There were, they say, 7 sayings from the Cross Jesus uttered while He hanged there dying for my sins—and yours.1 Though some scholars question whether or not His declaration of our forgiveness was not added until later,2 we may say that Jesus’s reflections were all about others and not Himself as He was suspended there dying. Was there one exception, though, when in a moment of unprecedented vulnerability He felt absolutely abandoned—left to die alone.
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá [lima, lama] sabachtháni ? ” that is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me ?” Matthew 27:46
I am amazed at the indifference and insensitivity of those assembled on the hill at the time, trying to decide if He spoke of Elijah. In recent times scholars analyzed His words: were they more Hebrew or Aramaic. [Matthew said part of each; Mark said: only Aramaic]. Perhaps, His voice was slurred while He labored to say anything! Let’s not focus on how He said it but what He said—and maybe, why.
Passer-bys were hurling insults at Him,3 priests, scribes, and pharisees in concert mocked Him4 like so many fifth graders finding His pain a cause of amusement, the two thieves on either side “taunted him.”5
And did the Father abandon the Savior while He spent three long, endless hours, seemingly outside time, awaiting death? Abandonment does not mean forgotten, however.
The Scripture does not record that the Father became disinterested or indifferent to Jesus’s plight. This Jesus was the theme of all Scripture, every Word which the Spirit inspired and directed prophets to write about!
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27
..And this is God’s ONLY Son! With His son on His mind throughout recorded time, is it conceivable Jesus would be forgotten on this day of all days?!
I have three sons whose picture hangs over our piano in the living room and also—of all places—in our bathroom. I cannot take a bath without thinking of them and praying for them. God doesn’t hang pictures but He does have the names of His children tattooed on His palms!6
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. “Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. – Isaiah 49:15-16
It seems incredulous to suppose God was not mindful of what was happening on Calvary.7 But being aware of one’s suffering and doing something about it are two different things.
The word “abandonment” suggests that Jesus died “alone” with no one to comfort Him or plead His case before heaven’s throne. While He became the sin offering for the sins of the world,8 there were no angels coming to His rescue. But to say the Father “deserted” Jesus on the Cross assigns a nuance to this word that contradicts God’s great heart toward His son. The Father’s involvement in Calvary was through His Son. They agreed on this plan. Their counsel together led to this moment. The great divine heart beat very much in sync with the Savior’s.
After his anguish, … he will receive the … spoil,9 because he willingly submitted to death, and … he bore the sin of many….10
In Our Place
The theology states that Jesus died for our sins so that we would not have to. It is called the Vicarious Atonement, “to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:28] And does not a vicarious atonement speak to a divine provision that is more than expunging the account of past sins? His death was vicarious in another sense: He was abandoned so we would never be!
…for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. – Hebrews 13:5
And remember, [see] I am with you always, [all the days] to the end of the age – Matthew 20:28
Turns out that here, too, His thoughts we on us!
- Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
- Luke 23:43: Verily, I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.
- John 19:26–27: Woman, behold thy son. (Says to disciple) Behold thy mother.
- Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
- John 19:28: I thirst.
- John 19:30: It is finished.
- Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
2 Colossians 1:14 In him we have redemption, [through His blodd] the forgiveness of sins.
3 Matthew 27:39
4 Matthew 27:41 In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, [and Pharisees] mocked him
5 Matthew 27:44
6 Isaiah 49:16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands
7 Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul…
8 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin [a sin offering] for us.
9 Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
10 Isaiah 53:11-12