I don’t pretend to understand exactly what happened, but I think it may have been the Lord’s most terrifying and difficult moment of the six-hour crucifixion. It’s the only saying from the cross that Mark records:
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down” (Mark 15:33-36).
Listening to our Lord’s plaintive cry is gut-wrenching. Why have you forsaken me?
He had been betrayed by Judas. He’d been abandoned by the apostles. The throngs of followers who loved his miracles had apparently been swayed by his enemies.
But he still had the Father, right?
Something mysterious happens here, something dark and ominous. I think Jesus is being judged for sins he never committed. I think he’s being judged for your sins and mine.
Just a few days earlier Jesus had associated darkness with judgment (Mark 13:24), and just before he died the whole land became dark. Then Jesus asks why God has forsaken him.
Paul would later write that “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became sin for us. He was our sin offering. And because he was sin, somehow, inexplicably, God forsook God.
The Father abandoned the Son.
The excruciating pain of crucifixion must’ve been awful, but that wasn’t the worst part. The flogging, the mockery, the taunts and insults—that must’ve been almost unbearable. But just before Jesus died he experienced his worst moment.
God forsook Jesus so that he might accept us. He became sin so that we might become righteous. The worst part of the cross for Jesus became the best part for us.
That’s when he took what our sins deserved.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!—Chuck