Welcome back to the foot of the cross.
In this PODCAST, we are now in that six-hour window of time — between 9 AM and 3 PM.
9 AM when the Romans nailed Jesus to His cross; 3 PM, that moment when Jesus finally succumbed to His brutal beatings, His massive blood loss, and the tortures of crucifixion — finally and mercifully to die.
Within that six-hour window, Jesus spoke seven times. The final words of His earthly life pre-resurrection. As we noted last week, a complete, seven-sayings, last lingering look into Jesus’ beautiful, sizable, and irresistible soul.
The first two of these sayings we discussed last week.
We’ll consider the middle two now.
And the final three we’ll explain next week.
Let me give you a heads-up. Get yourself ready for a rollercoaster of a ride tonight. This because the first of the two that we consider now is without a doubt the most emotional of the seven. I dare say, this may well be the single most emotional scene in the entire Bible. I’ll leave that for you to decide.
The second of the two statements that we consider now is equally without a doubt the most dramatic of the seven. I dare say, this is the single most dramatic scene in the entire Bible. No question about that.
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw His mother standing there beside the disciple He loved, He said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And He said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
“The disciple He loved” was John, who always wrote about himself in third person. And with these words, Jesus said goodbye to His precious and beloved mom.
Now, keep in mind that Mary, Jesus’ mother, had other siblings. However, during Jesus’ years of ministry, His brothers did not believe in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. Nor were they there at His crucifixion.
We read in John 7:5,
For even his brothers didn’t believe in Him.
Yet, after the resurrection, we know that Jesus appeared to His brother James.
He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)
And we know that Mary, Jesus’ brothers and the apostles were there, creating the early Church, after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.
They went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:13-14)
But, as we look at Jesus’ dying moments at the cross, none of His brothers believed in Him and all had abandoned Him, leaving Mary there with Jesus’ apostle John. She was a broken hearted mother in need of someone to care for her. And Jesus knew this. Jesus knew that, while she was blessed, her blessing came at a great price.
Now, when we look at the four Gospels, Matthew presents the picture of Jesus as King; Mark presents Jesus as a Servant; Luke presents Jesus as a man; and John presents Jesus as God. So, when John wrote Jesus’ words:
“Dear woman, here is your son.”
John is revealing, in Jesus’ clearest language, that Jesus is Mary’s Savior – her Messiah – and yet Jesus knows that she is also His earthly mother and He cares for her as such. Her oldest son is dying. She is a widow, probably in her late-40’s, and Jesus literally stopped dying long enough to take care of His mom by entrusting her to His beloved apostle, John.
I know that Peter and Paul get all the “headlines”, but I believe that John is the greatest unsung hero of the New Testament. Because, as we read:
And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:27)
What a remarkable man!
Now, between Jesus saying these words to Mary and John – His third “saying from the cross” – and His next words, roughly three hours had passed. Three excruciating hours of Him hanging there on the cross, bleeding and suffocating. And after over 180 minutes of agonizing pain and suffering, Jesus exclaimed:
My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? (Matthew 27:46)
So, we have the Son, who would not abandon His mother, becoming the Son who was abandoned by His Father. This is not coincidental. But, contrary to what we may presume, this is anything but heartless on the part of God the Father.
I can assure you that God the Father felt Jesus’ pain deeply. You see, this is the break in relationship that lasted throughout all eternity – before our time began – up to this single moment.
John 1:1-2 tells us (albeit with a tough English translation that fails to offer the magnificence of intended meaning):
In the beginning was the Word [meaning Jesus], and the Word was face-to-face with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
We’re talking about an intimacy that exceeds anything human or even within our human comprehension. We don’t even have anything that compares with being “face-to-face with God”.
And at this moment, while Jesus was on the cross, this relationship was shattered.
Quite honestly, no human being can begin to empathize with Jesus at this moment, since no person has ever experienced the type of intimacy that Jesus and His Father experienced since the beginning. Even if you were to think of one person being completely devoted to another person and that person abandoning their loved one… this pain doesn’t even begin to approximate what the Son and the Father were feeling at that moment.
It’s almost as if, for those three hours from noon until 3:00, the Holy Trinity was shattered.
Yet, for those three anguishing hours, as Jesus endured the hellish torment that we sinners deserve, the Father mercifully allowed His Son to suffer that in complete privacy.
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)
This was not a solar eclipse. Full eclipses do not last three hours. There is a phenomenon that happens on very rare occasions in Israel, where the prevailing winds blow at just the right angle and kick up loess soil to the degree that it can literally blot out the light of the sun. This chalk-like soil is so coarse and so gritty that people run for cover when the winds kick it into the air, just so that they can breathe freely. So, assuming this is the phenomenon that took place at this moment, it is likely that many of the people at the foot of Jesus’ cross also ran away for those three hours.
All this to say, when this darkness fell across the land, it was an eerie darkness that everyone throughout Israel could feel.
It was a darkness that left Jesus to endure the penalty for the sins of all mankind completely alone.
This was a transaction held solely and privately between God the Father and God the Son.
This is why I say that Jesus’ words, ”My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” do not describe God the Father’s heartlessness, but the most heart-filled, selfless act of absolute love that the world has ever seen or will ever see!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The moment when God gave us His Son is right here when Jesus cried out, ”My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”
Understand this: God abandoned His only begotten Son so that He would never ever have to abandon YOU.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
For God made Christ, the one who had never sinned, to become sin for us, so that in Him, we could become right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
In that awful moment, Jesus literally became the human personification, the very embodiment, of sin. I’m talking about all the sins committed by every human that has ever and will ever live.
John, the master of metaphor said it best:
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. (John 1:5)
Light is the one thing that absolutely cannot be tarnished. You can shine it through a smudged window and the imperfections of the window are revealed, but the light itself remains perfectly clean. So, we have the one Man, who throughout His entire life never knew any taint of darkness, and in this moment, Jesus became the living, breathing personification of sinful darkness.
And as much it pierced His very soul, God the Father had no choice in that moment but to abandon His Son to such an absolute degree that Jesus was forced to change the way that He even addressed His Father. Let’s go back to Jesus’ first statement from the cross:
“Father, forgive them…”
Then, here we read Jesus’ fourth statement from the cross:
“My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?”
And, at that moment, in His solitary moment of taking on all the sins of mankind, Jesus paid the price for us all as well.
By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:3-4)
Did you notice the verb tenses Paul used in these verses? We WERE subject to God’s anger by our sinful nature, but God IS rich in mercy.
And, we know that Jesus was not abandoned forever. Even before Jesus drew His last breath, He returned to addressing God as His Father:
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
And with that, the Father and the Son were face-to-face, together again.
Having paid the penalty of our sins… Having satisfied God’s justice once and for all… Having taken a drink of that cup of God’s wrath that you and I deserve, “My God” blessedly became “His Father” once again.
Abandoned by God no longer, so that you and I would be abandoned by God never.