Mark 15:34

Sermon preached on May 21, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

I once heard a very novel theory about memory. Apparently it came from Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple computer. In the early 80's he was injured in a plane crash and suffered a concussion. The result was that he had some memory loss. But he also lost a couple of teeth in the crash. As a joke he came up with the theory that our memories are stored in our teeth. I guess he would point to his missing teeth to explain his memory loss. To further bolster his theory, I heard that he would suggest something to the effect that the reason we don't have any early childhood memories is because at first we don't have any teeth and then we lose our baby teeth!

The theory doesn't hold water but Steve Wozniak had some fun with it.

It's interesting that Christianity is sometimes attacked with theories that don't hold any more water than the one about memories being stored in our teeth. For example, not long ago I read a critique of Christianity that said that because the Hebrew Old Testament was written with just consonants, and no vowels—that no one could ever be able to decipher its true meaning.

But that's nonsense. There are newspapers in Israel today that publish in Hebrew and they just use consonants, they don't include the vowels. Yet people buy them, read them and understand them very well. There's no doubt about the meaning of the news stories. If they didn't make sense then no one would buy them. That objection is nonsense.

Another nonsensical objection to Christianity is based on our text. On the cross Jesus cried out,

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

Some people have suggested that this was a cry of disillusionment, that Jesus finally realized that He was wrong about being the Messiah, that He was surprised that God hadn't rescued Him from the cross—and that this cry of despair and disappointment shows clearly that Jesus was wrong—that He was not the Messiah.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What I want to do this morning is to examine what this passage teaches us about Jesus' sufferings on the cross so that we can appreciate more the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

The first thing we see here is that

from the cross Jesus declared that He was the long awaited Messiah, the One who would come and bear the sins of His people.

From the cross Jesus showed that He was the fulfillment of Psalm 22. Jesus words are a direct quote from Psalm 22:1. When the New Testament quotes the Old Testament the quotation is often a pointer to the context of the quote in the Old Testament. In other words, you would miss much of the meaning if you just looked at the quote itself. They want you to go back and look at the Old Testament context. As William Lane writes, (Mark)

"in accordance with Jewish practice, the citation of the first verse implies the entire psalm…"

That is the case here. Psalm 22 is a graphic and detailed prophecy of Jesus' suffering on the cross. It tells of Jesus' hands and feet being pierced, of his clothes being divided, of them casting lots for them, of the people mocking and tormenting Him. But even more than that we should note that it's not a psalm of despair. Although it does go into great detail about the anguish and horror that Jesus faced, it shows the purpose of His suffering and how He will cause others to praise God and how many will be saved. The psalm ends on notes of triumph, peace and serenity. Indeed, it's a psalm that exhibits great and remarkable faith in God. We see that even in verse 1. Jesus began with great words of faith. Even facing depths of horror He did not despair. He said,

"My God, my God…"

Those are words of faith and trust in God. John Calvin writes,

"Although the physical senses feared death, faith was firm set in his heart; for by it He saw God present, while He complained of His absence."

Thus we see that rather than being a cry of disillusionment, rather than being a cry of despair—Jesus is showing that He is the fulfillment of the suffering servant prophecies of the Old Testament. He is the fulfillment of Psalm 22, of Psalm 69, of Isaiah 53. Consider the words of Isaiah 53:4f,

"Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep,
have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD'S will to crush him
and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light[of life] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant
will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities."

The Old Testament predicted that a Redeemer would come and suffer. Right after the sin of Adam, God said to Satan, (Genesis 3:15)

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Abraham was taught about this when God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22. But just before he was going to do so, God intervened. He stopped him and provided a ram that was caught in a thicket instead. He told him to offer the ram instead of Isaac. Abraham called the place, "The Lord will Provide" because the Lord provided a substitute. The ram died in place of Isaac.

Thus we see that on the cross Jesus was not declaring that He was disillusioned, that He was mistaken, that He was disappointed. Quite the contrary He was emphatically declaring that He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies—of Genesis 3:15, of Genesis 22, of Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Isaiah 53.

The second thing we see in our text is that

Jesus was absolutely forsaken by the Father.

On the cross Jesus bore the wrath of God for our sin. His sufferings there were not just of a physical kind. Although His physical sufferings were great, His main complaint on the cross regarding His sufferings did not involve the physical aspect—but the spiritual. He complained that He was abandoned by God. We read, (Mark 15:34)

"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?'"

William Lane writes, (Mark, p. 572)

"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."

John Calvin adds,

"This was His chief conflict, harder than any other agony, that in His anguish He was not given relief by His Father's aid or favor, but made to feel somehow estranged. He did not only offer His body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but also in His soul He bore our due pains: He was truly made the Man of sorrows, as Isaiah says (53:3)."

Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due to our sins on the cross.

What we should understand here is that

the curse upon sin was death in all it's fullness.

In Genesis the curse threatened was death. If you sin you will surely die. Unfortunately death entails so much.

Part of the curse upon sin was separation from God. We see the first evidence of separation in the Garden of Eden after Adam sinned. You'll remember that when Adam and Eve heard God approaching after their sin, they hid themselves. (Genesis 3:8f) When God called out to Adam, "Where are you?" Adam replied,

"I heard you in the garden,
and I was afraid because I was naked;
so I hid."

Adam knew he was not worthy to be in God's presence. Adam and Eve were put out of the garden.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. This separation from God is profound and horrific. Indeed,
sinful man is threatened by God's holiness. In Isaiah 6 we read,

"In the year that King Uzziah died,
I saw the Lord seated on a throne,
high and exalted,
and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Above him were seraphs,
each with six wings:
With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet,
and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another:
'Holy, holy , holy
is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'
At the sound of their voices
the doorposts and thresholds shook
and the temple was filled with smoke."

How did Isaiah respond? What was his reaction? Did he say, "Wow. This is great." We might think that because His vision was indeed wondrous. But Isaiah's reaction showed that the vision of God was profoundly threatening. His reaction was,

"'Woe to me!'
'I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD Almighty.'"

Isaiah was traumatized. He felt like he was totally destroyed. He was filled with dread and horror. R.C. Sproul writes,

"he caught one sudden glimpse of a Holy God. In that single moment all his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, make naked beneath the gaze of the absolute standard of holiness… The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed—morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed."

He said, "I am undone." The word 'undone' means to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled, to be pulled apart. It also has connotations of being absolutely overwhelmed. Isaiah felt like he was going to be pulled apart and destroyed. R.C. Sproul writes, (The Holiness of God, p. 43)

"What Isaiah was expressing is what modern psychologists describe as the experience of personal disintegration."

Isaiah pronounced woe upon himself. He felt he was in danger of disintegration.

Indeed, the full measure of such horror is described in the Bible as the 'second death'.

We all know that Adam died. In Genesis 5:5 we read,

Adam lived 930 years,
and then he died."

But physical death was not the exhaustive outworking of the curse upon sin. Revelation 21:8 tells us that after the last judgment,

"the cowardly, the unbelieving,
the vile, the murderers,
the sexually immoral,
those who practice magic arts,
the idolaters and all liars—
their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
This is the second death."

The second death is total abandonment by God, abandonment to His wrath. In the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:13 Jesus likened to 'darkness' where there will be 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'. Verse 10 of Revelation 20 tells us that the lake of burning sulfur will be where the devil, the beast and the false prophet will be thrown. It says,

"They will be tormented day and night
for ever and ever."

It's a place of unimaginable anguish.

All these things give us a glimpse into the sufferings of Christ on the cross. When Jesus cried out in anguish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." He was experiencing death in its fullness. He was experiencing so much horror—the horribleness of being abandoned by God.

Can you imagine how it must have felt for Him to take our sin upon Himself? He was pure and holy. For our sins to be imputed to Him, to have them accounted as His own—how horrible that must have been for Him.

I remember when I was in school one of my classmates got sick. He was in the next row over from me and I guess he felt this wave of nausea come over him because he suddenly jumped up out of his seat and started to turn to walk toward the door. But as soon as he stood up it all came up and he threw up all over one of my friends who was sitting behind him. It was horrible. Can you imagine what it would be like?

Multiply that by billions and billions and you'll have some idea of what Jesus experienced in taking our sins to Himself.

But even more that that He knew it would disrupt His fellowship with the Father—the fellowship that He delighted in. We can only imagine the sweetness of such fellowship now—but in the future when we are with God and experience something of what it is like—we will appreciate it so much that we will be able to understand the horror of what Jesus must have went through in taking our sins upon Himself. He knew it would cause the Father to abandon Him and pour out His wrath on Him.

The wrath of God on Jesus for our sin. That's what Jesus experienced. As we read in
2 Corinthians 5:21,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,"

Or as Galatians 3:13 puts it,

"Christ redeemed us
from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'"

John Calvin tells us that those who focus exclusively on the physical sufferings of Christ are very unenlightened,

"for Christ to make satisfaction for us He had to stand trial at God's tribunal. There is nothing more dreadful than to feel God as Judge, whose wrath is worse than all deaths. When the trial came on Christ in this form, that He was now against God and doomed to ruin, He was overcome with dread (which would have been enough to swallow up all mankind a hundred times over)" "Those who reckon that Christ took on the office of Mediator on condition of bearing our guilt in soul as in body will not wonder at the struggle He had with the pangs of death; as though under the wrath of God, He were cast into the labyrinth of evil."

Psalm 69 describes the horror of the cross for Jesus. (various verses) Jesus said,

"Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore what I did not steal.
You know my folly, O God;
my guilt is not hidden from you.
For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother's sons;
When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love,
O God, answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O LORD,
out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly,
for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
redeem me because of my foes.
You know how I am scorned,
disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy,
but there was none,
for comforters,
but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst."

He was sinking and there was no one to help. His eyes failed in looking to God. He was abandoned by God and experienced the utmost horror and suffering.

I have
three applications from this.

First, for Christians, the fact that Jesus was abandoned by God means that

you will never be abandoned by God.

By His work Jesus saved you. Your sins have been paid for. The result is that God will never leave you. In Hebrews 13:5-6 we read that God has said to His people,

"'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'
So we say with confidence,
'The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.'"

John Piper writes about the future of Christians with God in heaven, (Contending for our All, p. 73, 78)

"our final destiny is… being able to see the glory of God without disintegrating…""Christ really and effectively absorbed all the wrath that was owing to His bride."

How wonderful it will be—and it's all because Jesus was cursed in your place.

Secondly, this means that you should love Jesus with everything in you.

Thankfully, you will never know the horrors that your sins deserve. Oh, your sins. How they endangered you! How they threatened you! You were cursed. You were doomed. The very fiber of your being was in danger of being torn apart as you would be cast away from God into the lake of burning sulfur. Oh, the horrors that would have been ours! But we will never experience them—because of Jesus and His work. Father, through your Spirit help us love Jesus with everything that is in us.

Lastly, those of you who are not Christians,

this passage should frighten you.

Before He went to the cross Jesus asked the Father if it were possible that this cup would pass from Him. But it was not possible. The curse upon sin is death—death in all its horrific fullness.

Don't go there. Don't experience death in its fullness. Flee from it. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. Turn from your sin, go to Jesus and He will save you. He will deliver you from that wrath and bring you to glory.