by Craig Langemeier Posted Mar 27, 2018
Do you ever get confused reading Scripture? Do you find yourself wondering why God put certain verses in the Bible?
During this time when we remember and celebrate Easter, I have been reading through the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the midst of that story there is a verse that has confused me for years. Mark 15:34 says “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
It seemed to me that the hero of the story had finally reached the end of his rope. Why would this man be giving up his faith? Jesus had trusted his Father for everything from walking on water, to feeding the 5,000, to raising the dead, and healing untold numbers of people. So why would he not keep trusting God even through this?
Or another way to examine it, why did God forsake Him? Jesus had displayed ultimate trust in Him and at literally the last hour God seemed to abandon Him.
Someone explained to me at one point that God had to turn his back on Jesus as he took on the sin of the world but that doesn’t seem to be consistent with the rest of what I see in the scripture about God. And it didn’t make total sense to me.
Then I had an aha moment! My pastor taught me that when you are trying to understand the scripture you need to look for the original author’s original intent to his original audience. So for this passage, what would the author have been trying to communicate to his primarily Jewish first-century audience?
We know from reading the rest of the crucifixion story that Jesus had been beaten relentlessly, he had been mocked, they put a crown of thorns on his head, his clothing was taken and they cast lots for it, he had his hands and feet pierced, he was thirsty, and he was exhausted in every way. And then, in great pain, he uttered the phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is where it gets interesting.
Have you ever experienced someone singing a song, and after they sing the first line you know instantly what the song is plus every word of it? That is likely what was happening here! Mark 15:34 is a direct quote of Psalm 22:1. This is a Psalm written by King David that the Jews of that day would have known well. Here is what it says:
(It’s a little long but entirely worth reading for the light it sheds on Mark 15:34 and the whole crucifixion so don’t skip this part!)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
This was written 1000 years before Jesus died on the cross! Pause and reflect on that for a moment… wow!
According to John 19:30 Jesus last words were, “It is finished.” The last words of Psalm 22 are “he has done it.” Amen and Amen. He has done it!
So as we celebrate Easter this week please take the time to stop and reflect on the great love of an amazing God. A God who had a plan all along on how to pay the ultimate price so that we could be redeemed!
He lived a life we could never live.
He died a death we deserved to die.
To pay a debt we could never pay.
So that we could spend eternity with Him!
He is risen. He is risen indeed!