141: Why have You forsaken Me?
The hours crept by slowly as Jesus hung on the cross. The sun was high in the sky and beamed down almost directly on the heads of the crucified men. Their breathing grew more and more labored.
The One who had taken away so much pain suffered this intense agony Himself. The One who had healed so many wounds hung there tormented by wounds. The One who had made the lame walk couldn't move. The One who had given life to the dead would now die, defenseless.
The One who had lived a life of overflowing love was mocked and scorned in His hour of deepest agony.
Suddenly the scoffers were silenced. They all looked up at the sky. The noonday sun, which had beamed down on them so brightly, became as red and distant as an evening sun.
It seemed as if the sun was about to disappear over some invisible horizon, withdrawing from the sinful earth. A threatening darkness moved in. A black veil settled over the earth.
In that darkness Jesus hung on the cross and endured His last struggle. It was a struggle like the one in Gethsemane, oppressive and frightening. But in Gethsemane there was still light; there were still friends nearby. In Gethsemane He could kneel and wring His hands and bow before God. An angel had even come from heaven to comfort and strengthen Him.
But now Jesus hung between heaven and earth like a condemned figure suffering a curse. He wanted to reach out toward heaven, but He couldn't. He yearned for light, but there was none. There was only thirst and fever—the anguish of death and unremitting pain. There was darkness and emptiness around Him and in His soul. Never before had He felt forsaken.
Jesus cried out to the Lord, but the Lord was not there. God had turned away from Him. In unspeakable loneliness, Jesus bore the burden of God's wrath, God's anger at the sin of the world.
That boundless, unfathomable suffering lasted three hours. Jesus' agony was so horrible that He cried out with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
That cry was heard in heaven. The darkness retreated and the sun came back. The light of God's presence also came back and filled Jesus' heart. God's wrath was stilled. He looked down upon His Son in love again.
Jesus knew that His battle was over. He had won through His complete submission.
He wanted to cry out in jubilation, but He was too weak. He was now very close to death. Hardly a sound would come from His parched lips.
He moaned, "I thirst."
The rabbis, who had heard His cry in the darkness, now had enough courage to mock Him again. Someone attached a sponge to a stick and dipped it in sour wine. When the sponge was held to His lips, the rabbis cried out, "Stop it. He cried out to Elijah. Let's see if Elijah will come and save Him."
But the man was more merciful than the rabbis. He wanted to give Jesus something to drink.
Jesus then had just enough strength to cry out in a loud voice, "It is finished!"
Now He felt no more anguish and pain. The great work that the Father in heaven had given Him was finally finished. Death could come and claim Him. In death the Father would take care of Him. Jesus was ready to entrust Himself to the Father.
He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." His head sank to His chest. He was dead.
When the King of heaven and earth died, the ground trembled and rocks split. Graves were opened, and the dead arose.
The captain who stood watching Jesus saw how He died. He said, "Truly, this man was the Son of God. This man was righteous."
The people on Golgotha, the mockers and the godless, were deadly afraid. They beat their breasts in fear. In despair they fled to the city.
Priests in the temple were offering the evening sacrifice. The beautiful curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple suddenly tore from top to bottom. Only the high priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies—once a year, on the great Day of Atonement. Now, with the curtain torn in two, the Holy of Holies was open to all.
There was no longer a separation between God and man. The priests and sacrifices were no longer needed. The great High Priest had offered the final, all- sufficient sacrifice. Atonement had been made for the sin of the world, and heaven was open to all.
This was the most glorious news the world had ever known.