Journey Toward Easter: My God, Where Are You!?
In our Journey Toward Easter, we are entering the fourth week in our spiritual pilgrimage through the Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross. This week’s saying is found in Matthew’s Gospel, and is known as The Word of Anguish.
From 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, Calvary had been a very busy place. The soldiers had performed their gruesome task. Passers-by had cursed. Chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees had scoffed. Robbers had reviled, though one ultimately repented. Jesus had uttered his first three statements from the cross.
Then at noon, a spectacular phenomenon takes place. Suddenly the sky becomes dark. It was a supernatural darkness. It was a darkness that was intense and unforgettable and occurred when it was least expected—at high noon. It lasted three hours and only ended when our Christ died.
When Jesus was born, the night sky around Bethlehem was filled with supernatural light as “the glory of the Lord shone around” the shepherds. But now, at the point of his death, the day sky around Jerusalem is filled with supernatural darkness.
During those three hours of darkness Jesus suffered intense agony, indescribable woe, and terrible isolation. He who hung there on the tree at Calvary, had been from all eternity, the object of the Father’s love, is now becoming sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21); he because accursed for our sake (Gal. 3:13). And according to Isa. 53, He was wounded for our transgressions, and God laid on him the iniquity of us all. Here is the great drama of redemption unfolding: God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus who became our substitute on the cross!
ddenly, without warning, our Lord stirs, he lifts his bloodied, disfigured face toward heaven and cries out in a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Here is one of those great unfathomable mysteries of the Scriptures. For a time, God the Father withdraws His fellowship from God the Son.
Here we see the high cost to the Christ for His atonement of our sins. He takes upon himself sin’s penalty and suffers the agony of spiritual death for us. And, for however a brief time it was, God turns his face from the one who has become sin for us.
What does this forth word from the cross teach us?
I. IN FORSAKING HIS SON GOD REVEALED HIS JUDGMENT UPON SIN
- we live in a day of moral confusion where the law of God is denied for what it is
- a text that reveals God’s utter holiness and man’s utter depravity
- if you want to create a scandal in America today—yea verily, even in the church—talk about sin and identify sin as sin and preach about the exceedingly sinfulness of sin
- there is an absolute authority Who has taken it upon Himself to define what sin is
- His name is Jehovah—the one true and only God
- sin is anything that diminishes God’s holiness
A. OUR GOD IS A HOLY GOD
- ILLUS. We sing about God’s holiness in some of the great hymns of the faith: “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Come Thou, Almighty King,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Lead On O’ Eternal King,” “Praise Him! Praise Him!” We sing about the holiness of Christ’s birth in “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Even “My Country Tis’ of Thee” intones “... with freedom’s holy light; Protect us by Thy might, Great God above.” We sing about God’s holiness, but I’m not sure many understand it, and its implications. God’s holiness demanded that Jesus had to die in the sinner’s place.
- our God is completely righteous in His character, He is perfect in His purposes, and He is totally just in all His ways
- His attributes include His Eternalness, His Faithfulness, His Goodness, His Impartiality, His Changelessness, His Infiniteness, His Justice, His Longsuffering, His Love, His Mercy, His Omnipotence, His Omniscience, His Sovereignty, His Transcendence, His Wrath, His Wisdom and a handful of others
- the Scriptures use one word to describe the sum total of God’s attributes and character, His purposes and ways
- that word is Holy
- "My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel." (Ezekiel 39:7, NASB95)
- “But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:16, NIV84)
- "Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:1-7, NASB95)
- He did so to express His holiness by judging sin in and through the Son
B. MEN ARE PROFANE AND DEPRAVED
- sin is not just something we do, it is something we are
- we are not sinners because we sin
- we sin because we are sinners
- the Bible has nothing good to say about our character or our behavior
- yes, we are the Creation of God
- it was He who molded us from the clay of the earth and breathed into our race the breath of life
- but we are fallen race due to our disobedience and our utter neglect of God
- the Apostle Paul took a deep look at himself and wrote:
- "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:18-19, NASB95)
- our mind
- our emotions
- our will
- that God chooses to redeem some by giving them the gifts of repentance and faith is a loving and merciful act of His sovereign grace
- some of you might say, “Pastor, you’re being awfully pessimistic about your fellow man.”
- let me respond this way: “Have you watched the news lately?”
- "Do you think it’s possible for any mere mortal to be sinless in God’s sight, for anyone born of a human mother to get it all together? 15Why, God can’t even trust his holy angels. He sees the flaws in the very heavens themselves, 16So how much less we humans, smelly and foul, who lap up evil like water?" (Job 15:14-16, The Message)
- ILLUS. Billy Graham, in his book The Secret Of Happiness, writes, "Now, the Bible teaches that our souls have a disease. It is worse than dreaded cancer, polio, or heart disease. It is the plague that causes all the troubles and difficulties in the world. It causes all the troubles, confusions, and disillusionments in your own life. The name of the disease is an ugly word. We don't like to use it... In our desire to be modern, we (have) almost forgotten it, but once again we are beginning to realize that it is the root of all man's troubles. It is sin."
C. JESUS SUFFERED AND DIED FOR SINNERS
- over the centuries, various church fathers, scholars and theologians have advanced any number of reasons why Jesus was crucified
- let me tell you why Jesus did not suffer and die
- Jesus did not suffer and die because of sinful choices—Jesus was sinless
- Jesus did not suffer because He made poor choices—Jesus choice to go to the cross in obedience to His Heavenly Father’s will
- Jesus did not suffer and die because of poor planning—the Scripture tells us that Jesus knew all that was going to take place in the next few hours
- “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” ” (John 18:4, NIV84)
- “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31, NIV84)
- “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, NIV84)
- “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, NIV84)
- “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation ... God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19, 21, NIV84)
- in becoming our substitute, God the Father judged our sin in His Son, and by so doing, was forced to momentarily turn His face away from His only begotten Son
- the Old Testament Prophet, Habakkuk declared of God, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; ... " (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV)
- during the thirty-three years of his earthly life, Jesus enjoyed unbroken communion with the Father
- he never had a thought that was out of harmony with the Father’s mind
- he never had a volition that didn’t originate in the Father’s will
- he never had a moment spent out of the Father’s conscious presence
- what then must it have meant to be “forsaken” now by God!
- when God the Father, hid His face from God the Son, this was the most bitter ingredient of that cup which the Father had given the Redeemer to drink
- God broke fellowship with His Son because He could not look upon sin
- in doing so, the Apostle Paul writes that God credits us—with Christ’s righteousness and holds us blameless
- "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Ephesians 1:4-6, NIV)
- the unregenerate sinner is spiritually bankrupt, destitute, in dept to the world, the flesh and the devil, and destined for a spiritual debtor’s prison called hell
- we could not get out of debt by ourselves
- but—Praise God—Jesus paid the debt and set me free
- Jesus is my Get-out-of-Jail-free card!
- ILLUS. There are any number of hymns that speak to me. But over the years, one in particular has blessed my soul. The title is What Wondrous Love is This. The hymn’s tune is an old American folk song that was popular in the South. I can not sing this hymn and not get choked up! (Hymn #143)
- "And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12, NIV84)
- ILLUS. Someone once said that the Christian is to "Live [a kind of life] so that when people speak evil of you no one will believe it."
- in forsaking his son god revealed his Judgment upon sin
II. IN FORSAKING HIS SON GOD REVEALED THE NECESSITY OF A VICARIOUS SUBSTITUTE FOR US
- that word vicarious has important meaning for us
- it's a word that means two things
- First, it means to take part in the experience or feelings of another
- when Jesus took my sin, and your sin upon his shoulders, He suddenly knew what it was to experience the guilt and pain that sin produces in a man’s life
- we are use to sin, we’ve all been sinning all of our lives
- sinning is literally second nature to us
- but Jesus had never sinned—He was the spotless, sinless, holy Lamb of God
- "Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!" (Hebrews 4:15, CEV)
- "He had to be one of us, so that he could serve God as our merciful and faithful high priest and sacrifice himself for the forgiveness of our sins. 18And now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else who is tempted." (Hebrews 2:17-18, CEV)
- “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV84)
- ILLUS. During World War 2, at the Ravensbruck concentration camp, a young Orthodox nun from Russia was imprisoned. The other prisoners called her “Mother Maria”. During her two and one-half years of internment she was spoken of as "that wonderful Russian nun" because she had done so many good things to help relieve the suffering of others in the camp. Even most of the German guards grew to love and respect her. One day a group of Jewish women were being led away to the gas chambers for exection. As they were standing in line, one of the young women began to cry hysterically. Mother Maria walked over to her and said, "Don't be frightened. Look, I will take your turn." And so the young nun took the other woman’s place. The guards did not notice her, and she went through the line and was gassed with the others. When the German soldiers realized the mistake they had made that day, the gassing was halted. Though it only lasted a few days, the death of a righteous woman had stopped the gassing at least for a while.
- she died in the place of another—that’s what Jesus did for sinners
A. GOD JUDGED JESUS ON THE CROSS SO HE WOULDN’T HAVE TO JUDGE ME IN HEAVEN
- Jesus' death dealt forever with the awful penalty of sin
- ILLUS. In his commentary on Matthew, William Hendriksen writes, "Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead."
- because he faced the cross and its rejection, becoming sin who knew no sin, I need not face the awful, eternal separation from God that sin brings in this life and at death
- in my sinfulness God has every right to consign me—and all sinners—to an eternal hell
- but Jesus took my place in line
- when Jesus cried out from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? it was not a cry of despair or hopelessness
- when he utters these words, Jesus is actually quoting Scripture
- he is quoting the first line of the 22nd Psalm—a very well-known Psalm in Jewish life
- it is a Psalm expressing victory rather than despair and defeat
- "For the choir director; upon Aijeleth Hashshahar. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. 2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. 3Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. 4In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. 5To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed." (Psalm 22:1-5, NASB95)
- Psalm 22:24 “For he [that is, God] has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” NIV
- I believe he is saying: "You may think that God has forsaken me, but as a matter of fact God has been right here with me through this whole business and will bring triumph and salvation out of my suffering.''
- that’s good news!
CON. The great liberal quest of the last two centuries has been to establish Christianity as a faith without a divine Christ, an atoning Savior, or a reigning Lord. The Missouri theologian, Richard Niebuhr, summed up the growing theological liberalism in our culture, when he wrote that what most Americans want is, “A God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross”. (The Kingdom of God in America).
Personally, I prefer the old fashioned religion of Isaac Watts. In one of the great hymns of the church he writes: Alas, and did my Savior bleed And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head For sinners such as I? At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!