Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
April 7, 2023
King David writes in Psalm 37, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” This statement is only comforting if you are righteous. Well, are you righteous? Have you followed God from your very heart? Have you feared, loved, and trusted in Him, forsaking all sinful pleasures for Him? Your conscience tells you no. So does Holy Scripture. “None is righteous, no not one,” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1; Romans 3:10) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) So, your own righteousness can give you no comfort that God will not forsake you, abandon you, close His ears to your prayers and cast you into hell.
Yet, here we see and hear a strange thing. Jesus on the cross cries out in dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, why? Jesus is righteous! He is the only righteous man ever to live. He has done no wrong. Even the pagan Pilate and his wife can see that! The chief priests know it too, otherwise they wouldn’t have had to gather false witnesses to condemn him. Guilty men don’t need false witnesses. Yet, not only men have declared Jesus’ innocence, but God Himself. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” declared God the Father both at Jesus’ Baptism and at His transfiguration (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). David tells us that the righteous are not forsaken, yet this righteous man is forsaken by God!
Our beautiful Savior is so marred beyond human semblance that there is no beauty found in Him (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2). He whom Scripture calls the most handsome of the sons of men (Psalm 45:2) here calls Himself a worm and not a man (Psalm 22:6). We see God’s righteous servant forsaken by God. He who alone is righteous cries to His Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
Of course, we know these words Jesus cries to God are the first verse of Psalm 22, by which David predicted the passion of our Lord. The bystanders should recognize this, but in their ignorance, they mock Him, even as they circle around Him with his pierced hands and feet, gloating over His bones and divide His clothing. They think He is crying out to Elijah, because “My God” in Hebrew sounds like the name Elijah, so they mock him. And Christ and His passion endure similar mockery today. The darkness of that night still veils the eyes of scoffers today, who do not understand what Jesus has done for them.
God forsaking Jesus is incomprehensible to us. He’s righteous. The righteous are not forsaken! Jesus is God. How can God forsake God? Yet, God the Father forsakes His beloved Son in human flesh. What is the cause of this strange and impossible sight? Love. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). St. Peter writes, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the Righteous One in exchange for the unrighteous ones, so that He might bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
Paul Gerhardt responds to this spectacle in his hymn, A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth, “O wondrous Love, what have you done! The Father offers up His Son, desiring our salvation. O Love, how strong You are to save! You lay the One into the grave Who built the earth’s foundation.”
The Righteous One died for sinners. The Shepherd died for sheep who love to wonder. God forsook God. All this, so that God could save sinners. Jesus, God’s own Son in human flesh, suffered for our sins. The physical pain he suffered was only part of His passion. Upon His soul was laid the guilt of all people. Isaiah prophesied of Him, “Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—ever one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
We shudder in horror to think what could cause the Son of God to be forsaken by God! What torment was going through His soul? It was the torment brought on by the guilt of our sins. We have put Him to grief with our sins. Our sins have wounded Him. Our sins have done this. Jesus never abandoned His God. Have you abandoned Him? Jesus never forsook God’s Word. Have you forsaken God’s teaching?
The sinner cries, “Do not forsake me, O my God!” (Psalm 38:21) The sinner cries this, because he knows he deserves to be forsaken by God. Yet, God does not forsake the sinner. David wrote Psalm 22, but he did not write it for himself. David’s hands and feet were not pierced. David’s bones were not out of joint as he hanged to the cross. No, these are Jesus’ words. They were written for Jesus. Only Jesus can say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Because only Jesus was forsaken by God.
Why was Jesus forsaken? Why did God forsake His Son? So that He would not have to forsake you. Your sins are the cause of God’s wrath. God placed your sins on Jesus. He placed His wrath on Jesus. He forsook Jesus, so that He would not forsake you! Jesus was wounded, so that you could be healed. He thirsted, so that He could give you living water to drink. He became a sinner, so that you might be righteous. He died, so that you might live.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, when Jesus, the Godman died, the wages for all sins were paid in full. In fact, the wages of sin were so overpaid that when Jesus died death was thrown into confusion and the dead raised from the tombs. Jesus’ death was too much for the graves! So, the graves rejected the dead!
Jesus’ death is too much for your sins. His suffering is more than enough punishment for your guilt. St. Paul writes, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Grace abounds over sin, because Christ, the Godman died for all sins. The prophet Micah says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) This of course is figurative language. God will not literally cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Rather, He drowns our sins in the blood of Christ. That is much better, because the sea has a bottom. But Christ Jesus is God. So, His holy blood has infinite depth to hide our sins forever.
The scoffers mocked Jesus for saying these words. And scoffers today continue to mock us for finding comfort in them. Yet, these scoffers are in darkness. They offer no solution to our guilt. They cannot take away our sins. Yet, when your conscience bites, when you are ashamed of your sins, when you are afraid that God might forsake you, listen to the words Jesus cried in your stead, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And take comfort. Jesus said them, so that you would not. Jesus has paid for your sins. To doubt that God forgives you is to blaspheme Christ and say that His death is not enough to pay for your sins. But the fact that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day shows that Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God. The fact that Christ is no longer forsaken by God proves that everyone who holds to Jesus in faith will never be forsaken. Amen.