Forsaken For Our Sake

Bible Book: Mark  15 : 33-34
Subject: Cross; Salvation; Sin

The story is told of how Martin Luther, the great theologian and reformer of the sixteenth century, once sat down in his study to consider the question found in our text. For hours the mighty man of God sat perfectly still as he meditated on the text. His family came in to check on him, but they say that he never moved. His eyes stared off into eternity as he considered those words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Finally, after many long hours, they say Luther stood up from his chair, and they heard him say, “God forsaking God! No man can understand that.”i

As we consider this mysterious and majestic text, we are in many ways like kindergartners in a calculus class. The subject is clearly over our heads. There is much about the wondrous work of the cross that we do understand. Yet, at the same time, whenever you approach the lofty heights of Calvary, there are some things going on there that are only understood by the Father and His Son.

During the hours in which Christ suffered on the cross, He spoke seven times. Each statement is significant, and full of truth. In the very center of those seven statements is the question recorded by Mark in his fifteenth chapter. Mark tells us that as the Son of God suffered in humiliation and agony, it suddenly became “midnight at midday”, as a blanket of darkness fell over the land. From the midst of that dark noon, a cry came out from the Man on the middle cross. The Lord Jesus shouted toward the heavens in the language of His people, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” When the Aramiac is translated, the question we find coming from the lips of our Lord is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

As we examine this question, we do so reservedly and reverently. Surely, this is holy ground. Here we are reminded that He was forsaken for our sake. Acknowledging my limitations, there are three truths I want us to consider regarding this question. First of all, notice with me:

I. The Astonishment At This Question

Have you ever found yourself saying, “Well, I didn’t expect that”? Verse 34 is one of those instances. There is something remarkable, surprising - even astonishing about this question from our Lord.

Earlier, the Lord Jesus had said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the kind of statement we expect to hear from our Lord. He is forever forgiving. Also, before this mysterious question, the Lord said to the penitent thief, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” That too is a statement we would expect from the Lord Jesus. But this question, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is one that is truly unexpected. Notice a couple of reasons why this question is so astonishing. Notice first of all that this question is astonishing because of:

A. The Source Of The Question

Had one of the other two men being executed that day uttered this same question, it would not be surprising. They were thieves; common criminals who deserved to be forsaken by God. But the Man in the middle, the one who actually uttered this question was the only begotten Son of God. The conduct of his life had been perfect from the moment He was conceived in His virgin mother’s womb. Not one sin-tainted thought ever flashed into his keen mind. Not one improper or ill-placed word ever escaped His loving lips. His hands never harmed; only healed. He was always a servant; never selfish. At His baptism, God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” His life was lived in such a way that He could honestly say, “I always do those things that please my Father (John 8:29).” Therefore, when we hear Him cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” it is nothing short of astonishing. The source of this question makes it an eternally surprising question.

This question is astonishing, not only because of the source of the question, but notice also further that this question is astonishing because of:

B. The Subject Of This Question

It is not only strange and amazing that Jesus Christ should ask this question, but that this question would be asked to God. The disciples had forsaken Him. Judas had betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him. The rest had fled in fear when He was taken. His own people, the Jews, had obviously rejected and forsaken Him. Their cries of “Hosanna” had quickly been replaced by the screams of “Crucify Him!” He was a “man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief”, and being forsaken and being rejected were not strange to Him. Yet, His question in verse 34 is astonishing because it speaks of Him  being rejected, not by men, but by His God. In John 16:32, His testimony had been, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

In 2002, Richard Greene published a book entitled “Words that Shook the World.” The book is a collection of some of the greatest speeches of the last 100 years. The book includes President Kennedy’s 1963 speech in Berlin, along with Presidents Reagan’s address to the nation following the “Challenger” disaster. “I have a dream” is there, as well as Lou Gherig’s, “…luckiest man on the face of the earth” farewell speech in 1939.

There have been some memorable words uttered by man, but none have shaken both heaven and earth like the words uttered by Christ on the cross. It is astonishing to hear the Lord Jesus speak of being forsaken by His Father. It seems impossible that there would be a single second in history in which the Father could not look with pleasure and love upon His dear Son. No matter how many times the words are read, they still sound alarming and amazing. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is an astonishing question because of its source and its subject.

As we think further about this question, I want you to notice not only the astonishment at this question, but consider also with me:

II. The Answer To This Question

As the great British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, took up the question of this text over 100 years ago, he said to his people, “There, friends; I have done my best, but I seem to myself to have been [babbling] like a little child, talking about something infinitely above me.”ii In much the same way, it would be presumptuous for me to claim that I can offer a sufficient answer to this chasm of a question.

The Lord Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” A.W. Pink called these, “… words of the deepest mystery.”iii There is a sense in which the answer to this question and the purpose behind this question are mysterious.

In spite of what we do not understand, and cannot know about this mysterious question, there are a couple of truths we can give in response to this question. The Savior said, “…my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The word “forsaken” speaks of leaving or turning away from. Notice a couple of reasons why the Father turned away from the Son. First of all, the Father forsook the Son:

A. At The Sight Of Sin

For three hours, the midday sky was black as the darkest night. In those moments, the God of the Universe turned His back on His only begotten Son. While we do not understand all that is contained in this forsaking, we do know this – it has to do with sin.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

In Isaiah 53:6, the prophet says, “All we like sheep have gone astray…” Then he says of the Messiah, “…and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

On that rough, Roman cross, the innocent Lord Jesus bore on His shoulders the entire sinfulness of the entire human race. Every murder, every rape, every hateful deed, every theft, every lie, every cruelty, every blasphemy, every injustice, and every wrong that has ever been committed since the Garden of Eden was laid upon the back of the Son of God at Calvary.

The prophet Habakkuk said that God is, “…of purer eyes than to behold evil (1:13)…” Collected and concentrated at Calvary were not just the individual evils of one man, but the total evils of all men.

Knowing my own life, and my own sin, not to mention the rest of humanity, the question is not, so much, why did God turn away, but rather, how could He not? Why did God forsake His Son? It was at the sight of sin; my sin and yours. Notice another truth that we can give as an answer to this question. The Father turned away not only at the sight of sin, but also:

B. For The Sake Of Sinners

Mark says that out the midst of the darkness, as the sun hid its face from the Son, the Lord Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

To at least partially answer this divine question, I want us to listen to the words of the Apostle Peter. He said in 1 Peter 3:18 that, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” As the just substitute for the unjust sinner, on the cross Christ endured the full suffering that sin demands. Sin has a price. Sin has a punishment. That punishment is death by separation from God.

On a hill outside Jerusalem, 2,000 years ago, for a few historic and traumatic hours, the God of heaven turned His face away, left and forsook His only sinless, perfect Son so that guilty sinners could escape their rightful punishment.

When you imagine the cross, and recall its events, never forget that on that day Christ was forsaken for your sake.

In 1839, Charles Wesley penned the words:

And can it be that I should gain, An interest in the Savior’s blood,

Died He for me? Who caused His pain, For me? Who Him to death pursued,

Amazing Love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

As you hear your Savior call out this question, remember that He was forsaken so that you could be forgiven. Your God died for you! The Father forsook His Son so for your sake!

There is one more truth I want us to consider about this question. Notice with me not only the astonishment at this question, and the answer to this question, but notice also thirdly and finally:

III. The Application From This Question

At the risk of diminishing the importance of the moment and the question recorded in this text, I nevertheless want to draw a couple of very practical lessons for our lives.

The Lord Jesus is not only our Savior, He is our Teacher. From Him we learn how to live. With that being said, there is an application we draw from this text to help us in those moments of trial in our own lives. We can never imagine the agony, the suffering, and horror of what Christ endured on the cross. We can, however, understand what it means to suffer. What do we learn from our Lord about dealing with our sufferings? There are two things I draw from this question. First of all, we learn here:

A. The Importance Of A Biblical Foundation

The words that Christ uttered in that moment in which the Father turned away from Him are actually recorded elsewhere in the Bible. Psalm 22 is a Psalm that clearly predicts the sufferings of the Messiah. Verse one of that Psalm says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”

In the moment of most intense suffering, the living Word sought comfort in the written Word. The Son of God quoted the Word of God in the time of His distress.

What about you? When you are under the strain of your suffering, do you turn to the Word of God? Do you call upon the inspired truth of God to help you in your time of distress?

In Psalm 119:28, the Psalmist said, “My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.”

Howard Rutledge’s plane was shot down over Vietnam, and it wasn’t long before he had been captured, beaten, tortured and found himself trying to survive the horrors of the prison camp known as the Hanoi Hilton. In a book he wrote about his experience, Rutledge talked about his hunger for spiritual things in the midst of that hell. He wrote, “I tried desperately to recall snatches of Scripture, sermons, gospel choruses…and hymns we sang in church…” He went on to say, “One portion of a verse I did remember was, “Thy word have I hid in my heart.’ How often I wished I had really worked to hide God’s Word in my heart…”

Where will you turn when life falls apart? Our Lord turned to the Word, and left us an example of how important it is to have a biblical foundation.

Another application we draw from this question is not only the importance of a biblical foundation, but notice also further:

B. The Importance Of A Biblical Faith

The Father has turned away from the Son, yet notice carefully our Lord’s words. He says, “My God, my God…”

His faith in the Father has not wavered. Though the whole universe had turned against Him, and the forces of hell grabbed at His very life, He could still say, “My God…” Job, in the midst of his suffering said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” That is biblical faith. It is faith that says, “Regardless of what pain providence may bring, I will still trust in God!”

What about your faith? Is it a faith that trusts in God only so long as He gives blessings and not burdens? Will trust Him even though He slays you with suffering? Is your faith such that you will kiss the hand that smites you? When all hell comes against you, will you say, “He is my God”?

An author of a previous generation wrote of Christ’s question, “This is a cry of distress but not of distrust.” The Lord’s question is one of agony, but not apostasy. You may cry out to God when you are suffering, but will you cry out against Him? We must learn from the cross of our Lord, and ensure that we have a biblical faith. A faith that trusts only in a god of pleasure will never understand the God that perfects His people through pain. Those who follow God only when the sun is shining will never know the victory that can come in the dark.

Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Within a few moments of this mysterious question, the Lord Jesus used His last strength to utter the three most monumental words in history – “It is finished.”

The work of redemption and atonement was completed, and men could now be reconciled to God. The forgiveness of God could not have been made possible without this forsaking. Those who gaze upon the wonders of the cross, and hear our Savior call out in anguish to His Father, must always recall that He was forsaken for our sake. May the Spirit of God burn these truths into our hearts, and may we love Him more, and give to Him the service He is due by letting Him live His life through us.


  1. Spurgeon, Charles, The Life and Work of Our Lord Volume 3, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1998), p. 547-548
  2. Spurgeon, Charles, p. 540
  3. Pink, A.W., The Seven Saying of the Savior on the Cross, (Mt. Zion Publications, 1997), p. 74 iv Pink, A.W., p. 83-84