Tim Keller | March 23, 1997
Of all of the sayings of Jesus from the cross, this one that is preserved in the original Aramaic as they heard it, translated “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is easily the most disturbing, the most perplexing, and the most confusing.
In our lives we’ve always had lapses. At various times we’ve had to say to people, “I said that and I did that, but it wasn’t really me. That’s not the me I want to be. It was a lapse. You have to understand that. Please forgive me.” This is not a lapse. This is not a failure.
As a matter of fact, if you can understand the meaning of this question, you have the ultimate–the highest, deepest, richest–grasp of who Jesus is and what he came to do. This is who Jesus is. Let’s find out, first of all, what the question tells us, and then we’ll be able to turn and find out what the answer is.
When Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it can be confusing. But these words are not about losing faith. Instead, they reveal who Jesus really is and his purpose. Understanding this can help us grasp Jesus’ identity and his God-given mission.
1. The extent of his suffering on the cross
Jesus Christ suffered physically and emotionally. However, the most painful part was feeling abandoned by his Father. The story connects the darkness during Jesus’ crucifixion to the dark loneliness of hell, indicating his spiritual pain. It also uses the idea of entropy, or decline, to show how sin can damage the soul. But God’s presence can stop this decline, bringing warmth, joy, and purpose. The idea of hell is seen as a self-chosen separation from God, who some consider a harsh master. This separation is more painful than any physical suffering.
2. The source of his strength
Despite his suffering, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to God, showing his divine nature and dependence on the Holy Spirit. His use of prayer and Scripture, like Psalm 22 during his crucifixion, highlights how his sacrifice can bring people closer to God. To truly understand and feel Christ’s strength, we need to believe in the Bible and find hope and joy in remembering Jesus’ sacrifice.
February Book Offer
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
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