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Br Rd Good Friday 2004 _WHY_

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33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at 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?”


We turn to this “saying of Jesus from His cross” as the culmination of our series in Christ’s use of Scripture.  Deliberately and with great significance Jesus chooses a passage from the Psalms to express His anguish.

No one can read Psalm 22 without a sense of profound awe.  It is one of those passages of scripture that demand that we “take off our shoes” – for the ground is holy and we are unworthy.

It is the Psalm of the Cross – not only because of its opening verse that Jesus used at His crucifixion – but because it contains so many clear allusions to the death of Jesus.

7 All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

8 “He trusts in the Lord;

let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.”


a band of evil men has encircled me,

they have pierced a my hands and my feet.

18 They divide my garments among them

and cast lots for my clothing.

Isn’t it remarkable?  Isn’t it worthy of much study?  That the words of the Psalmist could approach so closely to the narrative of the crucifixion?

Yet the words that Jesus chooses to use upon His cross express the desolation, the cruel anguish of a suffering we cannot imagine.

In examining these words this morning I want to consider three simple aspects of a very profound text:

·       The words for the Psalmist


·       The words for the Saviour


·       The words for the Sinner

The words in the Psalm MUST be understood against that threefold pattern

·       The words must reflect on the experience of David, the Psalmist

·       The words must be seen in the context of Christ and His cross

·       The words must provoke in me a personal response.

For the APPLICATION of these words lies in WHAT CHRIST WAS DOING when He spoke them – consciously alluding to the Psalm – and in His agony misunderstood by the crowd:

45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 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 v 45,46

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Have you ever felt that God had forsaken you?

Of course none of us can even think of approaching the level of suffering that Jesus had when he used these words – but I suggest to that before ever these words came to apply to Him – they struck a chord in many, many hearts – who in moments of great crisis have said that it seemed that God had forsaken them.

These were already words of deep emotion that others had used before the time of Jesus – and before we came to see them as PROPHETIC – as pointing down the centuries to that darkest of all days – before that they had significance for the original writer:


We cannot guess what circumstance prompted David to write these words – but presumably they were born of a REAL EXPERIENCE.

David’s life was a varied tapestry – like many other lives – which contained many a deep scarlet thread of suffering:

From the critical moments of his youth – faced with wild beasts

Through the long run-in with Saul

Especially in the awfulness of Ziklag

On to the sin and consequences of sin in his mature life – when faced with judgement and it’s consequences – in the break up of his family and the rebellion of Absalom.

Many, many times he might have penned those words.

But I notice that although they seem very bleak and desolate they are not without a deep residual faith.

He does not doubt God’s existence – he does not accuse God of going back on His character – God is still “MY GOD, MY GOD…”

The first writer was a man of deep faith – a man of theology. Yet such was the nature of his experience that he feels his life to be at odds with his theology.

Something troubled him so deeply as to cast a shadow across his faith and wring from him such a bitter response.   “WHY hast thou forsaken me?”

Was he wrong to utter the words?   Surely not.

So often the honesty of the Psalms has provided us with a ready made response in our own situation.

God provides in the language of the Psalms – a language for us to use when we too are confronted by such deep crisis as his.

But because the words are PROPHETIC as well – they point us forward to the ONE who makes not only USE of these words in His greatest work – but MEANING and SIGNIFICANCE for us.   They CANNOT be understood just for David – or even JUST AS WORSHIP – they POINT US INEXORABLY TO HIM WHO USED THEM BEST:

So that we in turn are pointed on – away to Jesus.



Our Lord would have known the Psalm by heart – and He would have known too it’s prophetic significance.

Because He suffered in a way we cannot imagine – but in a way which is also utterly human – He also needed the words to speak at such a time.

So when My Lord Jesus uses these words he does so in a new sense.   For that which was at the heart of His suffering upon the cross – SIN – elicited from Him a statement that shatters the silence of heaven as angels watch aghast as the Creator Son of God suffers upon the cross.   He feels what David could not feel – that awful desolation as the Father turns away from the Son – the Son who bears the sins of the world.

No one has ever been as forsaken as He was forsaken. No  one has been in such a state as Jesus was for you and for me.

“Why hast thou forsaken me?” It is not the why of impatience. It is not the why of despair; it is not the why of doubt. It is the human cry of intense suffering, aggravated by the anguish of His innocent and holy life. That awful and agonizing cry of the loneliness of His passion! He was alone. He was alone with the sins of the world upon Him.[1]

But whereas the Psalmist was able to cry out for help from the very God who he says has “forsaken” him – Jesus – by the very nature of what He was doing on that cross cannot call for help.   He suffers completely and alone – so that His OTHER SAYING from the same cross might be fulfilled:    “FATHER FORGIVE THEM….”

Learn here how hard it is to forgive.  How hard to bear the sins of the world. How awful to deal with our sins in completeness.

Jesus interprets the words of the Psalm in a way David could not have imagined possible.

He FULFILS the Psalm in Himself – in order that He might FORGIVE US.


Have you ever felt that God has failed you?

The question hangs in the air. 

When hard times come – then I have to say that, like David, I complain bitterly to God – but I still trust Him.  I do not understand His ways – but I still believe in Him.   It seems that the only answer I am going to get for a while is an answer that points to the cross and says – “Was that fair?”

So His words have the deepest possible significance for my Lord – but also the deepest significance for me too.

For a world that knows in a lesser way – but nevertheless in a real way the DARKNESS of suffering,  of injustice, of an inexplicable desolation - for that world the LORD OF CALVARY ADDS HIS OWN “FATHER FORGIVE THEM”

and APPLIES the suffering to “every soul and mine”.

There is a QUESTION HERE.  There is pain in the cross – pain that transcends all that we know about pain. There is injustice in the cross, and humiliation, and a vast sense of alone-ness.   But that same Saviour dying for me offers me AN ANSWER that transcends logic, a justice that defies our understanding of the law, a hope that blossoms from the ground at its feet.

You have to look with me this morning to that Cross on which Jesus died for us – and you have to see it’s significance.   It is the answer of a loving and faithful God to a world of people who care nothing for Him and behave as if He wasn’t there. 

When David first wrote the words of his Psalm he could have no idea what they would one day mean.  But way back then God had worked it all out and was preparing the very script on the anvil of one man’s suffering.   It is not a mistake – He planned it.   It is not a failure – for He is risen. 

And if I shout at God in any bitterness or disappointment of my own situation I am silenced by the Son of God upon His cross. 

That is God’s answer.

You may turn away if you wish – but you will find PEACE and FORGIVENESS and SALVATION and HOPE nowhere else!

There is no other Way.


Why did the sinless Son of God suffer so much?

“Why have you forsaken me?”



Friends – you brought many questions with you to church this morning – I have no doubt of that!

But here is a question that must be answered.

Still the drama is played out – if not in the cinema[2] - then in the High Street. Across the battle fields of the world – in the wards where sick and suffering reigns – in the black world of poverty and vice and exploitation and terror -  Still the message of Christ’s death upon that cross echoes out across an uncaring and selfish world.

God’s great statement – the exclamation point of the Cross in the paragraph of the world’s sin.

I have a glimpse of the meaning to the Psalmist


I try to fathom the meaning to the Saviour


What about the sinner?

Does it matter to you?  You who pass by? 

Why did He die?

For me – Oh God!  for me!       :     How will I respond?

                                        HYMN (on the printed sheet) How great…


[1]McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary.

[2] The Passion of Christ

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