GETTING THE MESSAGE/Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus!
In these verses our Lord Jesus is on the cross. He has been tried by men in various courts: the chief priests of the Jews, King Herod, and the Roman governor of the province, Pilate. The themes of these trials are injustice (Christ deserves not death) and mockery of the kingship and prophetic offices of Christ.
But when darkness envelopes the land (Mark 15:33), we have no account of mockery during these three hours that the midday sun was completely blocked out. The darkness is the presence of God’s judgment. So there is a stunned silence at this sudden change of events.
The Lord Jesus breaks the silence, crying out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” These words mean that the judgment of God the darkness pointed to was directed at the Lord Jesus on the cross. He was enduring the wrath of God, not for his own sins, but for the sins of others.
So looking at this cry of Jesus, I want to make several observations. First, what the words do not mean. They don’t mean Jesus temporarily ceased to be loved by his Father. At his baptism, when Jesus was identifying himself with sinners indicating he was taking up their cause, the Father responded by saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Though Christ would become sin by God laying on him the iniquity of us all, it was for this reason the Father sent him into the world, and he is well pleased with his Son’s obedience. In John 10 Jesus said, “The Father loves me because I lay down my life for my sheep.” Jesus, therefore, was doing his Father’s will upon the cross.
What do these words mean? We can never fully understand the depth and mystery of what happened, but they mean the Lord Jesus underwent the wrath of God on the cross. It was real wrath against real sin. There was a transfer of guilt from sinners to the Lord Jesus, so Jesus suffered such pain, horror, agony, and consternation that were the sorrows of hell. The sacred head was wounded, with grief and shame weighed down.
How should we apply the significance of such darkness and the words of our Lord? First, they are the clearest mirror into our sin. In the greatest irony, we are illumined by the darkness of the cross. We all as sinners by nature walked in darkness. To walk in darkness according to the Bible is to walk in a sinful course, upon a broad road outside the fear of God and under the tyranny of the devil.
The Apostle Paul says that Christians have been called out of this darkness into the marvelous light of the kingdom of God. This light teaches us that all the personal defilement we have, and have had, and will have, was laid upon Christ on the cross. All that justice demanded he paid the penalty for.
If you think of sin lightly, nor suppose the evil great, consider that the Father did not spare his Son who took sin upon himself. He was not lenient on him at all. He had to drink the full cup of God’s wrath. All the warnings and judgments of God we read in Scripture against the sin of man are terrible, but nothing awakens us to the misery of our sin more than God not sparing his Son on the cursed cross.
But we also behold the love of God and the unsearchable riches of Christ here at the cross. If you think your sins are terrible, here is the rock upon which you may stand. Jesus said, “All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven.” He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate what kind of death he was to die.
It is his dying love that draws us. John Duncan, a 19th century Scot minister, said, “It is a sinner’s gospel; if it was a saint’s gospel, it would do us no good.” Richard Sibbes said, “Heaven is full of miracles, spectacles of free grace. You may entrust your soul, with all its corruption. to Christ. He will heal it.”
Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus! It is the love of an infinite being, a love that led to the greatest sacrifice and secures infinite blessing. When the Lord commands us to repent and come to him, he beckons us to forgiveness and life. When we come to him we celebrate free grace and free ransom, and the Lord says, “Fear not, because I have redeemed you.”
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.