Easter is the time of year when people that embrace Christianity, whether true believers or not, observe days and events that bring the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ before us.
In order to understand the circumstances that caused Jesus to make the statement "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46, we need to realize a little of what the Bible is about. The Old Testament portion is an account of a nation. The New Testament is the account of a Man. That nation was founded and nurtured by God to bring THAT MAN into the world. His mission; "I come ever to do My Father's will." His Father's will was the cross.
After the Last Supper, Jesus and eleven of His disciples went to the Garden of Gethesmane to pray. He was suffering terrible mental anguish in anticipation of the sin load He would take on the cross.
Matthew 26:39: "And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
This scripture describes our Lord's attitude toward this terrible event and what he was going to experience. His attitude was obedience to His Father's will and his action was to pray and do His Father's will.
Some time before this there was a meeting on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were present and witnessed Jesus' glory. Moses and Elijah appeared and they and Jesus discussed His coming decease and how it would be accomplished in Jerusalem.
Jesus was ready to face the moment that all eternity had waited for--a violent end to His perfect, sinless life. This thing was put on Him from the darkness of man's heart and He had to be thinking about how terrible that was, but He was still aware of a greater commitment He had made to do the Father's will. He was going to drink the bitter cup of God's wrath very shortly. In spite of that, He was completely and without question submissive to the Father. This next scripture takes place on the cross.
Matthew 27:45-46 "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Isaiah prophesied the cause of this event over 700 years before when he wrote these words: "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6.
As believers we accept these words with all our hearts and with real appreciation of the Lord, but there are some things here we can't fully understand. We can't comprehend that the God of love took your sin and mine and charged it against His beloved Son. All of eternity is going to be filled with the wonder of this truth, Christ paid for my sin as my Substitute before God.
The three hours our Lord spent in darkness on the cross is the very heart of His suffering to redeem us from our sins. That darkness was both physical and spiritual. He hung on the cross in broad daylight for three hours as a spectacle to the world. Then God ordered the sun to withdraw its light. Scripture says, "There was darkness over all the land."
The sun powers all the lights of the universe and God made all the lights of the universe go out.
It seems that God put a shroud of mourning around His dear Son while He was dying on the cross. No one, not God nor man, was to look on Jesus while He became sin for all mankind.
This wasn't an eclipse of the sun because an eclipse doesn't bring total darkness, and doesn't last more than a few minutes. This was something the world had never seen and it drew attention to the fact that the Son of God was being crucified.
The darkness was a warning and at the same time a hope for fallen mankind. The whole universe was in utter darkness while the death of the Son of God was taking place on earth.
No human had ever seen total darkness at any time since the world began. Before Adam and Eve were created, "the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep," Genesis 1:2, but then God created the sun and there was light from then until this moment. One of the plagues in Egypt was darkness for three days but the Children of Israel in the Land of Goshen had light. This darkness was over all the land and was at noon, and the sun shines the brightest at noon and for several hours. This was something very much out of the ordinary and far beyond the course of nature.
It would be a frightening thing for men anywhere, but what were the men around the cross who made fun of the Son of God during the hours when it was light, thinking now?
The darkness lasted until 3 P.M. That's the hour for the evening sacrifice in the Temple. When the light re-appeared and the priest prepared the sacrificial lamb, what were his thoughts when he saw that the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom? Under the Law, God promised sudden death to any but the high priest who looked into the holy of holies behind the veil.
If the priest was one who believed the Old Testament prophecy he may have thought the Messiah had truly come and now they had crucified Him. If he was a non-believing priest he might say that God was up to His old tricks of trying to scare them into obedience with another miracle.
That darkness was an expression of the wrath of God. Jesus was made “a curse for us,” and now during that darkness on the cross, He was feeling the full wrath of God that was meant for us.
God tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” The Son of God had no sin of His own and, since He had none of His own, He wasn't subject to death, yet here He was put to death in our place. And since He took our place there, He endured the wrath of God in it's fullest.
It was as if Jesus said, "I take full responsibility for all your sins and accept the punishment that goes with it."
We could look at this another way. God caused this darkness as an expression of the powers of hell. In Luke 22:53, Jesus said, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." From this point of view, the world was shrouded in Satan's darkness in an attempt to hide the meaning of the cross and it's redemption for mankind.
God had given man an opportunity to express his feelings and now he was showing all his hatred for God by crucifying his Son. One of the most spiteful ways people sometimes take out their hate on another person is to harm their child.
There's another analogy. This darkness could be seen as the love and mercy of God in blanketing the world to cover and hide man’s shameful sin.
The cross manifests the love of God, for “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “He loved us, and gave Himself for us.”
God's love and mercy put a black shroud over the world so that man would never know the full extent of his own wickedness. If man really realized the extent of his wickedness he would hide from God in a state of absolute hopelessness and despair. Our first ancestors must have felt something like this. They tried unsuccessfully to hide from God in the Garden of Eden because of their sin.
Jesus was alone in the darkness. Even His disciples were gone for fear that they might be crucified too. It was near the end of this darkness that Jesus gave this awful cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
We can't begin to understand the meaning of that awful cry. When you think how the Son of God was co-equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, this seems like the eternal fellowship was breaking apart. That's simply deeper than human understanding can go.
I believe, in God's all powerful way, the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man was still given strength from the Father and the Holy Spirit to endure the cross, but He was left totally without any comfort from Them.
That separation is what caused this bitter cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” We'll never understand His experience there in this darkness on Calvary. You may disagree with me on this, but I don't believe Jesus went to hell as to a place, but no one can deny that the wrath He endured was the full suffering of hell. God’s wrath is hell, and hell is God's wrath.
During this time, our Lord knew all the sufferings of hell for all men, but at the same time, like the burning bush Moses witnessed, He wasn't consumed by it.
Those words, “My God, My God,” show that even when the Savior was denied and forsaken all comfort from the face of God, He still claimed God as His God and Father. He held no doubt that what He was doing was the righteous thing that would please God.
Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. I'm sure you know that story. Even though he was forced to do this, he did a good work, carrying the cross, and according to man's views he might even have expected a reward from God for that.
We don't know if his experience there may have led him to believe in Jesus for salvation, but it wouldn't have been through any works that he did.
By way of contrast, the thief nailed on the cross who was saved did nothing and could do nothing but believe. Here are his words:
Luke 23: 42-45: 42:And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43: And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
44: And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45: And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
The thief asked Jesus for forgiveness and was given that forgiveness, even on the cross.
In Isaiah 45:3, it says, “I will give thee the treasures of darkness”
Think of the treasures that came out of that darkness when our Lord suffered there for us!
If you are a believer, He promised us an Eternal home with Him in Heaven.
He promised to share any joys or trials we might experience while on this earth.
When our time comes to leave this earth He promised to take us to be with Him for Eternity!
Those are just some of the treasures that came from the cross and those three hours Jesus spent in total darkness there.
Christ died in the darkness on the cross for your sins and mine. His only purpose was to do the Father's will. God's will was to provide a way for sinful man to be declared innocent of their sin by God. Anyone who will confess their need of a Savior and will believe that Christ died for their sins will be saved eternally.
"And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!" Acts 16:31