And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted…
I. And first, let us not forget that THIS CRY WAS A PANG PUT INTO OLD TESTAMENT WORDS. To be perfectly fair in any consideration of the phase of anguish expressed by them, we must look to the twenty-second Psalm, where the words first of all occur. Let us read a verse or two of the Psalm. Take verses 7, 8, "All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing he delighted in Him;" almost the very cry of the railing passers by. Verse sixteen is yet more remarkable in its application: "They pierced my hands and my feet." Equally so is the eighteenth verse: "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." If the Psalm had been written after the occurrences of that day, it might almost have been given as an historical record of them in these particulars. But I want you to think of the possibility — nay, extreme probability — that while our Lord's mind in that dark hour rested upon these portions of the Psalm, it would also recall other portions of it. For mark how from the cry of the twenty-first verse there arises a strong hope: "Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare Thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee." From these words forth there is no longer any sense of desolation. "For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when he cried unto Him, He heard." Now, I say, we ought to remember this in our endeavour to interpret the cry. Heavy enough indeed, with all the suffering it involved, was the hand of God that day as it rested upon the patient Sufferer; and life was ebbing out even while the cry came forth. And yet surely the blessed Saviour was not long bereft of consolation. Did He cling only to the first cry of the Psalm? Was this all? Was there no mounting aloft into the blessed heights of faith and of hope and of praise? I would believe there was; and this, though it may not deprive the scene of all its mysteriousness, helps me somewhat to apprehend its significance, which, as I have already intimated, is about all I thought we could attempt to do — all we purposed to attempt.
II. Next, we will view the words AS THE REVELATION OF A GREAT ANGUISH. And yet, when we began to think a little more about this, Christ's sense of utter desertion and loneliness, in the light especially of His relation to our race as its true head and High Priest; we should find ourselves ready to admit some sort of a congruousness in the fact. For we know that this experience, a sense of God-desertion, is one of the most real of men's troubles. And there seems a fitness in the ordination of the Redemptive scheme which allows a place for this sense of God-desertion in those sufferings by which that Redemption was secured and ratified. So far as we have any knowledge of Christ's inner experience during the years before, we fail to discern any trace of this God-desertion. On the contrary, it was the one sweetness and light of His life, even when He thought and told of the coming desertion of His chosen ones, that still amid all circumstances the Father was with Him. It was not always so in the case of the Old Testament saints and worthies. They had, as we have, intervals, when the clear shining of the Divine face is interfered with, and the summer of the soul ceases awhile. When God is nigh, when we feel able to say, "The Lord is at my right hand," we can add, "I shall not be greatly moved." But up comes the mist from the rolling sea of passion and self-will and pride and human weaknesses, and we find that the light of our life is awhile quenched. Many days we may have lost sight of land and sun and star, and God appears to hide Himself, until the soul cries out passionately, "Where is thy God — where?" And the tempter echoes and re-echoes the dreary desolate cry, "Where, ah, where indeed?" And anyone who has ever found himself in such darkness knows that it is most profound; he who has felt such a distance between God and him knows it is most terrible and dreary. He who perfectly fulfilled the Eternal Will, and who was at that very moment fulfilling its more mysterious ordinations, cannot wholly escape this bitterness. And yet, I say, never was Christ more truly fulfilling the Divine Will than now. Never was the Father more delighted in the blessed Son than now. Why, it was the suffering of a perfect sacrifice. It was a true self offering. If Christ had been dragged to this tree against His will, if Christ had tried to escape from the hands of his tormentors, it would have been different. O, my brethren, instead of trying to build upon this cry of the Saviour's any strange theory, let us rather think how much of real and abiding comfort we may draw from it. You and I may often have had to pass through the gloomy way unrelieved by any of heaven's sunshine. It may seem to us that everything has conspired against us, and that the very heavens are sealed against our cry. Our prayers may seem to return to us unanswered. All may appear to be lost, even God. Let us but at such moments look at the blessed Christ. Let us think how God put His best beloved One through the hottest fires and the most searching tests. He knew once what it was to have the heavens above Him darkened. And yet the Eternal Father loved Him. May He not love you too?
III. And now we come to these words from another point of view. We have seen in them the utterance of a great anguish; let us look at them as the expression of A CLINGING FAITH AND LOVE. You will perceive why we called attention to the twenty-second Psalm. That Psalm shows us one who felt himself forsaken, and who was by no means actually forsaken; and the words used by Christ may serve also to show us how very close Christ was to the Eternal heart when He uttered them. "My God" — O, if we can only say this, "My God." It matters little what we may say afterward. If we can only say "My God," the darkness will not long brood upon our souls. They are words of faith and love, which, when truly spoken, must bring in the daylight. In the battle of the Christian faith and life, the victory is more than half won when we can say, "My God." No soul that is lost can say, "My God." I turn again to the real comfort wrapped up within the very words which expressed the Saviour's agony. How often is this the case. The very words by which we express our sorrow, our trouble, are themselves often charged with deep and true solace and refreshment. We know not how long this cloud rested over the Saviour. I do not think it could be for long. Presently, we know, the Father was looking upon Him with shining, unveiled face; for calmly and restfully He breathed forth the dying sigh of thousands since, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."
(C. J. Proctor, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?