“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” Matthew 27:45-46
Jesus knew He was going to be murdered in Jerusalem: “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Why then did Jesus call out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” on the cross?
On the cross, Jesus experienced painful estrangement from God so that we will never have to face such punishment. Despite our sin, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We will never have to experience being forsaken by God, because Jesus paid the price on our behalf.
Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, a Psalm which opens with cries of anguish, but ends in confidence and triumph. This psalm contains prophecies of Jesus’ death written hundreds of years before His death, including His pierced hands and feet, even though crucifixion hadn’t been invented when the psalm was written! Take comfort that this psalm ends with total confidence in God: “They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.” (Psalm 22:31) Done what? Conquered sin, death, and evil, once and for all, on the cross.
When you feel lonely, discouraged or even abandoned, take heart that no matter what we are experiencing, God understands our pain and is always with us as we are hurting. Though Jesus may have experienced the feeling of being forsaken, and we may at times feel the same way, and God extends an awesome promise to you, that He will never to leave or forsake you: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
What does “forsaken” mean? Why was Jesus estranged from God on the cross? If we are in Christ, will we ever be forsaken? How can we be sure?