The day Jesus was abandoned by God

By Greg Laurie

Has it ever seemed as though God has abandoned you? Maybe you’re feeling weighed down by the very real threat of COVID-19 and the pressures along with it. Maybe you feel like God has given up on you or isn’t hearing your prayers.

If so, then you have a vague idea of how Jesus felt on the most difficult day of his life on earth.

That day, he hung on a Roman cross and cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 NKJV).

These are also the opening words of Psalm 22, one of the most unique psalms in the Bible. We would call this a Messianic prophecy, which simply means it’s one of those remarkable passages in the Old Testament that points to the Messiah.

And not only is this a Messianic prophecy, but it’s also a graphic description of the events that took place on the day of the Crucifixion. In fact, in many ways it’s more detailed and specific than the accounts provided in the actual Gospels.

What makes this psalm so amazing is that it was written 1,000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus took place. In fact, the Jews didn’t practice crucifixion, and the Romans didn’t develop it. It was a form of death initially devised by the Medes, Persians and Assyrians. When it spread throughout the East, the Romans borrowed it from the Phoenicians.

So crucifixion wasn’t even practiced when the psalmist David originally spoke of it in Psalm 22. That’s why it’s all the more remarkable. Yet the passage reads like a vivid eyewitness account of the Crucifixion.

I don’t believe that when David wrote down these words, he was describing a situation he was going through. There was nothing in David’s life that would have even come close to approaching what he described here.

I think that when David penned Psalm 22, God spoke to him in a way that enabled him to describe the suffering of the Messiah. I don’t even know that David fully grasped everything he was writing down.

Statements such as, “They pierced My hands and My feet” (verse 16 NKJV); “My strength is dried up like a potsherd” (verse 15) and “for My clothing they cast lots” (verse 18) are all vivid descriptions of what happened when Jesus was crucified.

Now, it is impossible for us as humans to completely fathom what actually took place. But I think it’s important to try and grasp what was happening here, because it’s of the greatest significance and speaks of God’s love for us.

When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” these weren’t delusional words coming from someone in pain. It wasn’t that the faith of Jesus was failing.

Rather, Jesus was in full control of his faculties. He wasn’t losing his mind. Something of profound significance was taking place, and he merely stated the truth of the situation.

We know the sin of the world was put upon Jesus at one point, because speaking of this moment the Scriptures said of Jesus, “For He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11 NKJV). The Bible also tells us, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV).

The Bible isn’t saying that Jesus sinned, because he never did. Rather, Jesus had to take our sins upon himself. We assume this probably was during the three hours of darkness while Jesus hung on the cross, culminating in his statement, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Jesus was forsaken of God for a time so that we might be forgiven. The ear of God was closed to him for a time so that it might be open to us forever. Jesus was there doing what had to be done. And only he could do it.

Understand, to be forsaken of God was much more of a source of anguish to Jesus than to anyone else. He was absolutely holy. Never during one moment of his earthly life did he have one thought out of harmony with God the Father. Never did he even come close to sinning. He was in intimate closeness with God.

This was something that had to happen in the life of the Son of God so that we could come back into a relationship with the Father – a relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden.

Yet this isn’t the way that God normally deals with his own when they face life’s hardest moments.

If you’re a child of God, you have not been – and you never will be – forsaken by God.

When you look at stories in the Bible of those who suffered, you’ll find that God always was with them in a special way.

For instance, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace for their bold profession of faith, the king looked in and said, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25 NKJV).

There was Jesus, in the flames with them.

When we read the story of young Stephen, who was being put to death because of his bold proclamation of the gospel, we read that he had a vision of heaven. He said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56 NKJV).

When the apostle Paul was speaking of his suffering and difficulties because of what he described as “a thorn in the flesh,” the Lord said to him, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT).

God met his people in times of need with special provision and comfort. And he does the same for us.

So often it’s during difficult times that we come into a greater appreciation of God’s grace and his power. That is when we really see it shine. God does not forsake his people. Jesus himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV).

If you are a child of God, you have never been – nor ever will be – forsaken by God. Jesus made sure of this on the cross.

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