The Final Words of Christ

Published 7:21 pm Friday, April 14, 2017

By R.A. Mathews

The dying thoughts of any man are significant but much more so when they belong to Christ.

Jesus made seven statements on the cross, and one has become the subject of many Easter sermons: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Preachers often explain by saying Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the world, and God had to turn away. Ask these same ministers if God is almighty and they will say, “Absolutely.”

Omnipotence means God doesn’t have to do anything. No amount of sin would be too much for Him. So why say it? Why have many Christians come to accept this limitation on God?

Because we hold Scripture dear and Jesus said these words—so they must be understood.

I have heard others explain by saying, “Jesus just wanted it over.”

Indeed, but that’s not the same as claiming Jesus thought God had forsaken Him.

My Lutheran friend explained how her church teaches it. “God definitely didn’t leave Jesus,” she said. “But our Lord was overwhelmed and thought God had left Him.”

Completely at odds with the facts.

Was Jesus overwhelmed when stakes were driven into his hands and feet? If our Lord had thought God had deserted Him, this would have been the time.

Instead, look at what Jesus does.

He thinks of his mother’s future. Jesus says to her, “Behold, your son!,” indicating his beloved disciple. And then Jesus says to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”

Our Lord comforts the thief saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus even thinks of those jeering at Him. “Father,” He says, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And it is Jesus who gives up His own spirit. ”Father,” He says, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then Jesus breathes His last.

Our Lord is in control every moment He hangs on the cross.

So if God didn’t abandon Christ, and if Jesus didn’t feel abandoned, why did our Lord say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Jews who stood at the foot of the cross would have known exactly.

Their hope for the Messiah was much greater than ours, as was their understanding of the Old Testament. Moreover, Hellinistic influence upset the numbering of the Psalms. Thus, when a teacher referred to a Psalm, he could not say “Psalm 23.” Instead, he would speak the first line.

The first line of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A teacher speaking those words was the equivalent of saying “Psalm 22.” Jesus had merely identified a Psalm to his listeners. Nothing more. Nothing ominous!

The Bible confirms this—the word Jesus uses for God proves He was quoting Scripture. Without delving into Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, suffice it to say Jesus always spoke to God saying, “Father.” It was close and personal. Only once does Jesus use a formal, Old Testament word for God and it’s in this verse—the exact same word used in Psalm 22. There’s no doubt Jesus was quoting the Psalm.

Additionally, John, an eyewitness to the crucifixion, omits these words. Why? John chose instead to refer to Psalm 22 directly. He shows how Jesus fulfills Psalm 22, often called the “Crucifixion Psalm.” John knew Jesus’ intent.

So why was Psalm 22 so important to our Lord, considering everything He might have chosen from Scripture?

Because it says everything.

For a thousand years, God’s people had listened to Psalm 22 knowing it promised the Messiah. The Jews at the crucifixion could see the Psalm happening.

The Roman soldiers had nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross.

The Psalm says: “They have pierced my hands and feet.” Psalm 22:16

Jesus’ bones would have been out of joint from hanging from nails.

The Psalm says: “I can count all my bones,” Psalm 22:17

The Romans had gambled for Jesus’ clothes.

The Psalm says: “For my clothing they cast lots.” Psalm 22: 18

But the Psalm does more than promise the Messiah, it claims the Lord will be told to coming generations, to a people yet unborn. It says dominion belongs to the Lord. The Psalm ends triumphantly, and the Jews would have known that.

Today, there are more Christians in the world than adherents to any other faith—2.2 billion.

When Jesus said Psalm 22, He thereby said, “I am the promised Messiah and this is God’s victory!”

Our Lord could not have said it better.


© 2016 R.A. Mathews Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and author of Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.