God's Holiness on Display
It was noontime on Crucifixion day. The crowds had gathered to see the ghastly sight. A sight that took place somewhat regularly under Roman rule in Palestine. It was not out of the ordinary to see convicted criminals nailed to crosses. It was gory, gruesome, and offensive. Every person gathered knew that the stigma of hanging on a cross was real and poignant.
If you were hanging there, you were there for execution - yes, execution, but also public shame. The message that came from the cross was “here hangs one who is worthy of the worst form of death.” The message that came from the cross is “here is one who is utterly worthless and is being disposed of.” The message that came from the cross was “here hangs one who is not to be pitied, but only to be despised.” And those messages were effective, for crucifixions, as gruesome and offensive as they were, often created bloodthirsty crowds who were there for a show of disciplinary power - this was especially true on this day.
It was noontime on Crucifixion day. All was going as planned for the ones entrusted with the title of executioner. Three men were being put to death in this shameful way on this particular day. Two men, flanking the center, were being punished for rightly tried and convicted crimes. Two men were receiving the recompense that was due their action. Two men were being executed for evil that warranted the punishment in that day. Two men were suffering justly for their own misdeeds. Two men were getting what they deserved - But one was not.
One man was suffering this horrific death because of the crimes, misdeeds, evil actions, The Sin of others. The man being put to death in the center was the only man who did not earn his place there. But the one being executed between two criminals was the only one who really understood what was taking place.
It was noontime on Crucifixion day. What was previously a scene lit by noontime sun suddenly became encompassed by darkness. The midday suddenly became midnight. During that darkness, Amid the cries of confusion, the panic and dismay, the searching for someone who could explain the sudden eclipse, there came a voice from the man on the center Cross -
“Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani” - that is, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”
Of course, these familiar words are the words of Christ Himself - they are the words of the suffering Servant. The Words of the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd who was laying down His life for His sheep. The cry could not have come at a more dramatic moment - the tension could have been cut with a knife.
Some have taken these words and surmised that Christ died in dismay, in rejection, in uncertainty, in questioning. Some take these words and surmised that Christ was in confusion, in bitterness, in tension between doing the will of God and wanting to do otherwise.
And although these words reveal agony and suffering unlike anything that any other has ever undergone, what they do not reveal is suffering that is somehow separated or removed from God’s will. They do not reveal a suffering of confusion or lack of control. They do not reveal a suffering that is hoping for a good outcome.
Rather, what these words of Christ from the Cross reveal is suffering, anguish, pain, and agony that is perfectly in line with God’s plan from before the foundation of the world. They reveal a suffering that is not plan C or even plan B, but a suffering that was chosen, prescribed, and foretold by God Himself. They reveal a suffering that is not without purpose or meaning. They reveal the Gospel itself - that God would be forsaken by God as Christ, the God-man, took the sins of all who would call upon his name on his body. That he would suffer the punishment that we deserve, and not just a physical agony, but the very fulness and reality of the wrath of God. This cry of despair from the Cross is the beginning of a beautiful account of God making atonement for our sin.
Why do I say all this of just one phrase? is why.
As we have already read,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
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?”
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?”
Reading these phrases together as such, we get a glimpse into a beautiful thing that God has chosen to reveal in His word. A thing that He did not have to reveal, but a thing that pleases Him for us to know. It takes us to that day and gives us just a passing glance at what was going through the mind of Christ while he was suffering on the cross. It has been said that while Christ was on the cross, he was thinking of each person that he was dying for. That very well could be true, after all, it is very possible for God to think of so many people in a short amount of time.
It has been said that while Christ was on the cross, He was thinking of those around him at that time and in days previous. His mother, John the beloved, his disciples, Judas who betrayed him. Certainly he was thinking of these, and many other things passed through his mind in the time leading up to, and the time of, the crucifixion.
But what this phrase, and others he uttered from the cross, tells us is that apart from all these other things he could have been thinking about, what was on Christ’s Mind, what was in the forefront of his thought, what was the central focus of his meditation during this grueling trial was Scripture.
What was on Christ’s Mind, what was in the forefront of His thought, what was the central focus of His meditation during this grueling trial was Scripture.
It is no coincidence that Christ quotes exactly from psalm 22. has been called the Psalm of the Cross because of its absolutely unmistakable description of the events that took place on the day of Crucifixion. Any serious student of scripture can see that , although written by David, is not about David in any significant way. David experienced hard times, harder than we, but never did he experience a trial of this magnitude. This psalm is prophetic in the most obvious of ways, and it is a miraculous tool of God to put His work on display generations before the event took place in time.
What we see in is God’s Holiness on display in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.
As we look at this psalm,
May we gaze upon God’s Holiness in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.