These are words of huge significance! Concluding the immense suffering of our Saviour – both physical and emotional – he was able to declare to himself and all the children of his Father, the atonement was complete.
Although the suffering for our sins occurred more within the Garden of Gethsemane, it is quite clear that the work could only be (and was) completed through the sacrifice of his life on the cross. It is also quite clear that something significant had to occur before the sacrifice of his own life could take place. What that ‘something significant’ actually was, is largely left to our own interpretation of how the atonement occurred – the scriptures don’t elaborate on the finer details of what took place. However, whatever it was… Jesus endured it, and fulfilled his mission.
Wikipedia informs me that there are seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. I’d like to focus the ‘message’ of this blog on one before his work was finished, and the only one that is recorded in more than one account of the Gospels:
“Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34)
“Eli Eli lama sabachtahni?” (Matthew 27:46)
Translated of course to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Before our Saviour was able to complete the atonement – before that ‘something’ as mentioned above was able to take place – our Father in Heaven distanced himself from the presence of our Saviour, effectively leaving him alone. The expression of Jesus seems to indicate that this was unexpected, and with the immense pain of his suffering putting him under incredible emotional strain, perhaps some shock and frustration.
Jesus was left alone in those final stages of the atonement, and alone, he endured all to the end. There is of course a purpose in our Father distancing himself from his Son at that time, and my own opinion is that this was required as part of a final trial for Jesus.
Hebrews 5:8 tells us (perhaps surprisingly to some) that Jesus “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered“. Perhaps the final trial therefore, was to see whether Jesus would be obedient to the end, in spite of his sufferings, and distanced from the presence of his Father.
We ought to recognise from these passages of scripture that sometimes in our life, God will purposefully do the same to us. Sometimes even in those moments when we feel we need him most! We may shout out ourselves “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” but we shouldn’t doubt that he cares. In those moments when we feel alone, perhaps we truly are. Yet perhaps, there is a purpose for that, and that is that God has allowed us to experience trials, distanced from his presence… because in those moments, alone, we can both learn and demonstrate our obedience.
We should all be familiar with those final moments when a child learns how to ride a bike, and his tutor (often a parent) will ‘let go’ and allow the child to pedal alone. Sometimes the tutor will do so without telling the child… and before the child knows it, he has both learned and demonstrated his ability to ride – by himself!
Sometimes it is necessary for God to ‘let go’ of us… so that we can both learn and demonstrate our capabilities – by ourself. If God were to hold on to us at all times, we would not be able to truly learn.
Alone, Jesus endured and succeeded. May we all endure and succeed, in those moments when we feel alone – and indeed are left alone. Don’t give up. God is not far away, and he knows what is best for us!