Matthew 27:46


We cannot fathom the depths of the dark and mysterious experience of our Lord's last mortal agony. We must walk reverently, for here we stand on holy ground. It is only just to acknowledge that the great Sufferer must have had thoughts and feelings which pass beyond our comprehension, and which are too sacred and private for our inspection. Yet what is recorded is written for our instruction. Let us, then, in all reverence, endeavour to see what it means.

I. CHRIST AS A TRUE MAN SHARED IN THE FLUCTUATIONS OF HUMAN EMOTION. He quoted the language of a psalmist who had passed through the deep waters, and he felt them to be most tree in his own experience. Jesus was not always calm; certainly he was not impassive. He could be roused to indignation; he could be melted to tears. He knew the rapture of Divine joy; he knew also the torment of heart-breaking grief. There are sorrows which depend upon the inner consciousness more than on any external events. These sorrows Jesus knew and felt. We cannot command our phases of feeling. It is well to know that Jesus also, in his earthly life, was visited by very various moods. Dark hours were not unknown to him. Having experienced them, he can understand them in us, and sympathize with our depression of spirit.

II. CHRIST AS THE ATONEMENT FOR SIN FELT THE DARK HORROR OF ITS GUILT. He could not own himself to be guilty when he knew he was innocent. But he was so one with man that he felt the shame and burden of man's sin as though it had been his own. As the great Representative of the race, he took up the load of the world's sin, i.e. he made it his own by deeply concerning himself with it, by entering into its dreadful consequences, by submitting to its curse. Such feelings might blot out the vision of God for a season.

III. CHRIST AS THE HOLY SON OF GOD WAS UNUTTERABLY GRIEVED AT LOSING THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS FATHER'S PRESENCE. There are men who live without any thought of God, and yet this is no trouble to them. On the contrary, they dread to see God, and it is fearful for them to think that he sees them. These are men who love sin, and therefore they do not love God. But Jesus lived in the love of his Father. To lose one whom we love with all our heart is a cause for heart-breaking anguish. Jesus seemed to have lost God. To all who have the love of God in their hearts any similar feeling of desertion must be an agony of soul.

IV. CHRIST AS THE BELOVED SON IN WHOM GOD WAS WELL PLEASED COULD NOT BE REALLY DESERTED BY GOD. Not only is God physically near to all men, because he is omnipresent, but he is spiritually near to his own people to sustain and save them, even when they are not conscious of his presence. The vision of God is one thing, and his presence is another. We may miss the first without losing the second. Our real state before God does not rest on the shifting sands of our moods of feeling. In the hour of darkness Jesus prayed. This is enough to show that he knew that he was not really and utterly abandoned by his Father. In spiritual deadness, when it is hard to pray at all, the one remedy is in prayer. Our cry can reach God through the darkness, and the darkness will not last forever; often it is the gate to a glorious light. - W.F.A.







My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
THE DESERTION ITSELF IS PLAIN. "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Then He felt Himself to be forsaken? The Divine nature could not be separated from the human; He was eternally God. Nor could the Father be separated from the Son in the Divine Godhead, since that in affection and will He was insolubly one. Nor could the Father forsake the Son in any sense that He ceased to love and uphold Him; for at that moment Christ was accomplishing that act of holy obedience worthiest of the admiration of Deity.

I. THERE REMAIN THREE SENSES IN WHICH IT MIGHT BE SAID THAT HE WAS DESERTED OF HIS FATHER.

1. In the first place, it might be said that He bore at that moment the wrath of God on account of our sins. How could the Almighty, as He loved His Son, convey to the mind of Christ a sense of that wrath which was not real?

2. In the sense that God forbore to interfere on Christ's behalf to terminate those sufferings, and rescue Him from the hands of His enemies. But many saints have endured as great physical sufferings without complaint.

3. That our Lord was suffered in this hour of anguish to be left destitute of the sense of His Father's love, and care, and protection. There is a close connection between mind and body; so that when the body is languishing in pain, the mind contracts a sensibility as keen, and shudders at the approach of the least suffering, which in a state of health it would meet unmoved. But there was far more than this in Christ. The comunications which God makes to the minds of His people are directly from Himself; this he is free to give or withdraw. I suppose that on this occasion our Saviour had it withdrawn. It is clear that however pious, however convinced of acceptance with God, there can be a state of mind in which a Christian may be deprived of the present sense of the Being of God; and that this will inflict great misery.

II. OUR SAVIOUR'S COMPLAINT UNDER THE DESERTION. Our Lord made no complaint of the nails and spear, but is now urged to lament.

1. Consider the nature of that sorrow which our Lord at this time experienced. Love is a great source of misery or happiness; the former if withdrawn. If so in human objects, how much more as regards Divine.

2. The complaint of these words — "Why hast Thou?" He was forsaken by His disciples, but now forsaken by His best Friend, and at a moment when He most needs consolation and help. The Almighty thus marks His view of sin. Christ hung upon the cross that we might never be forsaken by God. Every ungodly person is advancing to that sentence, "Depart from Me," etc.

3. That God may desert for a moment in the same sense, and in that sense alone, those whom He still loves and upholds. There is nothing in the relationship of a child of God to prevent that experience, and it may be a requisite discipline, by which sin is embittered.

(B. Noel, M. A.)

I. THE IMPORT OF THE REDEEMER'S LANGUAGE.

1. It does not mean that the Godhead of Christ was separated from His manhood, so that His humanity alone was present on the cross.

2. The language is not that of murmuring.

3. It is not indicative of distrust.

4. It is not that of despair. All sensible comfort is eclipsed.

II. SOME OF THE GREAT DESIGNS TO BE EFFECTED THROUGH THIS DESERTION.

1. The punishment due to the sins of the people was herein endured.

2. The manifestation of God's regard for the honour of His law.

3. That He might be like unto His people in all things.

4. The brightest pattern of confidence in God.

5. To enable Him to enter upon His mediatorial glory.

(J. R. Mackenzie.)

I. The surroundings of the sufferer uttering this wail of distress.

II. What is the import of this lamentation of Jesus.

1. It is not the result of any corporeal pain being endured. There are two primary causes for this cry.(1) In a manner beyond finite comprehension God then withheld from His dying Son, as the latest and most appalling ingredient of His atoning sufferings, a cloudless consciousness of His supporting presence.(2) Track His public ministry and He is never found murmuring as to His Father's absence. In demonstration of his moral fidelity Daniel went down into the den of lions; but God was with him. Jesus Christ, the purest character, was the only one dying for the Father's glory, who could not by possibility secure a consciousness of the Divine presence and favour amidst His pains.

2. This seeming abandonment of His suffering Son was the crowning manifestation of God's wrath against sin. Christ was man's representative at Calvary. The cross at the ninth hour of gloom is the loftiest observatory from which men look at sin.

3. The value at which God rates a human soul is seen in this cry, and the responsibility of the unsaved.(S. V. Leech, D. D.)

Thus the will of Jesus, in the very moment when His faith seems about to yield, is finally triumphant. It has no feeling now to support it, no beatific vision to absorb it. It stands naked in His soul and tortured, as He stood naked and scourged before Pilate. Pure and simple and surrounded by fire, it declares for God. The sacrifice ascends in the cry, "My God." The cry comes not out of happiness, out of peace, out of hope. Not even out of suffering comes that cry. It was a cry in desolation, but it came out of faith. It is the last voice of truth, speaking when it can but cry. The divine horror of that moment is unfathomable by human soul. It was blackness of darkness. And yet He would believe. Yet He would hold fast. God was His God yet. "My God" — and in the cry came forth the victory, and all was over soon. Of the peace that followed that cry, the peace of a perfect soul, large as the universe, pure as light, ardent as life, victorious for God and His brethren, He Himself alone can ever know the breadth and length, and depth and height.

(G. Macdonald, LL. D.)

He does not even say "My Father," the term of endearment, but employs the sterner word, as though more fully to express the desolation which He feels. We may not, however, understand these words as though they signified that the union of the Godhead and the Manhood was at this time dissolved; that could never be. The union between the Father and the Son could never be severed, though for a while the vision of the eternal Presence of God was removed from our Lord's human nature. Let us try to discover why it was ordained that this terrible desertion should take place.

1. It was no doubt designed in order to prevent our supposing that the indissoluble union of the Godhead with the Manhood in our Lord's Person would interfere with His suffering, to the full, the agony of death as Man. It was for our sakes, that we might be established in the true faith concerning Himself.

2. Hence we gather from it that it was not only possible for Him to suffer, but that He really did suffer as none ever did before or since. His martyrs in their hour of trial were strengthened and refreshed by spiritual consolations, but He would die the very bitterest death, bereft of all.

3. From our Lord's privation of all sensible comfort we may learn somewhat concerning the sinfulness of sin. One drop, indeed, of that precious blood would have been enough to save the world from the punishment of sin, and from its power, but He would pay the full price, and drink the cup of sorrow to the very dregs.

4. In the abandonment of Christ we may learn, if we will, what our deserts would be if we were dealt with only in rigid justice. He was forsaken that we might never be forsaken. He was left to suffer the loss of all consolation in order the more fully to convince us of the greatness of His love.

5. How very terrible it must be to be deprived for ever (as the finally reprobate will be) of the presence of God.

(J. E. Vaux, M. A.)

Take heed thou thinkest not grace decays because thy comfort withdraws .... Did ever faith triumph more than in our Saviour crying thus! Here faith was at its meridian when it was midnight in respect of joy. Possibly thou comest from an ordinance, and bringest not home with thee those sheaves of comfort thou used to do, and therefore concluded, grace acted not in thee as formerly. Truly, if thou hast nothing else to go by, thou mayest wrong the grace of God in thee exceedingly; because thy comfort is extrinsical to thy duty, a boon which God may give or not, yea, doth give to the weak, and deny to the strong. The traveller may go as fast, and ride as much ground, when the sun doth not shine as when it doth, though indeed he goes not so merrily on his journey; nay, sometimes he makes the more haste; the warm sun makes him sometimes to lie down and loiter, but when dark and cold he puts on with more speed. Some graces thrive best (like some flowers) in the shade, such as humility and dependence On God.

(W. Gurnall.)

Sometimes God takes away from a Christian His comfort, but He never takes away His sustaining presence. You know the difference between sunshine and daylight. A Christian has God's daylight in his soul when he may not have sunlight; that is, he has enough to light him, but not enough to cheer and comfort him.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

Two reasons why Christ chose to express Himself on this occasion in the language of David.

1. That the Jews might call to mind the great resemblance between His case and that of this illustrious king and prophet.

2. This psalm was allowed to belong to the Messiah, and to have its ultimate completion in Him.

I. Consider the style Christ makes use of in addressing Himself to God — "My God, My God." This seems to denote His innocence, His choice of God for His God, and His filial trust and confidence in Him.

II. In what sense was Christ forsaken by God in His passion?

1. Are we to believe that God was angry with His well-beloved Son?

2. If God was not angry, might not the Son apprehend that He was, or at least doubt of the continuance of His Father's love to Him?

III. The reasons of God's thus forsaking His beloved Son.

1. To add the greater perfection to His example.

2. To increase the perfection of His atonement.

3. To contribute to the perfection of His priesthood.

4. To render His triumph the more glorious.Two reflections:

1. How should this endear the Redeemer of the world to us, who was willing to suffer such things for our sakes.

2. This part of the history of our Saviour's passion carries in it a great deal of instruction and consolation to His faithful disciples when they are in like circumstances with Him.

(Henry Grove.)

In the Hebrew way of speaking, God is said to leave or forsake any person when He suffers him to fall into great calamities, and to lie under great miseries, and does not help him out of them; and therefore Zion, being long afflicted, is brought in by the Prophet Isaiah (ch. 69:14) thus complaining: "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." And the psalmist, as he is frequent in this complaint, so does he manifestly explain himself in the words following the complaint of his being forsaken: "Why art Thou far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?"

(Whitby.)

I. That Christ, being in extremity, was forsaken.

II. Being forsaken, He was very sensible of it, and from sensibleness complains, pouring out His soul into the bosom of the Father.

III. He not only complains, but believes certainly that His Father will help Him.

IV. And to strengthen His faith the more, He puts it forth in prayer, the fire of faith in His heart kindled into a flame of prayer.

(R. Sibbs.)

I. In what sense was Christ forsaken?

II. In what parts He was forsaken.

III. Upon what ground He was forsaken. And

IV. To what end all this forsaking of Christ was. Christ was forsaken in regard of His present comfort and joy, and He positively felt the wrath and fury of the Almighty, whose just displeasure seized upon His soul for sin, as our surety.

(R. Sibbs.)

Without this last trial of all, the temptations of our Master had not been so full as the human cup could hold; there would have been one region through which we had to pass wherein we might call aloud upon our Captain-Brother, and there would be no voice or hearing: He had avoided the fatal spot.

(George Macdonald.)

This is the faith of the Son of God. God withdrew, as it were, that the perfect will of the Son might arise and go forth to find the will of the Father.

(George Macdonald.)

Troubled soul, will thou His will. Say to Him, "My God, I am very dull, and low, and hard; but Thou art wise. and high, and tender, and Thou art my God. I am Thy child, forsake me not." Then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the arms of thy faith, I say, but not of thy action. Bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not Thy feelings. Do thy work.

(George Macdonald.)

The pennant at the mast-head is a small thing, yet it shows plainly which way the wind blows. A cloud no bigger than a man's hand is a small thing, yet it may show the approach of a mighty storm. The swallow is a little bird, and yet it shows that summer is come. So is it with man. A look, a sigh, a half-uttered word, a broken sentence, may show more of what is passing within than a long speech. So it was with the dying Saviour. These few troubled words tell more than volumes of divinity.

(R. M. McCheyne.)

I. The completeness of Christ's obedience.

1. Words of obedience.

2. Words of faith.

3. Words of love.

II. The infinity of Christ's sufferings.

1. He suffered much from His enemies.

(a)He suffered in all parts of His body;

(b)He suffered in all His offices;

(c)He suffered from all sorts of men;

(d)He suffered much from the devil.

2. He suffered much from those he afterwards saved.

3. From His own disciples.

4. From His Father.Three things show the infinity of His sufferings.

1. Who it was that forsook Him.

2. Who it was that was forsaken.

3. What God did to Him — forsook Him.

III. Answer the Saviour's "Why?" Because He was the surety of sinners, and stood in their room.

1. He had agreed with His Father, before all worlds, to stand and suffer in the place of sinners.

2. He set His face to it.

3. He knew that either He or the whole world must suffer.

(R. M. McCheyne.)

I. These words do not imply, on the part of the Father, an entire and perpetual abandonment of His Son.

II. These words do not imply, on the part of the Son, any discontent or rebellion against His Father.

(A. L. R. Foote.)

I venture to lay down this as a fundamental principle — an axiom, it may almost be called — that God never forsakes any one but for one cause, and that cause, sin. He must have seen sin in Christ, or on Him. He must have seen real or imputed sin to warrant His acting towards Him as He did. There is no way of accounting for the sufferings of the Son of God — from His incarnation to His death, from the manger to the grave, from His cradle to His cross — but on the supposition of His being, in the eye of justice and the law, a sinner, the sin-bearer, the sinner's substitute. Except on the grand principle of an atonement, all this is unaccountable.

(A. L. R. Foote.)

Christ took not the desert of punishment upon Him (from any fault in Himself), He took whatsoever was penal upon Him, but not culpable. As He was our surety, so He everyway discharged our debt, being bound over to all judgments and punishments for us.

(R. Sibbs.)

I. WHAT WAS CHRIST'S DESERTION? I shall for more distinctness, handle it negatively and affirmatively. First — Negatively.

1. It was not a desertion in appearance and conceit only, but real. We often mistake God's dispensations. God may be out of sight and yet we not out of mind. When the dam is abroad for meat the young brood in the nest is not forsaken. The children cry as if the mother were totally gone when she is employed about necessary business for their welfare (Isaiah 49:14, 15). So we think that we are cut off when God is about to help and deliver us (Psalm 31:22). Surely when our affections towards God are seen by mourning for His absence, He is not wholly gone; His room is kept warm for Him till He come again. We mistake God's dispensations when we judge that a forsaking which is but an emptying us of all carnal dependence (Psalm 94:18, 19). He is near many times when we think Him afar off; as Christ was to His disciples when their eyes were withheld that they knew Him not, but thought Him yet lying in the grave (St. Luke 24:16). But this cannot be imagined of Christ, who could not be mistaken. If He complained of desertion, surely He felt it.

II. THOUGH IT WERE REAL, THE DESERTION MUST BE UNDERSTOOD SO AS MAY STAND WITH THE DIGNITY OF HIS PERSON AND OFFICE. Therefore —(1) There was no separation of the Father from the Son; this would make a change in the unity of the Divine essence (St. John 10:30). This eternal union of the Father and Son always remained.(2) There was no dissolution of the union of the two natures in the person of Christ, for the human nature which was once assumed was never after dismissed or laid aside.

III. The love of God to Him ceased not. We read (St. John 3:35).

IV. His personal holiness was not abated or lessened. The Lord Jesus was "full of grace and truth" (St. John 1:4). Neither His nature nor His office could permit an abatement of holiness (Hebrews 7:26). The Son of God might fall into misery, which is a natural evil, and so become the object of pity, not of blame; but not into sin, which is a moral evil, a blot and a blemish.

V. God's assistance and sustaining grace was not wholly withdrawn, for the Lord saith of Him (Isaiah 42:1). The power, presence, and providence of God was ever with Him, to sustain Him in His difficult enterprise.Secondly — Positively.

I. GOD'S DESERTION OF US OR ANY CREATURE MAY BE UNDERSTOOD WITH A RESPECT TO HIS COMMUNICATING HIMSELF TO US. We have a twofold apprehension of God — as a holy and happy being: and when He doth communicate Himself to any reasonable creature it is either in a way of holiness or in a way of happiness. These two have such a respect to one another, that He never gives felicity and glory without holiness (Hebrews 12:14). And a holy creature can never be utterly and finally miserable. He may sometimes give holiness without happiness, as when for a while He leaveth the sanctified whom He will try and exercise under the cross — or in a state of sorrow and affliction. Now apply this to Christ. It is blasphemy to say that Christ lost any degree of His holiness, for He was always pure and holy, and that most perfectly and exactly. Therefore He was deserted only as to His felicity, and that but for a short time.

II. THE FELICITY OF CHRIST MAY BE CONSIDERED EITHER AS TO HIS OUTWARD AND BODILY ESTATE, OR ELSE TO HIS INWARD MAN OR THE ESTATE OF HIS SOUL.(1) Some say His desertion was nothing else but His being left to the will and power of His enemies to crucify Him, and that He was then deserted when His Divine nature suspended the exercise of His omnipotency so far as to deliver up His body to a reproachful death.(a) Why should Christ complain of that so bitterly, which He did so readily and willingly undergo, and might so easily have prevented.(b) If we look merely to bodily pains and sufferings certainly others have endured as much if not more; as the thieves that were crucified with Him lived longer in their torments, and the good thief did not complain that he was forsaken of God.(c) It would follow that every holy man that is persecuted and left to the will of his enemies, might be said to be forsaken of God, which is contrary to Paul's holy boasting (2 Corinthians 4:9).(d) This desertion was a punishment one part or degree of the abasement of the Son of God, and so belongeth to the whole nature that was to be abased, not only to His body, but His soul (Isaiah 53:10).(2) As to the felicity of His inward estate, the state of His soul. Christ carried about His heaven with Him, and never wanted sensible consolation, spiritual suavity, the comfortable effects of the Divine presence, till now they were withdrawn that He might be capable of suffering the whole punishments of sins.

1. I will show how this sort of desertion is — Possible. The union of the two natures remaining; for us the Divine nature gave up the body to death, so the soul to desertion. Christ, as God, is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9). And yet Christ could die. The Divinity remained united to the flesh, and yet the flesh might die; so it remained united to the soul, and yet the soul might want comfort. There is a partial, temporal desertion, when God for a moment hideth His face from His people (Isaiah 54:7). This is so far from being contrary to the dignity of Christ's nature that it is "necessary to His office for many reasons.

2. That it is grievous. This was an incomparable loss to Christ.(1) Partly because it was more natural to Him to enjoy that comfort and solace than it can be to any creature. To put out a candle is no great matter, but to have the sun eclipsed, which is the fountain of light, that sets the world a wondering.(2) Partly because He had more to lose than we have. The greater the enjoyment, the greater the loss or want. We lose drops, He an ocean.(3) Partly because he knew how to value the comfort of the union, having a pure understanding and heavenly affections. God's children count one clay in His presence better than a thousand (Psalm 84:10). One glimpse of His love more than all the world (Psalm 4:7).(4) Partly because He had so near an interest and relation to God (Proverbs 8:30).(5) Partly from the nature of Christ's desertion. It was penal. There was nothing in Christ's person to occasion a desertion, but "much in His office; so He was to give body for body and soul for soul. And this was a part of the satisfaction. He was beloved as a son, forsaken as our Mediator and Surety. Why was Christ forsaken? Answer. With respect to the office which He had taken upon Himself. This desertion of Christ carrieth a suitableness and respect to our sin, our punishment, and our blessedness.

1. Our sin. Christ is forsaken to satisfy and make amends for our wilful desertion of God (James 2:13). Now we that forsook God deserved to be forsaken by God, therefore what we had merited by our sins, Christ endured as our Mediator. It is strange to consider what small things draw us off from God. This is the first degeneracy and disease of mankind that a trifle will prompt us to forsake God, as a little thing will make a stone run down hill; it is its natural motion.

2. It carries a full respect to the punishment appointed for sin (Galatians 3:13). It is true the accidentals of punishment Christ suffered not. As —(1) To the place, He was not in hell. It was not necessary that Christ should descend to the hell of the damned. One that is bound as a surety for another, needs not go into prison provided that he pay the debts.(2) For the time of continuance. The damned must bear the wrath of God to all eternity, because they can never satisfy the justice of God. Therefore they must lie by it world without end. Christ hath made an infinite satisfaction in a finite time. lie bore the wrath of God in a few hours, which would overwhelm the creature. Christ did not bear the eternity of wrath, but only the extremity of it; intensive, not extensive. The eternity of the punishment ariseth from the weakness of the creature, who cannot overcome this evil and get out of it.(3) There is another thing unavoidably attending the pains of the second death in reprobates, and that is desperation, an utter hopelessness of any good (Hebrews 10:27).

3. With respect to our blessedness, which is to live with God for ever in heaven. Christ was forsaken that there might be no longer any separation between us and God.Application:

1. How different are they from the Spirit of Christ that can brook God's absence without any remorse or complaint?

2. It informeth us of the grievousness of sin. It is no easy matter to reconcile sinners to God, it cost Christ a life of sorrows, and afterwards a painful and accursed death, and in that death, loss of actual comfort, and an amazing sense of the wrath of God.

3. The greatness of our obligation to Christ, who omitted no kind of sufferings which might conduce to the expiation of sin.

4. The infiniteness of God's mercy, who appointed such a degree of Christ's sufferings — as in it He gives us the greatest ground of hope to invite us the more to submit to His terms.

(T. Manton.)

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