Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/03/2003
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, March 2nd, 1890,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to
say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"Matthew 27:46.
THERE WAS DARKNESS over all the land unto the ninth hour": this cry came out of that darkness.
Expect not to see through its every word, as though it came from on high as a beam from the unclouded
Sun of Righteousness. There is light in it, bright, flashing light: but there is a centre of impenetrable
gloom, where the soul is ready to faint because of the terrible darkness.
Our Lord was then in the darkest part of his way. He had trodden the winepress now for hours, and the work
was almost finished. He had reached the culminating point of his anguish. This is his dolorous lament from the
lowest pit of misery"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I do not think that the records of time or
even of eternity, contain a sentence more full of anguish. Here the wormwood and the gall, and all the other
bitternesses, are outdone. Here you may look as into a vast abyss; and though you strain your eyes, and gaze till
sight fails you, yet you perceive no bottom; it is measureless, unfathomable, inconceivable. This anguish of the
Saviour on your behalf and mine is no more to be measured and weighed than the sin which needed it, or the love
which endured it. We will adore where we cannot comprehend.
I have chosen this subject that it may help the children of God to understand a little of their infinite obligations
to their redeeming Lord. You shall measure the height of his love, if it be ever mea-sured, by the depth of his
grief, if that can ever be known. See with what a price he hath redeemed us from the curse of the law! As you see
this, say to yourselves: What manner of people ought we to be! What measure of love ought we to return to one
who bore the utmost penalty, that we might he delivered from the wrath to come? I do not profess that I can dive
into this deep: I will only venture to the edge of the precipice, and bid you look down, and pray the Spirit of God
to concentrate your mind upon this lamentation of our dying Lord, as it rises up through the thick darkness"My
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Our first subject of thought will be the fact; or, what he sufferedGod had forsaken him. Secondly, we will
note, the enquiry; or, why he suffered: this word "why" is the edge of the text. "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
Then, thirdly, we will consider the answer; or, what came of his suffering. The answer flowed softly into the soul
of the Lord Jesus without the need of words, for he ceased from his anguish with the triumphant shout of, "It is
finished." His work was finished, and his bearing of desertion was a chief part of the work he had undertaken for
I. By the help of the Holy Spirit, let us first dwell upon THE FACT; or, what our Lord suffered. God had
forsaken him. Grief of mind is harder to bear than pain of body. You can pluck up courage and endure the pang of
sickness and pain, so long as the spirit is hale and brave; but if the soul itself be touched, and the mind becomes
diseased with anguish, then every pain is increased in severity, and there is nothing with which to sustain it.
Spiritual sorrows are the worst of mental miseries. A man may bear great depression of spirit about worldly
matters, if he feels that he has his God to go to. He is cast down, but not in despair. Like David, he dialogues with
himself, and he enquires, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in
God: for I shall yet praise him." But if the Lord be once withdrawn, if the comfortable light of his presence be
shadowed even for an hour, there is a torment within the breast, which I can only liken to the prelude of hell. This
is the greatest of all weights that can press upon the heart. This made the Psalmist plead, "Hide not thy face from
me; put not thy servant away in anger." We can bear a bleeding body, and even a wounded spirit; but a soul
conscious of desertion by God it beyond conception unendurable. When he holdeth back the face of his throne,
and spreadeth his cloud upon it, who can endure the darkness?
This voice out of "the belly of hell" marks the lowest depth of the Saviour's grief. The desertion was real.
Though under some aspects our Lord could say, "The Father is with me"; yet was it solemnly true that God did
forsake him. It was not a failure of faith on his part which led him to imagine what was not actual fact. Our faith
fails us, and then we think that God has forsaken us; but our Lord's faith did not for a moment falter, for he says
twice, "My God, my God." Oh, the mighty double grip of his unhesitating faith! He seems to say, "Even if thou
hast forsaken me, I have not forsaken thee." Faith triumphs, and there is no sign of any faintness of heart towards
the living God. Yet, strong as is his faith, he feels that God has withdraw his comfortable fellowship, and he
shivers under the terrible deprivation.
It was no fancy, or delirium of mind, caused by his weakness of body, the heat of the fever, the depression of
his spirit, or the near approach of death. He was clear of mind even to this last. He bore up under pain, loss of
blood, scorn, thirst, and desolation; making no complaint of the cross, the nails, and the scoffing. We read not in
the Gospels of anything more than the natural cry of weakness, I thirst." All the tortures of his body he endured in
silence; but when it came to being forsaken of God, then his great heart burst out into its "Lama sabachthani?" His
one moan is concerning his God. It is not, "Why has Peter forsaken me? Why has Judas betrayed me?" These
were sharp griefs, but this is the sharpest. This stroke has cut him to the quick: "My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?" It was no phantom of the gloom; it was a real absence which he mourned.
This was a very remarkable desertion. It is not the way of God to leave either his sons or his servants. His
saints, when they come to die, in their great weakness and pain, find him near. They are made to sing because of
the presence of God: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou
art with me." Dying saints have clear visions of the living God. Our observation has taught us that if the Lord be
away at other times, he is never absent from his people in the article of death, or in the fur-nace of affliction.
Concerning the three holy children, we do not read that the Lord was ever visibly with them till they walked the
fires of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace; but there and then the Lord met with them. Yes, beloved, it is God's use and
wont to keep company with his afflicted people; and yet he forsook his Son in the hour of his tribulation! How
usual it is to see the Lord with his faithful wit-nesses when resisting even unto blood! Read the Book of Martyrs,
and I care not whether you study the former or the later persecutions, you will find them all lit up with the evident
presence of the Lord with his witnesses. Did the Lord ever fail to support a martyr at the stake? Did he ever
forsake one of his testifiers upon the scaffold? The testimony of the church has always been, that while the Lord
has permitted his saints to suffer in body he has so divinely sustained their spirits that they have been more than
conquerors, and have treated their sufferings as light afflictions. The fire has not been a "bed of roses," but it has
been a chariot of victory. The sword is sharp, and death is bitter; but the love of Christ is sweet, and to die for him
has been turned into glory. No, it is not God's way to forsake his champions, nor to leave even the least of his
children in the trial hour.
As to our Lord, this forsaking was singular. Did his Father ever leave him before? Will you read the four
Evangelists through and find any previous instance in which he complains of his Father for having forsaken him?
No. He said, "I know that thou hearest me always." He lived in constant touch with God. His fellowship with the
Father was always near and dear and clear; but now, for the first time, he cries, "why hast thou forsaken me?" It
was very remark-able. It was a riddle only to be solved by the fact that he loved us and gave himself for us and in
the execution of his loving purpose came even unto this sorrow, of mourning the absence of his God.
This forsaking was very terrible. Who can fully tell what it is to be forsaken of God? We can only form a
guess by what we have our-selves felt under temporary and partial desertion. God has never left us, altogether; for
he has expressly said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; yet we have sometimes felt as if he had cast us
off. We have cried, "Oh, that I know where I might find him!" The clear shinings of his love have been
withdrawn. Thus we are able to form some little idea of how the Saviour felt when his God had for-saken him.
The mind of Jesus was left to dwell upon one dark subject, and no cheering theme consoled him. It was the hour
in which he was made to stand before God as consciously the sin-bearer, according to that ancient prophecy, "He
shall bear their iniquities." Then was it true, "He hath made him to be sin for us." Peter puts it, "He his own self
bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Sin, sin, sin was every where around and about Christ. He had no sin
of his own; but the Lord had "laid on him the iniquity of us all." He had no strength given him from on high, no
secret oil and wine poured into his wounds; but he was made to appear in the lone character of the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world; and therefore he must feel the weight of sin, and the turning away of that
sacred face which cannot look thereon.
His Father, at that time, gave him no open acknowledgment. On certain other occasions a voice had been
heard, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; but now, when such a testimony seemed
most of all required, the oracle was dumb. He was hung up as an accursed thing upon the cross; for he was "made
a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree"; and the Lord his God did not own him
before men. If it had pleased the Father, he might have sent him twelve legions of angels; but not an angel came
after the Christ had quitted Gethsemane. His despisers might spit in his face, but no swift seraph came to avenge
the indignity. They might bind him, and scourge him, but none of all the heavenly host would interpose to screen
his shoulders from the lash. They might fasten him to the tree with nails, and lift him up, and scoff at him; but no
cohort of ministering spirits hastened to drive back the rabble, and release the Prince of life. No, he appeared to be
forsaken, "smitten of God, and afflicted," delivered into the hands of cruel men, whose wicked hands worked him
misery without stint. Well might he ask, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
But this was not all. His Father now dried up that sacred stream of peaceful communion and loving fellowship
which had flowed hitherto throughout his whole earthly life. He said himself, as you remember, "Ye shall be
scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."
Here was his constant comfort: but all comfort from this source was to be withdrawn. The divine Spirit did not
minister to his human spirit. No communications with his Father's love poured into his heart. It was not possible
that the Judge should smile upon one who repre-sented the prisoner at the bar. Our Lord's faith did not fail him, as
I have already shown you, for he said, "My God, my God": yet no sen-sible supports were given to his heart, and
no comforts were poured into his mind. One writer declares that Jesus did not taste of divine wrath, but only
suffered a withdrawal of divine fellowship. What is the differ-ence? Whether God withdraw heat or create cold is
all one. He was not smiled upon, nor allowed to feel that he was near to God; and this, to his tender spirit, was
grief of the keenest order. A certain saint once said that in his sorrow he had from God "necessaries, but not
suavities"; that which was meet, but not that which was sweet. Our Lord suffered to the extreme point of
deprivation. He had not the light which makes existence to be life, and life to be a boon. You that know, in your
degree, what it is to lose the conscious pre-sense and love of God, you can faintly guess what the sorrow of the
Saviour was, now that he felt he had been forsaken of his God. "If the foundations be removed, what can the
righteous do?" To our Lord, the Father's love was the foundation of everything; and when that was gone, all was
gone. Nothing remained, within, without, above, when his own God, the God of his entire confidence, turned from
him. Yes, God in very deed forsook our Saviour.
To be forsaken of God was much more a source of anguish to Jesus than it would be to us. "Oh," say you,
"how is that?" I answer, because he was perfectly holy. A rupture between a perfectly holy being and the thrice
holy God must be in the highest degree strange, abnormal, perplexing, and painful. If any man here, who is not at
peace with God, could only know his true condition, he would swoon with fright. If you unforgiven ones only
knew where you are, and what you are at this moment in the sight of God, you would never smile again till you
were reconciled to him. Alas! we are insensible, hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and therefore we do not feel
our true condition. His perfect holiness made it to our Lord a dreadful calamity to be forsaken of the thrice holy
I remember, also, that our blessed Lord had lived in unbroken fellowship with God, and to be forsaken was a
new grief to him. He had never known what the dark was till then: his life had been lived in the light of God.
Think, dear child of God, if you had always dwelt in full communion with God, your days would have been as the
days of heaven upon earth; and how cold it would strike to your heart to find yourself in the darkness of desertion.
If you can conceive such a thing as happening to a perfect man, you can see why to our Well-beloved it was a
special trial. Remember, he had enjoyed fellowship with God more richly, as well as more constantly, than any of
us. His fellowship with the Father was of the highest, deepest, fullest order; and what must the loss of it have
been? We lose but drops when we lose our joyful experience of heavenly fellowship; and yet the loss is killing: but
to our Lord Jesus Christ the sea was dried upI mean his sea of fellowship with the infinite God.
Do not forget that he was such a One that to him to be without God must have been an overwhelming
calamity. In every part he was perfect, and in every part fitted for communion with God to a supreme degree. A
sinful man has an awful need of God, but he does not know it; and therefore he does not feel that hunger and
thirst after God which would come upon a perfect man could he be deprived of God. The very perfection of his
nature renders it inevitable that the holy man must either be in communion with God, or be desolate. Imagine a
stray angel! a seraph who has lost his God! Conceive him to be perfect in holiness, and yet to have fallen into a
condition in which he cannot find his God! I cannot picture him; perhaps a Milton might have done so. He is
sinless and trustful, and yet he has an overpowering feeling that God is absent from him. He has drifted into the
nowherethe unimaginable region behind the back of God. I think I hear the wailing of the cherub: "My God, my
God, my God, where art thou?" What a sorrow for one of the sons of the morning! But here we have the lament
of a Being far more capable of fellowship with the Godhead. In proportion as he is more fitted to receive the love
of the great Father, in that proportion is his pining after it the more intense. As a Son, he is more able to commune
with God than ever a servant-angel could be; and now that he is forsaken of God, the void within is the greater,
and the anguish more bitter.
Our Lord's heart, and all his nature were, morally and spiritually, so delicately formed, so sensitive, so tender,
that to be without God, was to him a grief which could not be weighed. I see him in the text bearing desertion, and
yet I perceive that he cannot bear it. I know not how to express my meaning except by such a paradox. He cannot
endure to be without God. He had surrendered himself to be left of God, as the representative of sinners must be,
but his pure and holy nature, after three hours of silence, finds the position unendurable to love and purity; and
breaking forth from it, now that the hour was over, he exclaims, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" He quarrels not
with the suffering, but he cannot abide in the position which caused it. He seems as if he must end the ordeal, not
because of the pain, but because of the moral shock. We have here the repetition after his passion of that loathing
which he felt before it, when he cried, "If it be possible let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as
thou wilt." "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the holiness of Christ amazed at the position of
substitute for guilty men.
There, friends; I have done my best, but I seem to myself to have been prattling like a little child, talking about
something infinitely above me. So I leave the solemn fact, that our Lord Jesus was on the tree forsaken of his
II. This brings us to consider THE ENQUIRY or, why he suffered.
Note carefully this cry"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is pure anguish, undiluted agony,
which crieth like this; but it is the agony of a godly soul; for only a man of that order would have used such an
expression. Let us learn from it useful lessons. This cry is taken from "the Book." Does it not show our Lord's
love of the sacred volume, that when he felt his sharpest grief, he turned to the Scripture to find a fit utterance for
it? Here we have the opening sentence of the twenty-second Psalm. Oh, that we may so love the inspired Word
that we may not only sing to its score, but even weep to its music!
Note, again, that our Lord's lament is an address to God. The godly, in their anguish, turn to the hand which
smites them. The Saviour's outcry is not against God, but to God. "My God, my God": he makes a double effort
to draw near. True Sonship is here. The child in the dark is crying after his Father"My God, my God." Both the
Bible and prayer were dear to Jesus in his agony.
Still, observe, it is a faith-cry; for though it asks, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" yet it first says, twice over,
"My God, my God." The grip of appropriation is in the word "my"; but the reverence of humility is in the word
"God." It is "'My God, my God,' thou art ever God to me, and I a poor creature. I do not quarrel with thee. Thy
rights are unquestioned, for thou art my God. Thou canst do as thou wilt, and I yield to thy sacred sovereignty. I
kiss the hand that smites me, and with all my heart I cry, 'My God, my God.'" When you are delirious with pain,
think of your Bible still: when your mind wanders, let it roam towards the mercy seat; and when your heart and
your flesh fail, still live by faith, and still cry, "My God, my God."
Let us come close to the enquiry. It looked to me, at first sight, like a question as of one distraught, driven
from the balance of his mindnot unreasonable, but too much reasoning, and therefore tossed about. "Why hast
thou forsaken me?" Did not Jesus know? Did he not know why he was forsaken? He knew it most distinctly, and
yet his manhood, while it was being crushed, pounded, dissolved, seemed as though it could not understand the
reason for so great a grief. He must be forsaken; but could there be a sufficient cause for so sickening a sorrow?
The cup must be bitter; but why this most nauseous of ingredients? I tremble lest I say what I ought not to say. I
have said it, and I think there is truththe Man of Sorrows was overborne with horror. At that moment the finite
soul of the man Christ Jesus came into awful contact with the infinite justice of God. The one Mediator between
God and man, the man Christ Jesus, beheld the holiness of God in arms against the sin of man, whose nature he
had espoused. God was for him and with him in a certain unquestionable sense; but for the time, so far as his
feeling went, God was against him, and necessarily withdrawn from him. It is not surprising that the holy soul of
Christ should shudder at finding itself brought into painful contact with the infinite justice of God, even though its
design was only to vindicate that justice, and glorify the Law-giver. Our Lord could now say, "All thy waves and
thy billows are gone over me" and therefore he uses language which is all too hot with anguish to be dissected by
the cold hand of a logical criticism. Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian. Even the holiest, when
in extreme agony, though they cannot speak otherwise than according to purity and truth, yet use a language of
their own, which only the ear of sympathy can fully receive. I see not all that is here, but what I can see I am not
able to put in words for you.
I think I see, in the expression, submission and resolve. Our Lord does not draw back. There is a forward
movement in the question: they who quit a business ask no more questions about it. He does not ask that the
forsaking may end prematurely, he would only understand anew its meaning. He does not shrink, but the rather
dedicates himself anew to God by the words, "My God, my God," and by seeking to review the ground and
reason of that anguish which he is resolute to bear even to the bitter end. He would fain feel anew the motive
which has sustained him, and must sustain him to the end. The cry sounds to me like deep submission and strong
resolve, pleading with God.
Do you not think that the amazement of our Lord, when he was "made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21), led him thus
to cry out? For such a sacred and pure being to be made a sin-offering was an amazing experience. Sin was laid on
him, and he was treated as if he had been guilty, though he had personally never sinned; and now the infinite
horror of rebellion against the most holy God fills his holy soul, the unrighteousness of sin breaks his heart, and he
starts back from it, crying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Why must I bear the dread result of
contact I so much abhor?
Do you not see, moreover, there was here a glance at his eternal purpose, and at his
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