April 6, 2007

Forsaken By God

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Good Friday Scripture: Mark 15:33–34


Forsaken By God

Mark 15:33-34
Good Friday, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith


Thousands of years ago, in arguably the first biblical book ever written, an individual named Job asked the most pressing question to all humanity. Without an answer to this question, our lives will be dissatisfied, shrouded in endless guilt and eternal condemnation. You see, Job knew the tragedy of existence without a proper relationship with the living God. But he also understood the barrier that existed. For an impassable gulf separates God and all humanity because He is holy and we are sinful. So Job rightly inquired, "How can a man be in the right before God" (Job 9:2)?

Many years later God revealed the answer to that question. He introduced a way for our sins to be covered. And with our sins covered, a relationship now restored and a worship now acceptable. Through Moses, God taught the Israelites about the sacrificial system. Since the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) the life of an animal without defect would be taken. Its blood would be shed and brought before God. The blood of the innocent would atone for the sins of the guilty. A substitution took place. Sins were covered. Through the shedding of blood forgiveness was accomplished (Heb. 9:22). Humanity could be right before a holy God.

It was a great system. As the people watched the continuous flow of blood from the sacrifices, they were reminded about wages of sin and the seriousness of approaching God. As the people saw the high priest on a yearly basis pass behind the veil in the Temple and enter into the very presence of God (the Most Holy Place) without being struck dead, they knew that their atonement was accepted. And on that Day of Atonement, as the people observed one goat slain in an act of substitutionary death and the other set free to represent the removal of sin, their hearts must have leaped for joy.

This Old Covenant was a great system, but it was an incomplete system. For the repeated shedding of animal blood never fully took away sin (Heb. 10:4). The veil was still erected in the Temple, separating humanity from the most intimate presence of God (Ex. 26:33; Heb. 9:3). And people were left wondering if the wrath of God was really propitiated.

But this was all part of God's plan. For the Old Covenant would be a type, a symbol, a shadow of better things to come (Heb. 9:23). For the day was dawning when God would inaugurate a new and better Covenant with His people (Heb. 12:24). And that New Covenant that fully removed sin would be ushered in, not through an animal, but through God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said it well when he first saw the Messiah breaking into world history. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29)!

In following the pattern established in the Old Covenant, Jesus would be our substitute. He was fully man to represent all humanity and fully God to live the perfect life required. In our place He would go to the cross, receive our sins upon Himself, be punished for them in our place and make the way of forgiveness open to all who will receive Him by faith (Jn. 1:11-12).


With that as an introduction, we pick up our text in the 33rd verse of Mark 15. "When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour."

The Jewish day began at 6:00 AM. We read in verse 25 that Jesus was crucified at the "third hour" - that is, 9:00 in the morning. From the accounts in the Gospels the next three hours witness all of humanity's hatred hurled at Jesus. In addition to the abuse He received before the cross and the agonizing physical pain of crucifixion itself, He was reviled, mocked and blasphemed by most of the onlookers which included everyone from the religious leaders to the soldiers to the criminals also being crucified on either side.  For these three hours evil mankind had their way with their Savior.

But as verse 33 indicates, the next three hours (12:00-3:00 PM) witnessed a darkness that shrouded the whole region. A black blanket covered the Holy City. Spurgeon said, "It was midnight at midday." When the sun is normally at its zenith, a dramatic supernatural event took place. No human activity is recorded. For after suffering at the hands of men, now it was time for the concentrated wrath of heaven to descend upon Jesus. Now it was time for God to have His way with the Savior.

That is a radical statement and to understand the magnitude of that statement we must first wrestle with this concept of darkness.

Frequently in the Old Testament, darkness represents judgment. Our minds recall the darkness that came over the land of Egypt just before the final plague. The Bible says it was a "thick darkness" and a "darkness (that could be) felt" (Ex. 10:22, 21). For God was about to execute His severest judgment upon the Egyptians for their sin. At midnight, God would strike down the firstborn of all families to the extent, says the Bible, that a cry would go out from the land "such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again" (Ex. 11:6). But if the Jews would sprinkle blood on their doorposts from a sacrificial lamb, God would "see the blood" (Ex. 12:13) and His wrath would "passover" that household.

We ask, is there any similarity with what happened in Egypt to what happened with Jesus at Calvary? Was the thick darkness a sign of God's judgment? And if so, for what? Would an ultimate, unblemished Passover Lamb be sacrificed? Would He shed His blood so that others might live? Would God "see the blood" and accept His offering as an atonement for sin? As Jesus hung on the instrument of torture, all of heaven waited for an answer.

Accursed is he, says the Scripture, who hangs on a tree (Dt. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). Jesus was placed on that wooden cross because all of His contemporaries believed Him to be a sinner. They believed God's judgment would fall upon Him. How ironic it was when in reality, He was suffering not for His own sins, but for all of our sins that were heaped upon Him. All of our vileness poured into His purity. Jesus was our substitute as He was bearing all of the sins from all that would call upon His name in faith.

It was prophesized, "He (would be) crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being (would fall) upon Him" (Isa. 53:5). In 2 Corinthians 5:21 the Apostle wrote, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." During that time of utter darkness for three terrible hours, Jesus was left alone with our sin as He faced the dreadful anger of a sin-avenging God. He was cursed. For God spared not His own Son (Rom. 8:32) when He was flung into the sinner's place.

One commentator remarked, "The darkness meant judgment, the judgment of God upon our sins, His wrath as it were burning itself out in the very heart of Jesus, so that He, as our substitute, suffered most intense agony, indescribable woe, terrible isolation or forsakenness. Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead" (William Hendrickson, Mark, p. 660).


When the ninth hour had finally arrived, shortly before He breathed His last, our Lord uttered His fourth saying from the cross. At this point crucified victims are usually letting out shouts of rage, pain and indescribable despair. Although Jesus endured the sufferings of humans without a cry from His lips, things would now change. Verse 34 of our text says, "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?' which is translated, 'MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME'" (cf. Mt. 27:46)?

In quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, Jesus lets out one of the most gut-wrenching comments in all of Scripture. Allow for a moment that most tragic word, "forsaken," to burn into your hearts. Maybe you were forsaken by a parent or child or spouse. Maybe you were forsaken by a friend you once thought faithful. I'm sure we have all experienced the pain of being forsaken at one time or another. But imagine for a moment the thought of being forsaken by God. That is the epitome of hell, my friends. Forsaken by God, what depression, what agony, what hopelessness.

Now imagine God the Son. From eternity past enjoying perfect fellowship with God the Father only to have that sweet fellowship for the first time ever, broken. Only to have the Father in whom He trusted and was serving in this act of sacrifice turn His back in abandonment. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Mk. 15:34), cried Jesus.

The One whom judge Pilate said, "I find no guilt in this man" (Lk. 23:4) was now condemned in heaven's courts. The One in whom the Father always delighted was now forsaken by the Father. The One who prayed, "I knew that You always hear Me" (Jn. 11:42) received no answer from above. The One who said, "(All will abandon me), yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me" (Jn. 16:32) was left to Himself in His most desperate time of need. And as the crowed taunted, "Let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him" (Mt. 27:43) the Son reached out, but the Father never reached back.

I believe this is what Jesus feared most in the Garden of Gethsemane spoken of one chapter earlier in this Gospel (Mk. 15:32-42). I believe this is what reveals the unfathomable depths of Christ's suffering much of which is beyond human understanding or explanation.

As awful as it was, we know why Christ was forsaken. It was my fault - and yours. He was forsaken because He accepted our sins and was bearing the penalty for those sins. Sin always excludes us from God's presence (2 Thes. 1:9). The Father in turning His back executed the perfect justice that His holiness demanded. And our Savior drank every last drop from the bitter cup of wrath until His redeeming work was complete. On the cross we see the unfathomable lengths Christ would go to atone for our sins (1 Pet. 2:24) so that the mercy of God could flow freely to those undeserving.

The unknown Puritan once spoke of this loving exchange: "Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell's worst that I might attain heaven's best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal light" (Arthur Bennett, ed. The Valley of Vision, p. 42).


Wonderful truth indeed, but if you do not know the Savior this truth is not for you. You are still in your sins and the wrath of God abides on you (Jn. 3:36). The Bible says Christ suffered hell on earth for three hours, but those without Jesus will suffer in the Lake of Fire for all eternity. The size of your sin is irrelevant. All sin can be forgiven. All repentant people will be accepted because the sacrifice was complete, because the issue is not you, but the blood that God "sees" that will declare you right before Him (as Job asked). As we sing, "Clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the Throne." Will you trust Christ today?

If you are in Christ this afternoon, you need to remember you died with Christ that memorable day. You were crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20). His death was your death. He laid His life down for His friends (Jn. 15:13). He paid the wages of sin that you owed (Rom. 6:23). And He was forsaken by God to ensure that will never happen to you. In Hebrews 13:5 God comforts us: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you." The cross is the most definitive expression of the love of God. It truly was a "Good Friday."

So in the shadow of the Old Covenant, the reality was filled in Christ. The Lamb of God offered His blood that ultimate Day of Atonement to remove sins forever (Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). The veil was torn from top to bottom in the Temple to signify that unlimited access to God's intimate presence is now available (Mt. 27:51). And through Christ, Ladies and Gentlemen, the scapegoat that bore our sins has left the building, once and for all, and he isn't ever coming back!

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