Another passage under consideration as we prepare for Holy Week is Matthew 27:46, which records Jesus saying while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Not a few preachers and other interpreters of the Bible have concluded that because this is the moment in which Jesus takes on the sin of the world, God the Father’s presence departs from him. This interpretation is fraught with problems and there is an alternative interpretation that holds much more explanatory power.
In this text Jesus is citing Psalm 22:1. If we’re to read the entirety of that Psalm it is evident that Jesus doesn’t have only the first verse in mind, but all of Psalm 22. There are references in Psalm 22 that describe what Jesus was going through in the moments of his crucifixion. There are references to hands and feet being pierced, enemies dividing and gambling over clothing, being mocked, and being in utter despair.
This is no coincidence. By saying “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” Jesus is saying, “Pay attention to Psalm 22! What the David experienced in that Psalm is exactly what I’m experiencing now!”
But what is the implication of this? For starters, Jesus is identifying with David, the king whose line would produce the long-awaited Messiah. By quoting Psalm 22 Jesus is saying, “I’m the king you’ve been waiting for!” This is affirmed through the allusions to coronation in the crucifixion that come with the crown of thorns, being adorned (mockingly) in purple robes, and having a sign over his head reading, “King of the Jews.”
Again, Jesus is saying, “Although it may not seem so right now in this moment, I AM the King of the Davidic line that you’ve all been waiting for.” In other words, Jesus is offering a prophetic interpretation to Psalm 22.
Another implication of the correlation between Psalm 22 and Jesus’s death on the cross is trust in the midst of tremendous difficulty. If you’re to read Psalm 22 all the way though you would find that it’s a Psalm of trust. In this Psalm David is really saying, “Even though it feels as if I’ve been abandoned, and it looks as if I’ve been abandoned by God, I trust him entirely in the midst of these circumstances and believe that he has NOT abandoned me.” This brings an entirely different atmosphere to this saying of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus isn’t saying that God has abandoned him! In fact, he saying quite the opposite. He’s saying, “I know God has NOT abandoned me even though it may see that way right now.”
So what are our takeaways from this?
As we obey God, it will lead to trial and difficulty that is unbearable. And, in those moments, even though it may feel or seem as if God has led us into hell only to abandon us there, he has not abandoned us. In short, put your faith before your feelings. That’s what Jesus did has he hung on the cross in agony. God promises never to abandon us and he’s good to keep his word. No matter what the circumstances, put your faith before your feelings and remember that he never abandons us.