Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
From these Seven Words of Jesus we can draw strength and courage for our own walk on this earth as we follow His call to be His disciples. He suffered the extreme penalty of death that we may live!
Forth word is said to be “THE WORD OF DESOLATION”!
Jesus had prayed for His persecutors, promised life to a thief, made provision for His mother – and now the scene changes. Several hours have passed by. From twelve noon until three in the afternoon, darkness covered the land. Gloomy night spread itself over the whole earth like a funeral pall. The animal creation was terrified. The herds of the field crowded together. The crowds that had surrounded the place of crucifixion hurried back to Jerusalem with loud cries. And then at about the end of the darkness, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
All during His ministry Jesus had known what it meant to be forsaken. Early, the members of His own family forsook Him. Nazareth, His hometown, had forsaken Him. The nation He came to save forsook Him. But in every such instance He could always steal away to the tender healing fellowship of His Heavenly Father. But now, even God turns from Him. God’s just law says “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” That means because we have sinned we are destined to be forsaken of God forever. But you see, Jesus offered to pay that penalty on the Cross, for the Scriptures say, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus was bearing the wages of your sins and of my sins, and therefore He had to be actually forsaken of God so that we need not be forsaken of God forever in the eternal regions of the lost.
The literal explanation of the fourth Word, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” We have explained in the preceding Part the three first words, which were spoken by our Lord from the pulpit of the Cross, about the sixth hour, soon after His crucifixion. In this Part we will explain the remaining four words, which, after the darkness and silence of three hours, this same Lord from this same pulpit proclaimed with a loud voice. But first it seems necessary briefly to explain what, and whence, and for what end arose the darkness which intervened between the three first and the four last words, for thus does St. Matthew speak: “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour; and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” And that this darkness arose from an eclipse of the sun is expressly told us by St. Luke: “And the sun was darkened,” he says.
Various are the reasons given why God desired this universal darkness during the Passion of Christ. There are two special ones.
First, to show the very great blindness of the Jewish people, as St. Leo tells us in his tenth sermon on the Passion of our Lord, and this blindness of the Jews lasts till this moment, and will last, according to the prophecy of Isaias: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people:” darkness, forsooth, the most dense shall cover the people of Israel, and a mist which is lighter and easily dissipated shall cover the Gentiles.
The second reason, as St. Jerome teaches, was to show the enormity of the sin of the Jews. Formerly, indeed, wicked men were wont to harass, and persecute, and kill the good; now impious men have dared to persecute, and crucify God Himself, Who had assumed our human nature. Formerly men disputed with one another; from disputes they came to oaths; from oaths to blood and slaughter; now servants and slaves have risen up against the King of men and angels, and with unheard-of audacity have nailed Him to a Cross. Therefore the whole world is filled with horror, and in order to show its detestation of such a crime, the sun has withdrawn its rays and has covered the universe with a terrible darkness.
Let us now come to the interpretation of the words of our Lord: “Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani. ” These words are taken from the twenty-first Psalm: “O God, my God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me?” The words “look upon me,” which occur in the middle of the verse, were added by the Septuagint interpreters: but in the Hebrew text those words only are found which our Lord pronounced. We must remark that the Psalms were written in Hebrew, and the words spoken by Christ were partly Syriac, which was the language then in use amongst the Jews. These words: “Tabitha cumi–“Damsel, I say to thee, Arise,” and Ephphetha–“Be thou opened,” and some other words in the Gospel are Syriac and not Hebrew.
Ephesians 5:2 (And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savior) and Heb 13:12 (Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate). Our Lord then complains that He has been abandoned by God, and He complains crying out with a loud voice. Both these circumstances must be briefly explained.
The abandonment of Christ by His Father might be interpreted in five ways, but there is only one true interpretation. There were indeed five unions between the Father and the Son: one the natural and eternal union of the Person of the Son in essence: the second, a new bond of union of the Divine nature with the human nature in the Person of the Son, or what is the same thing, the union of the Divine Person of the Son with the human nature: the third was the union of grace and will, for Christ as man was “full of grace and truth,” as He testifies in St. John: “I do always the things that please Him:” and of Him the Father spoke: “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The fourth was the union of glory, since the soul of Christ from the moment of conception enjoyed the beatific vision: the fifth was the union of protection to which He refers when He says: “And He that sent Me is with Me, and He hath not left Me alone.” The first kind of union is inseparable and eternal, because it is founded in the Divine Essence, so our Lord says: “I and the Father are One:” and therefore Christ did not say: My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me? but “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” For the Father is called the God of the Son only after the Incarnation and by reason of the Incarnation. The second kind of union never has nor can be dissolved, because what God has once assumed He can never lay aside and so the Apostle says: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; and, St. Peter, “Christ suffered for us,” and “Christ therefore having suffered in the flesh:” all which proves that it was not a mere man, but the true Son of God, and Christ the Lord Who was crucified. The third kind of union also still exists and ever will exist: “Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust,” as St. Peter expresses it; for the death of Christ would have profited us nothing had this union of grace been dissolved. The fourth union could not be disturbed, because the beatitude of the soul cannot be lost, since it embraces the enjoyment of every good, and the superior part of the soul of Christ was truly happy. There remains then the union of protection only, which was broken for a short period, in order to allow time for the oblation of the bloody sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. God the Father indeed could in many ways have protected Christ, and have hindered the Passion, and for this reason in His Prayer in the Garden Christ says: “Father, all things are possible to Thee: remove this chalice from Me, but not what I will, but what Thou wilt:” and again to St. Peter: “Thinkest Thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of angels?” Christ also as God could have saved His Body from suffering, for He says “No man taketh” My life “away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself and this is what Isaias had foretold: “He was offered because it was His own will.” Finally, the blessed Soul of Christ could have transmitted to the Body the gift of impassibility and incorruption; but it was pleasing to the Father, and to the Word, and to the Holy Spirit, for the accomplishment of the decree of the Blessed Trinity, to allow the power of man to prevail for a time against Christ. For this was that hour to which Christ referred when He said to those who had come to apprehend Him: “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” Thus then God abandoned His Son when He allowed His Human flesh to suffer such cruel torments without any consolation, and Christ crying out with a loud voice manifested this abandonment so that all might know the greatness of the price of our redemption, for up to that hour He had borne all His torments with such patience and equanimity as to appear almost bereft of the power of feeling. He did not complain of the Jews who accused Him, nor of Pilate who condemned Him, nor of the soldiers who crucified Him. He did not groan: He did not cry out: He did not give any outward sign of His suffering; and now at the point of death, in order that mankind might understand, and that we, His servants, might remember so great a grace, and value the price of our redemption, He wished publicly to declare the great suffering of His Passion.
The seven truths in the 4th word:
Wherefore these words: “My God, why hast Thou abandoned Me?” are not words of one who accuses, or who reproaches, or who complains, but, as I have said, they are the words of One who declares the greatness of His suffering for the best of reasons, and at the most opportune of moments.