Silence: Our Suffering Saviour Is Speaking!
Reading Matthew Chapter 27 v 35-46
Preached By Ken Humphries,
A.W. Tozer said, "If we are wise, we will do what Jesus said: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our life to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. And we shall find that it is more than poetry, more than sweet hymnody and elevated feeling. The cross will cut into our lives where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputation. It will defeat us and bring our selfish life to an end."
You see beloved, there is nothing gentle or tender about the cross, it will cut deep into our lives where it matters most. If we are prepared to take up our cross and follow Jesus then we will bear the marks and scars of the cross. Be assured it will be painful.
Yet once Immanuel’s orphaned cry the universe hath shaken,
It went up single, echoless, "My God, I am forsaken"
It went up from His Holy lips amid His lost creation
That no one else need ever cry that cry of desolation.
This fourth saying is so very different from any of the others, for this saying displays the depth of amazing agony our dear Saviour knew on that old rugged cross.
Martin Luther once sat motionless for hours, as if in a trance. Denying himself food and drink, he remained absorbed in deep contemplation. Finally, he stood up and exclaimed, "God forsaken of God! Who can understand that?" End quote!
If we were to take a random survey of people in our western society concerning their ideas and images of Jesus, it would, I believe, yield an amazing variety of opinions about Him. Many would have a Christmas view of Him as a baby in a manger. Some would think of Him as an intelligent child.
Others would imagine Him as a young boy working hard in His Father’s carpenter’s shop. Some would dwell on that occasion when he confounded the religious teachers in Jerusalem. Some would see Him as the gentle, loving teacher who identified with the common people. Others would view Him as a compassionate but powerful healer who could cure all physical and emotional ailments and could even go as far as raising the dead. Yet other answers I am sure would give us some legitimate piece of the picture of who Jesus really was; yet all of those would be totally incomplete.
One image of the Lord Jesus Christ is the truest and most necessary perception of Him, that is the image that presents Him as the suffering Jesus, the crucified one.
Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 2 v 2 emphasise this very thought.
"For I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified"
And dear folks that is the very graphic picture we have of our dear Saviour in this amazing fourth word from the cross, He is without doubt ‘The Suffering One’ may I say, not a picture we all like to think about, yet we should!
I believe that’s the reason Peter was so graphic in his epistle. 1 Peter 2 v 20-23
"For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
"Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth";
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;" (NKJ)
According to Peter, Christians are at odds with the world, simply because they have been called by Christ. By standing with Christ, sooner or later we will suffer some form of unjust rejection, punishment, criticism, or even persecution. We offend the world when we take a stand for righteousness or manifest a lifestyle that reflects Christ. That’s why we have to expect suffering. Jesus Himself promised His believing people that their union with Him would elicit the same kind of hostility and suffering He received.
John 15 v 18-21.
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me." (KJV)
And this fourth saying is cementing all He had taught His disciples, reminding them and us; He is the suffering one. Now it’s happening and His amazing cry from the cross allows us to gaze, at least in some small measure, into the depths of those incredible sufferings.
Allow me to try and unpack this wonderful yet amazing saying for you!
I trust you will realise with me as we try to fathom this saying, above all the others we see this one as the one shrouded in the deepest of mystery. I fear at times, even the most wonderful theologians cannot depth the amazing mysteries that lie behind this very powerful utterance from the lips of our dear Saviour.
1. Hear This Saying From Jesus’ Point Of View!
Some of the scholars would tell us that Jesus was simply identifying with the experience of the Psalmist in the opening verse of Psalm 22. They argue that our Lord’s desolation was wholly internal and subjective. That cry belonged only to His inner feeling and perception, they say.
Well if that is true then our Lord did not, whatever he had to suffer on that old rugged cross, pay the full penalty for sin, and that view is totally unbiblical.
This fourth word from the cross has been designated in many ways. It has been called "The Cry of Desolation," "The Cry of Desertion," "The Cry of Dereliction," "The Cry of Despair," "The Cry of Desperation."
Try as you may to describe it, never forget it was, in fact, the Lord Jesus who spoke it and we ought not to look lightly upon it. This word from the cross deserves more than a passing glance. It calls for some solemn thought and prayerful meditation.
You have noticed I am sure that three of these cries from the cross were prayers addressed to God. The first and third prayers Jesus speaks to God in what seems to be His favourite mode of speech to His Father. "Father" but in this fourth word from the cross there is a different mode adopted, he says, "My God" "My God." Now I am not quite sure why such a change takes place. I read in John 17 when Jesus is speaking he uses the terms "Father" "Holy Father" "Righteous Father", and yes, he frequently referred to the Father as "God" but only when speaking to others about Him.
So when Jesus on the cross addresses God in this fashion in the fourth saying, it does without any doubt present a very real mystery.
Dr. H. Lockyer says, "Here it is ‘God,’ for He appeals to divine righteousness. Somewhere in the darkness He feels pushed out of the Father’s heart in a desolate forest. Yet He clings to divine righteousness. In spite of the mystery of the moment He knew that God must be doing right." End quote!
His Father’s favour was temporarily withdrawn. Laden with the sins of others, the sinless one sank into the lowest depths of hell as the waves and billows of God’s wrath swept over Him.
John Duncan was a divinity professor in Edinburgh, Scotland, more that one hundred years ago. A master of Hebrew, he was called Rabbi Duncan by his students. Referring to Psalm 22 v 1 in class one day, he asked his students, "Ay, ay, d’ye know what it was—dying on the cross, forsaken by His Father—d’ye know what it was? What! What!… It was Damnation—and He took it lovingly." End quote!
2. Hear This Saying From God’s Point Of View!
Here is a strange paradox indeed! Christ "the light of the world" (John 8 v 12), "the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1 v 9), is Himself suspended in the darkness between heaven and earth as though fit for neither. Christ’s words and the darkness from which He uttered them, are to all humanity the deepest of mystery. Is it not amazing! God left His Son in the darkness and yet never left us, His people, in darkness.
"And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.
And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:
They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (KJV)
Now dear folks, that was a darkness to behold, but at Calvary, God’s beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased, hung in supernatural darkness, a million times darker than the ninth plague that befell Egypt, and that was a darkness which could be felt. He saved Israel from Egypt’s dark judgement, but His only Son He permitted to pass through the outer darkness. I say again, it is a profound mystery. And yet when we hear this fourth saying from God’s point of view we are left in no doubt, God knew exactly what He was doing.
On the cross Jesus endured God’s wrath against sin. That is what this awful cry
is all about, that is what this cry of abandonment means. Never for one moment, although God poured out upon our dear Saviour His mighty wrath for sin, must we imagine that God was angry with Jesus. Angry with the sin He bore? Yes! Angry with the Son who bore it? Never!
Do you think our God changes His mind with respect to His beloved Son?
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when coming up out of the waters of baptism, at the end of Jesus’ ministry at the transfiguration, God testified, " This is my beloved son, the beloved with whom I am well pleased" Matthew 3 v 17 & Matthew 17 v 5.
Jesus went to the cross in obedience to the Father’s will.
- He Went To The Cross As A Servant! Isa. 42 v 1.
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles." (KJV)
Jesus went to the cross in order to Express God’s Word, Extend God’s Hand, To Exult God’s Salvation. He went as Jehovah’s servant or Jehovah’s slave.
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (KJV)
God sets Jesus up as the most wonderful example of slave like obedience to all He desired for Him that those who would follow this same God would follow Jesus’ example. And the Father says, "Behold my Son, Servant, Slave" follow Him!
"All my requests are lost in one, Father, thy will be done!"
"Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. He that obeys God, trusts God; and he that trusts God, obeys God." C. H. Spurgeon.
"If for one whole day, quietly and determinedly, we were to give ourselves up to the ownership of Jesus and to obeying his orders, we should be amazed at its close to realise all he had packed into that one day."
B. He Went To The Cross As A Substitute! Isa. 42 v 1. "Mine Elect"
Jesus was the Offering for sin God had demanded; He was also the Sacrifice for sin man needed. He was in essence our substitute! J.T.Badclay, in his book, ‘The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus,’ tells of a brave and powerful leader called Shamil. He was of the tribes of Dagestan! While trying to maintain the independence of his people, on one occasion when defeatism was prevalent among his countrymen, made a proclamation that whoever would contend for capitulation with the Russians would be beaten with a hundred heavy lashes. An offender was caught. To Shamil’s embarrassment and grief he found it to be his own mother. Following a period of fasting, prayer and meditation, he instructed that the penalty should be executed. After the fifth stroke, however, he stopped the executioner, had his mother withdrawn, and then baring his own back, insisted on taking the full weight of all the remaining 95 strokes. His tribesmen were so impressed by their leader’s justice, sincerity and willingness to suffer that no one again mentioned negotiations with the enemy.
God says, He is My Elect, and as such I trust Him to do my will, I can depend on Him at all times and in all situations to be my slave like, willing servant.
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (KJV)
Beloved, as the Elect of God, here is the pattern for life! A willing, humble submissiveness to all the will of God, whatever it may be!
C. He Went To The Cross As A Sacrifice! Isa. 42 v 1.
"In whom my soul delighteth"
Never was any son or daughter so pleasing to their Father as Jesus was to His Father when this cry of dereliction burst forth from His fevered lips.
It’s true to say, on the cross Jesus suffered the effect of God’s anger, His judgement on sin which you and I deserve, but He did not suffer God’s displeasure toward Himself.
And dear folks just as the Father was well pleased with the Son, so the Son trusted the father. Listen to Peter, 1 Peter 4 v 19.
"Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right"
The word "entrust" is a banking term that means, "to deposit for safekeeping."
Peter presents God not only as the one who is faithful but also as the one who is Sovereign. He allows such suffering as His overall plan and purpose. Therefore it is only logical and reasonable that Peter’s readers be urged to trust God through their time of suffering. If we have the same kind of submission, obedience, and sacrificial service that Jesus had then we will do likewise.
Jerry Bridges offers this additional insight regarding the challenge of trusting in God during times of suffering.
"To trust God in times of adversity is admittedly a hard thing to do… Trusting God is a matter of faith, and faith is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5 v 22). Only the Holy Spirit can make His Word come alive in our hearts and create faith, but we can choose to look to Him to do that, or we can choose to be ruled by our feelings of anxiety or resentment or grief." End quote!
As we hear this saying from God’s point of view we realise afresh God looks for that faith and trust in us just as He looked for it in His Son!
3. Hear This Saying From The Christian’s Point Of View!
From the believer’s viewpoint, this fourth saying from the cross is without doubt the most wonderfully amazing utterance ever heard.
Why, these words assure us that in Christ we have been redeemed forever from God’s judgement on our sin. Romans 8 v 1 Paul puts it like this.
"There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
The Lord Jesus Christ endured the full and final penalty of our sin and in so doing satisfied all the claims of God’s justice against us. He drained the cup! That bitter cup, love drank it up! So that today all that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are born again are totally acquitted, pardoned, forgiven, completely and forever. Praise the Lord!
The hymn writer said it well in the following words.
"If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.
George Matheson, a wonderful nineteenth-century Scottish pastor and hymn writer, was born with an eye defect that developed into total blindness by the time he was eighteen. Shortly thereafter, his fiancée left him, deciding she would not be content to be married to a blind man. And so it was in response to one of the gloomiest episodes of his life that Matheson penned his great hymn about the security of God’s love, "O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go." Spurned by what he thought was true love, he sought and found solace in the unchanging love of God.
O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee.
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thine ocean-depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
Surely as we listen to this wonderful fourth saying from the cross we understand, as never before, God’s love has no parallel in human experience. God’s love is a powerful, immutable love that extends from eternity past to eternity future. It is a love that can never be deterred by our race’s sinful rebellion against God. Because of this, the love of God pursues and redeems us even when we are morally and spiritually reprehensible and unworthy of His love in every way: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5 v 8.
In other words, this fourth saying from the cross reminds us, God’s love is so great that He would stop at nothing to redeem those whom He loved, even though it meant giving His own beloved Son. In fact, the love of God is the supreme guarantee of the believer’s security.
As for that which is beyond your strength, be absolutely certain that our Lord loves you, devotedly and individually, loves you just as you are. Accustom yourself to the wonderful thought that God loves you with a tenderness, a generosity, and an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams. Give yourself up with joy to a loving confidence in God and have courage to believe firmly that God's action toward you is a masterpiece of partiality and love. Rest tranquilly in this abiding conviction.
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.
4. Hear This Saying From The Unbeliever’s Point Of View!
From the unbeliever’s point of view, this fourth saying from the cross must surely strike the most solemn warning a Holy God has ever given to those who have not turned from their sins to Christ for Salvation.
John Blanchard’s book, "Whatever Happened To Hell?" when published some years back, certainly rocked the evangelical world. Many so call Evangelical Christians have come to a point, although not saying it outwardly, believe inwardly that perhaps we really have got it wrong. Maybe there is no hell, or maybe it won’t, after all be eternal, perhaps it will be there for a time and then God in His love and Great Mercy will obliterate it forever.
Many of God’s dear people have, whether realising it or not, slipped into the unbeliever’s mode of thinking with respect to Hell!
Multitudes of people today live carefree, frivolous lives; never giving thirty seconds thought to the place called eternity. They most certainly do not give much time or thought to this place called Hell. Well, Heaven, now that’s a different thing altogether. Most people, if honest, in the secret recess of their hearts want to think that after all is said and done they will be granted a place in heaven. Oh, I know there are many who call themselves Atheistic in belief, but let me tell you friends, listen to the testimony of a stewardess on any flight and ask her thoughts with respect to her passengers in a time of trouble or turbulence during a flight and she will testify to the fact that if any climbed on board that flight with atheistic convictions, during that time of fear and falling descent there were no atheistic beliefs to be found. Suddenly, everybody, but everybody finds a need to pray!
"The Scripture makes it clear that man is condemned eternally. A. A. Hodge in his theology says there is no word more emphatic for eternal than the one used of hell in the New Testament. Leon Morris says the word was applied to an age that was never to end. Ajith Fernando in his
outstanding book, A Universal Homecoming, reminds us that sixty-four times the same word is used to remind us of heaven's eternality. "Would it
not be logical to conclude that in the seven occurrences of 'eternal' to describe the antithesis of these blessings (eternal punishment), the idea is that of duration without end?" Hell's eternality is also talking of an unending, physical, real separation from God." End quote!
Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind,"
My dear friends, as I hear again and again this fourth saying from the cross, I hear in those words the Saviour’s most tender appeal to those without the knowledge of sin’s forgiven. Take refuge from the tidal waves of God’s Holy Wrath and Retribution in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and do it now. Let me remind you beloved, there is no place to hide from God but in God, not now, not ever.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8 v 32!
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things/"
Consider what God’s love for us has already cost Him: He gave His own beloved Son to die in order to accomplish our Salvation. Having paid so great a price to redeem, He won’t allow the process to stop short of the goal. And if He has already given His best and dearest on our behalf, why would He withhold anything from us now?
For the believer this wonderful fourth saying shouts at us, trust me at all times and in all things. For the unbeliever this amazing saying shouts out at us trust me for time and eternity!
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen."
Ralph Waldo Emerson.