Mark 15:34 “And at three o’clock in the afternoon — after darkness had shrouded the land for three hours — Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?'”
Many people suggest that the Father forsook the Son in the darkest moment, because He could not bear to see the sin of the world piled onto His Son. “He who knew no sin, became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This common interpretation has many difficulties with it, to say the least. Perhaps Jesus intended something else, something far more significant and more powerful, as He cried “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
The plea quotes Psalm 22:1. These are the precise words that open that extraordinary Psalm. It’s extraordinary because in the Psalm, verses 6-18 describe the crucifixion to a tee, including “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” It’s as though the Psalmist looked down through history and saw Jesus. Inspiration sometimes works that way.
But we may not realize that Psalm 22 is just the first Psalm in a trilogy. Psalms 22, 23, and 24 form a single unit. They go together. They tell a single story.
Psalm 22 is the Psalm of despair. We can all identify with the pain and fear that the Psalmist expresses.
Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….”) is the Psalm of hope. It describes the quiet confidence that emerges from the ashes of Psalm 22 when we trust the Shepherd.
Psalm 24 declares the unstoppable and irresistible coming of the King of Glory!
The trilogy, from start to end, portrays the pathway from despair to hope to triumph. The Lord of Hosts, the King of Glory is coming!
As Jesus hangs on the cross, about to breathe His last, he utters the cry of Psalm 22. Is He declaring some kind of perceived (or real) abandonment in his hour of deepest need? We might hope God never feels that way about us! Or, as I suspect, perhaps Jesus was using code-language that His disciples would later understand; language to reassure them that even in the darkest of moments, the story is not yet finished. The King of Glory is coming. Take heart.
What sounds like a statement of defeat may, in fact, be a hint at victory! Jesus winks, as death rushes towards Him.
Perhaps the statement also inspires us to similar confidence. No matter how grim this moment may seem or how alone we may feel, the King of Glory is coming. The ancient doors will be opened, the strongholds will be defeated, and the Lord will deliver us.
This Holy Week, we are the people traveling from Psalm 22 to Psalm 24.