Bible Gem 1285 - Confusion Reigns - Then and Now and in Between Times (Matt 27:46-47 / Mark 15:34-35


As promised in this Gem I will look at the various interpretations that people place on these words of Jesus. As I said in the last Gem notice there was confusion at the time Jesus made this statement on the part of those who heard it. Clearly He was not speaking in Greek. What was He speaking? Because Jesus was speaking in another language confusion reigned. As a result of what they heard there were mixed reactions for those in the crowd. Isn’t that typical? We hear what we want to hear.

There was compassion and there was scepticism among those who first heard Jesus utter those words. I wrote in Gem 1284 "many of His hearers didn't understand His purpose in what He was saying. Why would it be any different now after two millennia?” It hasn’t got clearer. It has grown more cloudy. As I reported yesterday, one questioner told me, "I have struggled with this a long time, people suggest Jesus had doubt, lack of faith." I agree with her summation on what she heard preached. Nonsense!!! The people at the time were confused. Most of those immediately around the cross or within earshot of what Jesus said were likely not Jews. Hence when they hear the words: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” or the words "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani" they respond differently. There are those of them who rush to get a sponge laced with sour wine. They were the compassionate ones. No, they were not likely getting Jesus a drink because He said He was thirsty as John records for us in his version. More to the point the sour wine was to act as a sedative. To dull the pain and likely what was interpreted to be despair with Jesus cry that we are studying now. That is what the sour wine was for. It was there to dull the pain of the crucified ones and put them into a stupor. But is Jesus really calling out these words because He was in despair. Is He indeed down, discouraged, lacking faith and doubting "His calling” as some would have us believe? I don’t believe so. I think there has to be another explanation. I think this parallels that which I addressed in Gems 76-78 related to Jesus being troubled over Lazarus' death. Jesus didn’t cry or was deeply moved because Lazarus was dead. He predicted it and He also purposed to raise Him from the dead.

Hence as the second person asking the questions on this cry from the cross said, "Jesus knew He was going to be resurrected in three days time. So why does He seem to be in despair? God knew what was going to happen . . . Jesus knew what was going to happen. Jesus is not crying out in despair that he has been abandoned. That doesn't make sense." Oh I am not saying He was not “abandoned”, “left” or "forsaken". Clearly he was. As a translator friend responded when he read the last Gem: "These were three of the most significant three hours that ever occurred. 2 Cor. 5:21 explains it – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” From the sixth hour until the ninth hour Jesus, who was without sin, took our sin upon himself. For those three hours God could no longer look upon his son and turned his back upon him. That was made clear to Jesus as darkness came over the whole land. The fellowship of eternity was shattered and it became increasingly hard for Jesus to bear as the clock ticked on until he called out to God and then died. Then the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom, there was an earthquake and some of the dead came back to life. No doubt the mocking voices were silenced. This was the greatest moment in history.”

Habakkuk had indeed declared of God, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favour.” (Hab 1:13) God in one sense did abandon His Son. Oh not that Jesus was cast out of heaven. But for the three hours on the cross God’s presence departed from Jesus. During that time Jesus lost the intimate connection with His Father. That must have been devastating. But I don’t think that is why Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” There are other explanations still to be explored.

Notice too that others in the crowd were not so compassionate. When Jesus uttered the cry rather then get him the “sop” (you can read that both ways it could be meant) they say “No wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” This response of theirs could be meant one of two ways. Firstly by those who were skeptical of what had been claimed and wanted to see if what this One on the cross said was going to happen, would indeed happen. Or their statement was another level of cruelty and mocking and they were taunting Him yet again. Confusion was the one thing that was consistent. At the time these words were spoken by Jesus they brought confusion much like they do today. As I inferred in the title I gave to this Gem, confusion has also reigned in-between-times. The confusion is said to have reigned in Martin Luther’s time as well. Martin Luther is said to have been so deeply troubled by this particular cry on the cross that he declared the mystery to be so great and imponderable that he secluded himself for a long period of time in his attempt to understand it. But after that long period of time Luther emerged again none-the-wiser as to how to explain these words from the cross. In what way was Jesus abandoned?

Others have pondered long and hard for a long time too.

Barnes comes up with the following explanations in his commentary:

My God, my God ... - This expression is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense Jesus was “forsaken by God.” It is certain that God approved his work. It is certain that he was innocent. He had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God. As his own Son - holy, harmless, undefiled, and obedient - God still loved him. In either of these senses God could not have forsaken him. But the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances, namely:

  1. His great bodily sufferings on the cross, greatly aggravated by his previous scourging, and by the want of sympathy, and by the revilings of his enemies on the cross. A person suffering thus might address God as if he was forsaken, or given up to extreme anguish.

  2. He himself said that this was “the power of darkness,” Luk_22:53. It was the time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. It was said of the serpent that he should bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, Gen_3:15. By that has been commonly understood to be meant that, though the Messiah would finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he should himself suffer “through the power of the devil.” When he was tempted Luke 4, it was said that the tempter “departed from him for a season.” There is no improbability in supposing that he might be permitted to return at the time of his death, and exercise his power in increasing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. In what way this might be done can be only conjectured. It might be by horrid thoughts; by temptation to despair, or to distrust God, who thus permitted his innocent Son to suffer; or by an increased horror of the pains of dying.

  3. There might have been withheld from the Saviour those strong religious consolations, those clear views of the justice and goodness of God, which would have blunted his pains and soothed his agonies. Martyrs, under the influence of strong religious feeling, have gone triumphantly to the stake, but it is possible that those views might have been withheld from the Redeemer when he came to die. His sufferings were accumulated sufferings, and the design of the atonement seemed to require that he should suffer all that human nature “could be made to endure” in so short a time.

  4. Yet we have reason to think that there was still something more than all this that produced this exclamation. Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shrunk from these sorrows and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us Isa_53:4-5 that “he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him; that by his stripes we are healed.” He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us Gal_3:13; he was made a sin-offering 2Co_5:21; he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering endured by Him that was due to us, and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.

Other more modern preachers and commentators seem to concur with the view of the preacher our first questioner put forward. Jesus was just simply down, discouraged, lacking faith and doubting "His calling”. A little like John the Baptist who after he had strongly convinced the crowd that Jesus was the Messiah, subsequently sent word to Jesus to ask was He indeed the one who was to come or should John expect another?

Still others appear to give up like Luther and conclude we have no way to appreciate the horrific experience of having the sins of the world put on Jesus as He hung in excruciating pain on the cross. The physical pain was immense but the spiritual anguish must have been greater.” That would explain why Jesus uttered the cry of despair that He did. It just got too much for Him and He lapsed into confusion, much like humans down through the ages.

Is that what is going on?

No I think there is a better explanation. But I won’t share it today because this Gem has already grown too long. The continuing story tomorrow when we will investigate the meaning of "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” or alternatively "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”. And has anyone wondered why there are two alternatives anyway?

Hardcore thinkers are more provoked by confusion than the most painful truths.

God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one. Anon

The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases with the acquisition of it. Laurence Sterne

Most people will never accomplish the long term great because they settle for the short term good.

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