Sometimes people get angry with God and say they’re never going to talk to Him again. They’re never going to go to church again. And they’re never going to read the Bible again.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 NKJV). I don’t think these were the words of someone in doubt. Jesus asked why, but he also cried out to the Father.
People have asked me if it is wrong to ask God why. Some would say it is, claiming it indicates a lack of faith. But Jesus asked God “Why?”
So go ahead and ask away. Just don’t expect an answer. And even if God were to answer, I don’t think you would be happy with what He said.
When the prophet Habakkuk didn’t understand why something was happening, he asked God about it. In effect God said, “I’ll tell you,” and then He gave Habakkuk the answer. But Habakkuk didn’t understand. It made no sense to him.
When we cry out to God and ask Him why, here is God’s basic answer: “I’ll tell you later, when you’re ready for it.”
It’s like explaining something complex to children. You could try to explain it now, but if you wait until they’re a little older, they will be able to understand it. In the same way, God could explain things to you now, but as you listen, you’ll say, “I don’t like that at all. I disagree.”
So God effectively says, “Let’s wait until you get to heaven, and then I’ll tell you. Then you’ll get it. Until that day, just trust me.”
When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” he was dying as a substitute for us. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf. In the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners.
Last year, a terrorist who identified with ISIS killed four people in southern France. Among them was Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame of the national police. Beltrame was the first to respond when the terrorist stormed a market, killed one person, and took hostages. As police negotiated with the terrorist, Beltrame offered himself in the place of a hostage, and the terrorist agreed. In the end, the terrorist mortally wounded Beltrame. Beltrame gave his life for others. He saved a life by giving his own.
Jesus died because we were the hostages of the devil, and Jesus took our place on the cross. In some mysterious way that we can never fully understand, during those awful hours on the cross, God the Father was pouring out the full measure of His wrath against sin. And the recipient of that wrath was Jesus.
God was punishing Jesus as though He had personally committed every wicked deed of every wicked sinner. In doing so, God could treat and forgive the redeemed ones as though they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness.
I think for Jesus to bear the sins of the world was worse than the scourging, worse than the mockery, worse than the blows to his face, and worse than the crucifixion itself. He who had never had even a single thought out of harmony with the Father was having all the horrific sins of humanity placed upon him as He died for each of us.
It was God’s most painful moment, and He went through that in our place. Jesus did all of this for us.
From the cross Jesus uttered, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NKJV). In the original language, this statement was composed of a single Greek word, tetelestai. It was a commonly used term in that day. After you finished a job, you would say, “Tetelestai!” It’s completed. It’s accomplished. It’s done.
Jesus opened the way to Heaven for us.
One day we will die. We will give our last statement and breathe our last breath. We will face death. But when Christians die, they don’t cease to exist; they simply move from one place to another. And, by the way, they move to a much better place. If you’re a Christian, you don’t have to be afraid to die.
In the book of Acts we find the account of a young man named Stephen who preached the gospel to the religious leaders. As a result they decided to execute him. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56 NKJV).
God gave Stephen a glimpse to the other side. Then Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” The Bible tells us that “when he had said this, he fell asleep” (verses 59–60 NKJV).
The word “sleep” in the Bible is a metaphor for death used only in connection with Christians. It is never used to describe the death of a nonbeliever. If you’re a Christian, one day you’ll fall asleep and go to Heaven, directly into the presence of God.
If you’re not a Christian, however, you should be scared to death of death. It should terrify you. It should mortify you.
Jesus died and rose from the dead so we could know that we would live forever in Heaven. He did all of this for us, but we must come to him and say, “Lord, I’m sorry for my sin. I thank you for dying on the cross for me and rising again. Now I want to know You in a personal way.”
Death is different for a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead after he died on the cross. Death died when Christ rose.