MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?
(Tuesday, May 19, 2020)
If we look at the intricacy of the drama of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, we see that some amazing things took place so that Old Testament prophetic utterances were fulfilled to the minutest detail. God inspired Old Testament prophets hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ life to predict details of his life and death so that we can know that this was all in the plan of God. Prophetic fulfilment is like having a Divine signature on these events of Good Friday since no human can know the future like this. Jesus, through the pens of the Gospel writers, argued that these similarities were prophetic.
2.0 PROPHECIES AND FULFILMENT
2.1 Psalm 22; 32:20 & 69:21 – written 1000 BC
 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?  My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest…  All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.  “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”  Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.  From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.  Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.  Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.  Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.  I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.  My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.  All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
(Psalm 34:20) “Many are the afflictions of the just man; but the Lord delivers him from all of them. He guards all his bones: not even one of them shall be broken“.
(Psalm 69:21) “And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink”.
2.2 Isaiah 53 – written 740 – 686 BC
“He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 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. Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed”
2.3 Daniel 9:26 – written 606 BC
 And at the end of that time God’s chosen leader will be killed unjustly.
2.4 Zachariah 12:10 – written 520 – 518 BC
 “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son; and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn”
2.5 The Wisdom of Solomon or Book of Wisdom 2:12-20 written 150 BC
“Let us lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn… He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God…and glorieth that he hath God for his father. Let us see then if his words be true… For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him by outrages and tortures… Let us condemn him to a most shameful death … These things they thought, and were deceived, for their own malice blinded them”
2.6 Crucifixion details from the Gospels [New Testament]
(Matthew 27: 31-48) …Then they led him (Jesus) away to crucify him….  Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads  and saying, “… save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”  In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.  “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him… About the ninth hour Jesus cried… “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” …  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. Mark15: 16-20  The soldiers led Jesus away… They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.  And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.  And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him…  With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (John 19:34) they did not break his legs..., pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.…they crucified him… (John 20:25) [Thomas] unless I see the nail marks in his hands ,…”…John 20:23-24 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining…Let’s not tear it”, they said, “Let’s decide by lot who gets it”…
3.0 SOME FACTS ABOUT JESUS’ CRUCIFIXION
- The Old Testament said that the Messiah would be delivered to the Gentiles (“dogs” or “congregation of the wicked”) for judgment (Psalm 22:16). It just so happened in the course of history that Jesus was put on trial during a time of Roman occupation of Palestine. The Romans allowed a certain amount of home rule by their conquered vassals, but they did not permit the death penalty to be imposed by the local rulers, so the Jews did not have the authority to put Christ to death. The only thing they could do was to meet in council and take Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, asking him to carry out the execution. So, Jesus was delivered from His own people to the Gentiles—those who were “outside the camp.” He was delivered into the hands of pagans who dwelt outside the arena in which the face of God shone, outside the circle of the light of His countenance.
- The site of Jesus’ execution was outside Jerusalem. Once He was judged by the Gentiles and condemned to be executed, He was led out of the fortress, onto the Via Dolorosa, and outside the walls of the city. Just as the scapegoat was driven outside the camp, Jesus was taken outside Zion, outside the holy city where the presence of God was concentrated. He was sent into the outer darkness.
- Whereas the Jews did their executions by stoning, the Romans did them by crucifixion. That determined the method of Jesus’ death: He would hang on a tree – a cross made of wood. The Bible doesn’t say, “Cursed is everyone who is stoned.” It says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
- When Jesus was put on the cross, there was an astronomical perturbation. In the middle of the afternoon, it became dark. Darkness descended on the land. By some method, perhaps by an eclipse, the sun was blotted out. It was as if God had veiled the light of His countenance. In the midst of the intensity of this darkness, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This was one of the most striking utterances that came from the lips of Jesus while He was on the cross, and there have been all kinds of interpretations of it. Albert Schweitzer looked at that cry and said it was proof positive that Jesus died in disillusionment. According to Schweitzer, Jesus had expectations that God would deliver Him, but God let Him down in the final moments, so Jesus died as a disillusioned, tragic Shakespearean hero. Others have noticed that these words are found verbatim in Psalm 22, and they conclude that Jesus was identifying Himself with the Suffering Servant of Psalm 22 and was reciting poetry at His death. But that misses all the indications—Jesus’ executioners, the place of His execution, the manner of His execution, the darkness that fell—that so clearly tell us that Jesus cried out to His Father because He actually had been forsaken.
- The sign of the old covenant was circumcision. This cutting of the foreskin had two significances, one positive and one negative, corresponding to the two sanctions. On the positive side, the cutting of the foreskin symbolized that God was cutting out a group of people from the rest, separating them, setting them apart to be a holy nation. The negative aspect was that the Jew who underwent circumcision was saying, “Oh, God, if I fail to keep every one of the terms of this covenant, may I be cut off from You, cut off from Your presence, cut off from the light of Your countenance, cut off from Your blessedness, just as I have now ritually cut off the foreskin of my flesh.” The cross was the supreme circumcision. When Jesus took the curse on Himself and so identified with our sin that He became a curse, God cut Him off, and justly so. At the moment when Christ took on Himself the sin of the world, His figure on the cross was the most grotesque, most obscene mass of concentrated sin in the history of the world. God is too holy to look on iniquity, so when Christ hung on the cross, the Father, as it were, turned His back. He averted His face and He cut off His Son. Jesus, Who, touching His human nature, had been in a perfect, blessed relationship with God throughout His ministry, now bore the sin of God’s people, and so He was forsaken by God.
- Imagine how agonizing that was for Christ. Thomas Aquinas argued that throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus remained in a constant state of intimate communion with His Father. Aquinas speculated that the Beatific Vision, the vision of the unveiled glory of God, was something Jesus had enjoyed every minute of His life until the cross, when the light was turned off. The world was plunged into darkness, and Christ was exposed to the curse of the wrath of God. To experience the curse, according to Jewish categories, was to experience what it means to be forsaken.
- Finally, Jesus said, “‘It is finished!’” (John 19:30b). What was finished? His life? The pain of the nails? No. The lights had come back on; God’s countenance had turned back. So Jesus could say, “‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit’” (Luke 23:46b). The hard reality is this: if Jesus was not forsaken on the cross, we are still in our sins. We have no redemption, no salvation. The whole point of the cross was for Jesus to bear our sins and bear the sanctions of the covenant. In order to do that, He had to be forsaken. Jesus submitted Himself to His Father’s will and endured the curse, that we, His people, might experience the ultimate blessedness.
But besides Psalm 34:20 and Psalm 69:21, Psalm 22 does not end at versus 18 in the table above – it continues seamlessly on. Note here how triumphant the mood is at the end –after the person is dead! Psalm 22:26-31 says,  The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!  All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,  for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.  All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.  Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.  They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it.
Notice that this is not talking at all about details of the events of this person’s death. That was dealt with in the first section of the Psalm. The psalmist is now addressing the impact of that person’s death on ‘posterity’ and ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22: 30). That is us living 2000 years later. He tells us that ‘posterity’ which follows this ‘pierced’ man who died such a horrible death will ‘serve’ him and be ‘told about him’. Psalm 22: 27 predicts the geographic scope of the impact – it will go to the ‘ends of the earth’ and among ‘all families of nations’ and cause them to ‘turn to the LORD’. Psalm 22: 29 indicates how ‘those who cannot keep themselves alive’ (since we all die would that not be all of us?) will one day kneel before him. The righteousness of this man will be proclaimed to people who were not yet alive (the ‘yet unborn’) at the time of his death.
One could not make a better prediction of the subsequent legacy of the death of Jesus than Psalm 22 does. Two thousand years after Jesus amid global Good Friday celebrations highlight the worldwide impact of Jesus’ death, fulfilling the conclusion of Psalm 22 as uncannily as the earlier verses predicted the details of his death. Who else in world history can even make a claim that details of his death as well as the legacy of his life into the distant future would be predicted 1000 years before he lived?