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Jack Graham - Forsaken


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    Jack Graham - Forsaken
TOPICS: At The Cross

So I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Matthew's Gospel, chapter 27. We are at the cross and listening to the heart of God expressed in the cries of Christ in the final sayings of our Lord that He delivered while dying. And today we come to the fourth word that Jesus gave: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me"? And it is a prayer and a petition but it also a question. Now the world is filled with many questions. Questions, some that we can answer and others that we can't answer. These are some of the big questions, the big personal and often painful questions that we ask, like "Why did my child die"? Or "Why can't we have a child"? Or "Why did my husband leave"? Or "Why did my business collapse"? The big question of "Why is there evil and suffering in the world"? That's the one we ask a lot. "God, why does so much evil exist"?

Then there are the identity questions, the big philosophical questions of "Who am I and why am I here? And what is my purpose for life"? Some of these questions are this side of eternity unanswerable. They are the inscrutables, the imponderables of life. Frankly, there are times in ministry that I simply have to say to people, "I don't know the answer to that question, but we trust God who does". Well, Jesus asked a question at the cross, and it has to do really with the question of why evil and suffering exist? And what does God say about it? What does God do about it? God hung a question mark at the cross. And chapter 27, beginning at verse 45: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour (that's approximately noon) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

A supernatural darkness spread across the earth. A supernatural darkness, not a natural phenomenon of some kind, but a darkness caused by God. And it was foreboding; it was frightening! And there was an eerie sense of silence around the cross. I don't know if you've had the experience of feeling that eerie silence, that quiet before a big storm. If you've been in a tornado as I have as a child, it gets very quiet and very still and very calm and very eerie and very dark before the thunderous tornado rolls through. It was something like that surrounding the cross that day, when even the sun seemed to hide its face from what was happening at Skull Hill when Jesus was dying on the cross.

Jesus had been on the cross from nine o'clock till twelve o'clock at this point, approximately three hours. He has spoken three times. "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" He has spoken words of hope to a dying prison, a dying man on the cross "Today you will be with me in Paradise". He had spoken to His beloved mother, "Woman, behold your son" in his faithful disciple John who had returned to the cross to follow Jesus. And now, approximately three hours later, it is midnight at midday, and Jesus pierces the darkness with a loud cry. We're told that He said in a loud voice, this is a word which literally means a lion's roar. It came from deep within.

Now men typically spoke on the cross, and as people were dying on crosses there was delirious conversation and there was cursing and profanity and painful anguish that is being expressed. But when Jesus speaks here, this is not deliria, but rather it is a declaration of what is happening when Jesus the Creator died for our sin. He cried out with a loud voice and He spoke in His language. This is one of the few occasions in Scripture that the natural, common language of Jesus is given to us, Aramaic. "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani" which is to be translated "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? It was in anguish that Jesus asked this question, "Why God, why are you allowing Me to suffer in this way? Why have you abandoned Me? Why am I alone"?

I say this is an inscrutable, imponderable question. It's very difficult to explain because even Martin Luther, the great reformer and commentator pondered this for a while, for days, in fact, and fasted and prayed, asking God to show him what does this mean, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me"? And he concluded by saying, "God forsaken of God! Who can fathom that"! It's the mystery of suffering! The Bible speaks of the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of evil, and there some questions of evil and the existence of evil and suffering in the world that we can't answer yet, but here is that same question: "Why, God, have you left me alone to die"? The one who had lived in perfect fellowship with the Father from eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united; now Jesus separated and disconnected. Not in His deity. Don't think for one minute that Jesus is no longer God in His essence. But He is in experience separated from God the Father.

So the question is what is happening here? Well, I see in these words of Jesus a prophecy at the cross, a prophecy that is fulfilled. Jesus is actually speaking the words recorded by David in Psalm 22. In fact, take your Bibles, keep your place there in Matthew 27, and turn with me to the 22 Psalm. Psalm 22 is called a Messianic psalm which means that it is a prophetic psalm. It is a psalm predictive of the Messiah, who the Messiah is, what He would be like. And the Old Testament is filled with Messianic prophecies, predictions regarding the Savior to come. All the Bible centers on this question: How is man reconciled to God? How is God who is holy reconciled to sinful man? And the answer is Jesus. And so throughout all of both the Old Testament and New Testament, including Psalm 22 we have these prophecies.

One of the signals that you can believe the Bible is fulfilled prophecy. One of the reasons we believe so strongly that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior is fulfilled prophecy. And Psalm 22 is a fantastic example of that. Jesus speaks the words of Psalm 22, verses 1 and 2: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me"? And He goes on to say in verse 1: "Why are you so far from saving Me from the words of my groaning". Verse 2 says: "Oh My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest". It was both night and day when Jesus was on the cross; at midday it was midnight! Some say Jesus was simply repeating or reciting words that He had learned as a little boy in synagogue, having memorized Psalm 22. That Jesus was looking back to David and was simply reciting scripture. No, Jesus was not simply reciting scripture; He is fulfilling scripture!

This is not Jesus looking back to David as to what was said, but in prophecy it is David looking forward to Jesus and what Jesus would say. This is the promise, this is the prophecy and there are so many! These declare with high degrees of improbabilities that these things could happen in the life of one individual such as Jesus of Nazareth. And yet we see the prophecies of the Messiah perfectly fulfilled in Jesus! And Psalm 22 is one of them. I want to show you, for example. In Psalm 22, beginning at verse 14 to 18. When David wrote this it was 1,000 years before Jesus, and yet he writes it as though he was standing at the foot of the cross as if he was an eyewitness! Why? Because the Holy Spirit is predicting and prophesying how Jesus would die.

And there are things written here that he could not have known, that Jesus Himself could not have controlled... Some people want to say, "Well, Jesus manipulated the whole process, the whole Messianic process to put Himself in the game". No, not at all. What happened around the cross was beyond the control of Jesus. But beginning in verse 14 it says: "I am poured out like water". When Jesus died, they lanced Him with a spear and out came blood and water. "And all My bones are out of joint". When the cross was dropped into the ground, and oh, yes, this is hundreds, if not a thousand years before the execution by the cross was practically used. Or the Romans didn't invent it. The Phoenicians actually invented crucifixion, but the Romans perfected it, if you could call it that! And before there was such a thing as the cross, the Jewish way of execution was stoning.

So before the cross, "All my bones were out of joint". When you would drop a cross into its jagged hole, the bones and the sinews and the ligaments would tear apart. "My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast" When Jesus' died, His great heart burst. He said, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws". Next week we'll see the next words of Jesus. "I thirst", and the anguish the thirst of not only physically but eternally, "My tongue sticks to my jaws and you lay me aside in the dust of death. For Dogs encompass me; the company of evildoers encircles me;" The enemies of Christ round about. And watch this, "They have pierced my hands and my feet".

Again, centuries before the cross; he predicted that Jesus would be pierced in hands and feet. "I can count all my bones-they stare and gloat over me". When Jesus died on the cross, He died in nakedness and shame. This was a great part of the humiliation of being executed on a cross; you were just laid bare before the world. They stared at Him, the pure and precious Son of God; they're staring at Him and gloating over Him, verse 17. And watch this, "they divide my garments among them". We saw last week how the soldiers were gambling over the tunic of Jesus. "They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots".

So I'm saying I see at the cross something very precious to me regarding the word of God and the trustworthiness of God's Word, and the trustworthiness of Jesus Himself, in that I see prophecy fulfilled at the cross! But not only do I see prophecy at the cross, I see agony at the cross! "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani"! "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? This cry is a mysterious cry, as I said, impossible for us to understand. But somehow in that moment Jesus, the Savior, the Son of God is separated from God the Father! And He cries out! This has been called the cry of desolation; it has been called the cry of alienation; it is a cry of agony! Not only the physical torture of the cross, that was enough, but this, what we're reading here today, what we're seeing here today at the cross is what caused Jesus to turn away or desire to pass on the cross when He prayed in the Garden, "Let this cup pass from Me".

Jesus didn't want to die! He was willing to die, but in His humanity, He did not want to die! Why? Because of what we're seeing at the cross at this moment. The sheer horror and hell of being separated from God; cut off from His Father. To cry out "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? That's the cry of hell! When people abandoned by God in hell cry out "Why have you abandoned me"? That's what hell is: It is separation from God forever and ever. This is the cry of hell. Jesus is experiencing hell. He is plunging His soul into hell! He is walking the corridors of the damned! Why? Think with me-God is holy. The chief attribute, the cornerstone attribute of God is His holiness. "Holy, holy, holy". That means completely, unique, distinct and separate from evil, from wrong, from sin! God is holy!

And Habakkuk 1:13 says that "His eyes are even so pure that He cannot look upon evil". That he turns his back, turns away from evil. He is so pure, so holy, so righteous. And therefore, His wrath burns against sin! Because God is not only holy, He is just! And He's the Judge of the whole universe. If you wonder, why couldn't God just pronounce forgiveness; why all this blood? Why all this cross? Why sacrifice your Son? A well-known TV entertainer, commentator, Bill Maher was talking about God the other day, and said, "God is a masochist"! Blasphemous! No, God is not a masochist, but God is holy, holy, holy! God is the Judge of the universe. And you would not want to live in a universe where justice is not done!

We all cry out for justice. We all demand justice! And God presides over a righteous system; He presides over a just system where there are consequences to evil and we're getting close now to some of the answer about why evil exists, and why suffering exists: because God looks at a broken world! Broken by sin! And because of sin there is suffering and pain and anguish! So how does God fix it? How does God satisfy His justice and His holiness and at the same time love sinful man? "For God so loved the world". He did it in this act of grace offered in sacrifice. There's a big word in theology in the Scripture which is propitiation, which means that God's righteousness, God's holiness, God's wrath is satisfied in this sacrifice, not at the blood of animals but by the blood of His Son Jesus! And God laid on Jesus our sin!

"He who knew no sin", 2 Corinthians 5:21. Look at it, 2 Corinthians 5:21. "The one who was without sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God"! Jesus bears our sin; Jesus wears our sin; and therefore, He absorbs the wrath of God! He absorbs the judgment of God! All of the sin of the world, passed, present and future, yours and mine, was laid upon Jesus, and it pleased God that our transgressions were laid upon Him! And when He carried the cross, and when He wore the cross, He was bearing our sin. He is the sin-bearer. So every vile and wicked deed that you could possibly imagine, every cesspool of sin, every foul thing, every sinful thing, every murder, every rape, every lust, every perversion, all the anger, all the hate, all the wars, in that finite moment of time the eternal weight of sin was laid on Jesus, and He took it all for you and me!

This is the meaning of the cross! This is the mystery of His suffering! This is why He cried out "My God, why have you forsaken Me"? "My God"! Jesus died alone. In the chapter after Psalm 22, that psalm about the cross that we just noted, is Psalm 23. Jesus spoke of God being a Shepherd. "The Lord is my Shepherd". And he said, "When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me". Well, when Jesus walked through the valley of the shadow at the cross, God the Father was not with Him. He was alone. And there was never anyone who suffered like Jesus. Others died on a cross, others have died. In fact all will die, and then the judgment, the Scripture says. But no one has suffered like Jesus suffered, not the physical torment, but the spiritual anguish of being separated from God.

I'm so glad I don't have to end this message there. A little later Jesus would cry out on the cross, John 19:30, "Tetelestai... It is finished"! The sacrifice is complete, the demons of hell are squeaking, "Ah, He's finished" but Jesus wasn't finished; the mission was finished! The sacrifice was given! "Tetelestai"! It was not the last gasp of a dying man but the shout of a victor! And that's why I speak here at the close, not only was there prophecy fulfilled there at the cross, and agony experienced there at the cross, but there is victory at the cross! Because Jesus would later say while committing His Spirit, "Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit"! The relationship with the Father is now restored! "Into Your hands I commit My Spirit"! And the sacrifice is accomplished and Jesus is buried, and God, the Father accepted that sacrifice, and Jesus came out of the grave! And Jesus is Lord!

You see, the cross was a battle. It was spiritual supernatural battle that has been waged from eternity past. "The Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world". When Satan raised up a rebellion against God in heaven and this cosmic battle, this supernatural unseen world around is in conflict. And at the cross when Jesus died, when He suffered and sacrificed His life, this was a battle, and the battle is won! He wears the victor's crown! Jesus is Lord and He's coming again! He's coming again! I love Jesus! I praise Him for what He has done. Listen to me, He was abandoned so that you could be accepted and sit at His table. He was forsaken so that you could be forgiven. And when man's hate and sin was lifted up, God's love came down and mercy and sorrow met at the cross. And therefore, because He was forsaken, He says to His own, "I will never leave or forsake you". So when you have all those "why" questions and you wonder why you're hurting, why you're suffering, why so much pain, remember the one who suffered for you is with you and He said, "I will never abandon you".
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