Feb 13 2013 - Matthew 27:32-66 – Forsaken
Yesterday, we saw how Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers who had charge of him before he was led out to his crucifixion. That mockery continued as he hung dying upon the cross. Passsers by mocked him over whom the charge was written, “This is the King of the Jews.” Those crucified with him cursed him as they hung beside him. And the Jewish leaders mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.” They did not see the irony in their own words; it was because he was determined to save others that he would not save himself.
There were thousands of crucifixions in Judea in the first century, but none was like this one. The sun refused to shine at mid-day and there was darkness over the land all afternoon as Jesus hung there dying. The created world seemed to lose its vitality as the one through whom all things were made was destroyed. And then, Jesus "cried out in a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' (which means 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?')." (Matthew 27:46). Jesus feels himself to be forsaken, abandoned by God, for he feels himself to be under the judgment of God. At the cross, God himself shares in the brokenness of a broken world that it might be healed.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Jesus suffered in our place. He bore the weight of our iniquity and was pierced for our transgressions. He suffered the punishment which our sins deserved; he felt himself to be "punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted." It is our iniquity that separated Jesus from the Father and that caused him to feel forsaken. He endured all of this for us that we might never be forsaken; that we might be reconciled to God. He was broken that we might be healed.
As Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain separated the dwelling place of God in the holy of holies from the parts of the temple where the worshipers would meet. Jesus' separation from the Father meant that this curtain of separation was ripped open. It was as if God himself burst out of the confines of the most holy place to embrace a world of people who had been far away from him – to embrace not only the Jewish worshipers within the temple area but Gentiles also who could only stand far off, outside. It is through this one last sacrifice for sin that God and man are reconciled; nothing can ever again separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Father God, I stand in wonder at the cross. There are mysteries here that I cannot fully understand. But I do see clearly the greatness of your love for me. You loved the world so much that you did not spare your own Son. There was nothing you would not do to embrace me in your love. Help me by your Spirit to love you in return with a love that consumes every fibre of my being. Help me also to love others with the costly love you have lavished on me in the Lord Jesus – to break down barriers through your reconciling love, to forgive as I have been forgiven and to make the love of Jesus visible.