Why did Jesus cry out, “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mattew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

Detail: If Jesus is God, then why in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 did he cry “out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

This statement by Jesus before his death on the cross shows us two things. Those words are a direct quotation from Psalms 22. Christ himself saw the numerous prophecies about him filling this portion of scripture which was written by David:

  1. His incarnation would enable him to minister to other humans and to become the perfect sacrifice for their sins (Psa 22:22; Heb. 2:12, 17).
  2. At his crucifixion, his garments would be divided and gambled for (22:18; Matt. 27:35).
  3. On the cross he would:
    • echo David’s cry of anguish (Psa 22:1; Matt. 27:46)
    • be ridiculed (Psa 22:7-8; Matt. 27:42-43)
    • suffer the piercing of his hands and feet (Psa 22:16; Luke 24:39-40)
    • be publicly stared at (Psa 22:13, 17; Matt. 27:39, 47)
  4. In general, Psa 22:1-26 foreshadows Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, while Psa 22:27–31 foreshadows his millennial reign.

Psalms 22 was written roughly 600 years before Jesus’ birth. What’s interesting to note is that crucifixion hadn’t even been invented yet. It was the Phoenicians who came up with the mode of execution and the Romans who had borrowed it from them. During the time that Rome occupied Israel, they had used it as the form of capitol punishment for the Jews who had up until that time performed executions by stoning.

Something else about this moment of Jesus’ agonizing crucifixion. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, it says that “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Also in Galations 3:13 it says “Christ redeemed us… by becoming a curse for us.” In other words the only perfect human being who ever walked the face of the earth, the only man who never knew sin, became the sin of the world on the cross. That is what is meant when it is said that he became the sacrifice for us or that he is the lamb that was slain. He was innocent yet murdered as a criminal.

It is written in Hab. 1:13 that God’s eyes are too pure to see evil or to look upon wrongdoing. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus became sin for the world on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), that even the Father could not look upon him. It is likely that this was the moment that Christ cried out. I don’t think it is within our minds as humans to understand what this must have felt like. The one man who had lived his entire life in constant service, obedience and therefore sight of the Father, in his greatest service to humanity, was left in utter darkness.

One thing we can say with certainty. We have no ability to even begin to appreciate the utterly horrific experience that Jesus went through on the cross as he took upon himself the sins of the world. There was a physical pain that we cannot even imagine and a spiritual one we can never fathom.

Either way you look at it, it seems as though Jesus had a message in these words that he spoke from the cross. A message that also served as a declaration of yet another prophecy that Christ fulfilled as well as his messianic mission.