Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 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 27:45-46, ESV)
On the cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfectly righteous and perfectly obedient to God the Father experienced the unthinkable. He was forsaken by God. On the cross God the Father turned His face away from God the Son and Jesus experienced for the first time relational separation from His Father. God treated Jesus as if Jesus was not His Son.
God treated Jesus like you deserve to be treated and I deserve to be treated. Scripture is clear that we have all broken God’s law and is clear that the wages of our sin is death and is clear that this death that we deserve is climaxed in Hell. And Hell is ultimately a forever separation, a forever rejection, a forever abandonment by God. In Hell God will relate to people not as Father but as wrathful judge and God’s wrath is so awful that in one Scripture it’s described as a burning, fiery lake. Other times it is described in terms of outer darkness. This is powerful and terrible imagery that Scripture uses to describe the torment and the intensity and the solitude of Hell. You deserve it. I deserve it. But Jesus didn’t deserve it. But that’s exactly what He received on the cross.
Somehow Jesus received the full force of God’s wrath in just a moment in time on the cross. But in crying out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is not simply expressing the intense feeling of separation from His Father. Jesus is also quoting the Bible. Psalm 22 to be exact. He’s got this specific Psalm on his mind which is not simply a Psalm expressing anguish. It’s a Psalm that anticipates vindication by God.
Psalm 22 anticipates the mocking that Jesus received, it anticipates him being surrounded by deadly enemies, it even anticipates wicked men casting lots, gambling for Jesus’ clothes. But it also anticipates God’s deliverance.
After his expression of anguish, the Psalmist confidently declares that God will deliver him from the horn of the wild oxen, that God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. He looks forward to a time when God will be praised in the congregation of the righteous in the aftermath of his rescue, and Psalm 22:24 says that God has not hidden His face from him.
The Psalm that begins by lamenting being forsaken by God, ends with an anticipation of God’s mighty deliverance and it’s this Psalm that’s on Jesus’ mind as he hangs on the cross. He is in anguish, He is in torment, He is abandoned, but He knows it is only temporary, and He ultimately trusts that God will restore Him because He is innocent. Jesus may have been mocked, and cursed, and beaten, and accused but God will vindicate Jesus and declare Him totally innocent when He raises Jesus from the dead three days later!
And it turns out that though Jesus was smitten and afflicted by God, the prophet Isaiah tells us why:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6, ESV)
Because we deserved death we needed a substitute to die in our place, and none of the lambs sacrificed in the Old Testament could ultimately deal with our sin and make us right with God. We needed Jesus, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God. His death and His blood can make us righteous.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:21
God killed His Son for sinners like you. Jesus laid down His life rebels like you. Therefore if you put your trust in Him right now Jesus’ payment for sins will count for you. You will be cleared and pardoned of your transgression, and you will be righteous in the eyes of God, delivered from the eternal wrath to come, and guaranteed eternal life with God now and forevermore in heaven. That’s why Good Friday is good.
Grace and Peace,