken more than anyone has ever been forsaken. First, He was forsaken by His own people. Only five days after the Palm Sunday chants of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD (Matt 21:9), there were new chants and Jesus heard the cries of the people against Him: “Let him be crucified (Matt 27:23)!” His own people forsook Him and handed Him over to die.

He was also forsaken by the religious establishment of the day. You might think this less than egregious, but if anyone would be expected to have known who He was, it was the religious leaders. They knew – supposedly – the Scriptures. They should have known what to look for; the prophetic prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ, but no, they refused to see that Jesus was the One. They were blind to the fact that He met all the qualifications of the Long-Awaited Messiah who fit the bill for the Servant-prophecies and if one could only understand the kingdom to be non-political and not of this world, then they would have seen that He also matched the Kingly-prophecies. But no, they rejected Him. They could not and would not acknowledge Him. He was forsaken by them. The ones who said they knew God.

But much worse that this, Jesus was forsaken by His friends, His very own disciples. He had walked with them, laughed with them, labored for them, trained them, prayed with them, loved them…but when He was arrested, they scattered and hid or worse, they denied Him. Even His friends turned their backs on Him.

He was forsaken by justice itself. He was crucified for sedition against the government. He never challenged the government but called the people to His kingdom not of this world. His verdict and execution were in fact a miscarriage of justice. Pontius Pilate at John 19:4 declared that Jesus was not guilty. The wicked King Herod acquitted Him (Luke 23:15). Jesus was innocent, but He was forsaken by justice. When our LORD cried out, “Eli, Eli!” -- that means “my God, my God” -- the people thought He was crying out to Elijah the prophet; Elijah the personification of justice. So, when Elijah did not come, the people were cemented in their conviction: “You see, this One deserves to die!”

“But these forms of abandonment pale in comparison to the ultimate abandonment. That was being abandoned by God. That was the experience of being forsaken by God. That is the final form of forsakenness Jesus experienced. And it was the most hideous of all (Peter, 27).”

“It is possible that there have been times in which you felt abandoned by God. Perhaps it was during a period of sorrow and loss. Maybe it was while you underwent grief and pain. We may experience utter despair as we believe we are forsaken by God. Yet even though we feel abandoned, we are not. God remains there for us. We just don’t recognize it. But that’s not the way it was with Jesus. Not only did he feel abandoned by God as he gasped for his final breath. He was actually and truly abandoned by his Father. He really was forsaken by God the Father (Peter, 27-28).”

And it was all on-account of you; and it was all on-account of me. Think about it: God is holy and pure, so holy and pure that He cannot even look upon evil (Hab 1:13). But consider what happened on the cross. Isaiah wrote: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).” Upon Him was our sin; upon Him was our iniquity. This is completely consistent with the rest of God’s Word: “God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us… (2 Cor 5:21).” He became sin for us. Upon Him was sin. Galatians 3:13: “For Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us…”. He was a curse – our curse -- on the cross. Our sins laid on Him, He became sin for us; He was a curse on the tree of the cross. It wasn’t that He simply felt forsaken by the Heavenly Father, He WAS forsaken by the Heavenly Father…because at that moment on the cross, the Father saw our sin, our evil, our wickedness, our rebellion, our shame, our guilt, our curse…everything that belonged to us was put on Him. The pure and holy eyes of God the Father had to turn away.

Isaiah explains: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:2).”

“At that moment, one of the greatest mysteries of all time took place. God the Son was forsaken by God the Father. This does not mean that the Trinity was dissolved. The Godhead remained intact. But by some mysterious means which we cannot fully understand, Jesus was forsaken by his Father. At that point of dereliction Jesus experienced hell. He tasted hell – absolute alienation from the Father – for everyone. In an instant, the eternal one endured an eternity of damnation in order to free those destined for hell (Peter, 29).”

“Immediately after Jesus died, a remarkable phenomenon occurred. Matthew’s gospel reports that ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matt 27:51). What was that curtain for? It showed the separation between the holy God and unholy people. Unholy people could not pass through the curtain. The curtain served as a barrier between God and sinners. But once Jesus died, the sin of all people was paid for. Thus the barrier separating them from God was no longer needed. Accordingly, the curtain was torn from top to bottom, opening the way to God. There was no longer any separation between God and humanity (Peter, 29).”

“’My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ – these words were spoken by Jesus so that you need never be forsaken by God. You need never fear abandonment from your heavenly Father. Jesus bore your alienation from God. He endured the God-forsakenness that you deserve. He was abandoned by the Father so that you may never be separated from him. We can confidently assert with the Apostle Paul: ‘For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39). Jesus was forsaken by God so that you might be secure with God (Peter, 29-30)!” And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, until He comes again in glory! Amen.