Mark 15:33-34

I was reading a Christian blog last week and one of the articles noted how far the Church of Scotland has departed from Biblical Christianity. To illustrate the point, the article had an embedded video of a sermon that the Church of Scotland posted on YouTube. The minister began his sermon by telling how he had recently been invited by the University of Edinburgh's Humanist society to be part of a panel celebrating Darwin Day. During the event, a student asked him,

"Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins? I thought Jesus' death was part of God's plan. I thought He had to die."

The minister said that he answered her, saying,

"No, no no no. That's ghastly theology. Don't go there. You don't want to go there."

He continued and stated that there is a widespread misunderstanding that Jesus died in our place, that Jesus paid the price for our sins. He said that in his view that is an obstacle to evangelism. It portrays God as a potentate who demands blood for offenses He has suffered. Our sins have offended Him and He demands a blood sacrifice. He said that he was embarrassed even explaining substitutionary atonement because

"in some sense it is quite immoral."

It was hard to listen to his sermon because it was so unbiblical. It was obvious that he doesn't believe the Bible. For example, one of the reasons he gave in support of his rejection of Jesus dying in our place was the fact that Jesus was put to death by the Romans as a terrorist. He said,

"In the gospels Jesus was killed by the Roman authorities because he was deemed to be a threat to the Roman state. He died a terrorist. He was crucified, a very public, humiliating death. The message of crucifixion was clear for all to see— This is what happens to those who challenge us. The history of his death is that he was killed by the powers that ruled the world, not as a payment for sin. It's not there."

Much of what he said is just not true. It is true that Jesus was put to death by the Romans. But Pilate, the Roman governor, didn't want to put Jesus to death. He declared that He was innocent of any crime. Jesus wasn't put to death as a terrorist. Rome wasn't concerned with Jesus at all except to placate the Jews. Pilate put Jesus to death to please the Jewish authorities and some of the Jewish people.

Also, according to the Bible, Jesus was sinless. He didn't have any sins of His own. He never committed any sin. Death is the result of sin. So how could He be put to death by the Romans, or anyone, unless He voluntarily laid down His life for others.

It was obvious that the minister rejected the Bible's teaching. That minister, and many others today reject what the Bible teaches about Christ's death. Some of what they say is extreme sacrilege. In his book,
Christ Crucified, Donald Macleod quotes Joanne Carlson Brown and Rebecca Parker from their book, For God So Loved the World. They state,

'to argue that salvation can only come through the cross is to make God a divine sadist and a divine child abuser'."

It's almost unbelievable that they would talk that way about Biblical Christianity.

One of the ideas that is especially abhorrent to modern theology is the idea of God's wrath. In his great little book,
Knowing God, J. I. Packer notes,

"The subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter."

But the divine anger against sin comes to the fore in many places in Scripture—one of those places is our text. It says, (Mark 15:33–34)

"At the sixth hour darkness
came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
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?"

This cry from Jesus is full of meaning. This morning we're going to look at what it teaches us so that our faith in Jesus' and His work on our behalf will be strengthened.

The main thing we are going to look at is the question Jesus posed. He asked God,

Why have you forsaken me?

Some people will tell you that when Jesus made this cry He was coming to the realization that He was not the promised Messiah after all, that He was mistaken about His mission and His work.

But there is conclusive evidence against that. Jesus came into this world to die for us. He embraced that mission. In Luke 12:50 He said to His disciples,

"But I have a baptism to undergo,
and how distressed I am until it is completed!"

And in John 12:23–33 we read,

"Jesus replied, 'The hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls
to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The man who loves his life will lose it,
while the man who hates his life in
this world will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me;
and where I am, my servant also will be.
My Father will honor the one who serves me.'
Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!'
Then a voice came from heaven,
'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.'
The crowd that was there and heard it
said it had thundered;
others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, 'This voice was for your benefit, not mine.
Now is the time for judgment on this world;
now the prince of this world will be driven out.
But I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself.'
He said this to show the kind of death
he was going to die."

And in Mark 10:45 Jesus said,

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said, (Mark 14:24)

"This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many."

So Jesus' cry in our text is not one who was disillusioned, mistaken about His mission. No, quite the contrary.

If Jesus' cry is not cry of despair, an unknowing 'why', then what is it?

It's a of abandonment, of utmost grief.

There are three things about this I want to note. First, before we plunge to the darkness, note that

there is faith in spite of abandonment.

Jesus cried out,

'My God, my God…"

There is hope there. It is a cry of abandonment but we must see it in the context of Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. There are three references to Psalm 22 in Mark 15. Mark 15:24 refers to Psalm 22:18 where Mark says that they divided up Jesus' clothes, casting lots to see what each would get. Verse 29 refers to Psalm 22:7 when it says that those who passed by hurled insults at Him. And of course our text refers to verse 1 of Psalm 22.

It is clear that Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm. A thousand years before Jesus was born David described Jesus' sufferings on the cross and some of the events that would happen in conjunction with it.

But Psalm 22 is about more than the sufferings of the Messiah. It starts out an overwhelming sense that God has forsaken him. This is in stark contrast to God's holiness, His enthronement in Zion and His past faithfulness in delivering those who trusted in Him. (Rikk E. Watts, Mark,' in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; p. 235)

But the end of the psalm is different. There's a remarkable reversal. Verse 24 describes it. It says of God,

"For he has not despised
or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help."

Psalm 22 has a dramatic reversal. The Psalmist suddenly sees that God has answered Him. Thus, (Rikk E. Watts, p. 235.

"the psalm uniquely progresses from the deepest distress and suffering (22:1–21) to the most expansive praise and thanksgiving for deliverance."

Rikk Watts continues,

"it is hard to understand why Mark would work so hard at evoking Ps. 22 if he did not also expect his informed readers to know exactly what was coming next: a startling reversal and deliverance… this is precisely what they get. In keeping with the conclusion of Ps. 22, a representative of the Gentiles confesses Jesus to be the Son of God (15:39; cf. Ps. 22:27), reference is made to God's dominion (15:43; cf. Ps. 22:28), life is regained (16:6; cf. Ps. 22:29), and proclamation is encouraged (16:7; cf. Ps. 22:30–31)."

There are such remarkable parallels between Mark 15 and Psalm 22.

Donald Macleod says of Christ on the cross here, (Christ Crucified, p.

"Yet, somehow, there is no despair. Even at the lowest point, in the black hole of dereliction, faith and hope still breathe, as they must, for unbelief and despair are sin, and would have rendered his sacrifice void. Faith must walk where there is no light (Isa. 50:10). Even when Jesus cannot say 'Abba!', he can say 'Eloi', my God: the God he loves and serves and still, somehow, trusts. Maybe this is what he dreaded as he trembled in Gethsemane, that his mind would break in an unbearable anxiety of separation, when he realized that Abba was out of sight and out of hearing. But in the end, though hope may not burn, it flickers, even in the darkness."

Secondly, we should notice that this is a most astounding cry.

How incredible it is that Jesus would have to ask this.

These words must have echoed through heaven like none ever did. Here we have the beloved of the Father, the One who never displeased Him, the One who loved Him and did His will—crying out and acknowledging that He has been abandoned. In John 4:34 Jesus said,

"My food is to do the will of him who sent me
and to finish his work."

How pleased He was to do the Father's will. How perfectly He did it. In John 17:4 Jesus said to the Father,

"I have brought you glory on earth by
completing the work you gave me to do."

At Jesus' baptism, (Matthew 3:17)

"a voice from heaven said,
'This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.' "

And on the Mount of Transfiguration, (Matthew 17:5)

"While he was still speaking,
a bright cloud enveloped them,
and a voice from the cloud said,
'This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!' "

Yet, here on the cross—Jesus is abandoned. He is given over to God's wrath.

At this point in His suffering Jesus doesn't even call God, "Father".

When He was nailed to the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know that they are doing." (Luke 23:34) When He was about to lay down His life, He said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46) But here there is no feeling of intimacy. William L. Lane writes, (Mark, NICNT; p. 572-573.

"The sharp edge of this word must not be blunted. Jesus' cry of dereliction is the inevitable sequel to the horror which he experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane (see on Ch. 14:33–34, 36). [Mark, p. 573] It must be understood in the perspective of the holy wrath of God and the character of sin, which cuts the sinner off from God (cf. Isa. 59:2). In responding to the call to the wilderness and identifying himself completely with sinners, Jesus offered himself to bear the judgment of God upon human rebellion (see on Ch. 1:9–11). Now on the cross he who had lived wholly for the Father experienced the full alienation from God which the judgment he had assumed entailed. His cry expresses the profound horror of separation from God. 'Cursed is everyone who hangs upon a cross' was a statement with which Jesus had long been familiar, and in the manner of his death Jesus was cut off from the Father (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21). The darkness declared the same truth. The cry of dereliction expressed the unfathomable pain of real abandonment by the Father. The sinless Son of God died the sinner's death and experienced the bitterness of desolation."

Every week we recite the phrase from the Apostles' Creed,

"He descended into hell."

What does that mean? He told the criminal on the cross that he would be with Him that day in Paradise. He committed His spirit to the Father. So it couldn't refer to His soul.

John Calvin understands the descent into hell as happening before Jesus' physical death. Donald Macleod writes,

"what Christ suffered in his body and what he suffered in his soul. It is to the latter, according to Calvin, that the descent into hell refers: 'The point is, that we might know not only that Christ's body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.'"

Donald Macleod writes, (Christ Crucified, p. 49)

"Yet there is a 'why?'. It is not the 'why?' of protest or self-pity, but the 'why?' of the Righteous One, conscious of personal innocence and knowing that not even Holiness itself can find a spot in him. But it is also the 'why?' of a unique sufferer who has momentarily lost sight of the great divine purpose which his suffering was progressing, and asking, like the great Afro-American spiritual, 'Lord, how come me here?' Let us remember that Jesus' human mind was finite and that at any one moment he could be in possession of only some, not all, of the facts. Had the great mutual undertakings and promises of the covenant of redemption slipped out of his mind? Had he lost sight of what he had earlier known so clearly: that his life would be a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)? Had he forgotten that he had a future as well as a present, a rising again as well as a dying? Almost certainly, for a moment. All he 'knows' is that he is a 'worm and not a man' (Ps. 22:6); and his faith is a question, not an answer: 'why?"

In all this there is no defect in Jesus. He is still the Holy One of God. But on the cross, the darkness closes in around Him. He is made a curse. He experiences wrath. He is made sin for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that
in him we might become the righteousness of God."

How can it be? Such darkness there.

But it must be in order for us to be saved. And as Hebrews 9:22 says, in the context of Christ's death.

"In fact, the law requires that nearly everything
be cleansed with blood, and without
the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

Verse 28 of Hebrews 9 says,

"so Christ was sacrificed once
to take away the sins of many people;"

Now all this shows us that Jesus was abandoned by God in order to save us. It shows you Christians

how much God loves you!

John 3:16 says,

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one
and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

The fact that the Father gave the Son for us shows the depth of His love for us. The fact that Jesus came, embracing the most horrific death for us—shows the unbounded love of God for us.

In order for human beings to be saved, the atonement was absolutely necessary. Why did God forsake Jesus? It was because it was the only way for us to be saved. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, (Matthew 26:39)

"My Father, if it is possible, this cup be taken from me."

But it was not possible for human beings to be saved any other way. Therefore Jesus had to be made a curse.

Thus when you read or hear the cry of Jesus, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" you should think about how much God loves you. Christian, Jesus suffered for you. He took your punishment. He was abandoned and died for you.

At what cost. The thought of Jesus being abandoned ought to be something that humbles you, amazes you, that causes you to be in awe of God, that He Himself, in Jesus—should take that wrath for you. Incredible. Astounding.

Secondly, know that

the fact that Jesus was forsaken means that you will never be forsaken.

Jesus has taken care of that for you. How you should be assured of the great truth of Hebrews 13:5, where God has said,

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

What comfort, what assurance you should have.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

you need Jesus.

Your sins have separated you fro God. Isaiah 59:2 says,

"But your iniquities have separated you
from your God; your sins have hidden
his face from you, so that he will not hear."

Romans 1:18 says,

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against
all the godlessness and wickedness
of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,"

Your only hope is to repent of yours sins and turn to Jesus. Do that now.