“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When Jesus speaks these words from the cross, he is doing more than making a cry of lament. The words he speaks would have been recognized by those witnessing his crucifixion as coming from Psalm 22. This means that He is not just complaining to God. In speaking these words, Jesus is bringing the entire psalm into play. This lament, in the mouth of Jesus, becomes a way to understand the cross itself. With these words, Jesus shows that the psalm is about Him. Even more than being about Him, Psalm 22 is spoken by Him.
Psalm 22 starts with a lament, but it does not end there. The psalm quickly moves from the questioning of God to a declaration of confidence in salvation and the future of God’s people. In other words, Jesus does not lament in despair but in faith. His suffering is real, but so is His expectation that the suffering serves a purpose. He is forsaken, but He will not remain forsaken. And because He is forsaken no one else needs ever be forsaken. Because He was forsaken you will not be forsaken.
The speaker of Psalm 22 describes His suffering, the mocking of the people, the piercing of His hands and feet, and even the casting of lots for his clothes. He also speaks of the deliverance of God, the comforting of the afflicted, and all the nations of the earth worshiping the Lord. Out of the suffering of the one comes salvation for all. In the midst of his crucifixion, Jesus gives us a way to understand it. He gives us a way to see in the cross victory and not defeat. He gives us a way to see in His cross, His glory.
The forsakenness of Jesus becomes a message to future generations that will be added to the people of God. The psalm that begins with lament ends with a proclamation of hope. “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.” (Psalm 22: 30-31) In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Can we fathom such deep mercy? Do we see what God has done? Who can grasp this great reversal: Love that gives His only Son? Christ, the sinless for the sinners, For the many dies the One. (Jesus, Greatest at the Table LSB 446 st 4)
-Pastor Grant Knepper is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Hillsboro, Oregon.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.