Editor’s note: These devotional thoughts are excerpted from the sermon series that accompanies CTA’s new theme for Easter preparation, The Shepherd, the Lamb. The sermon series includes six sermons and six sets of discussion questions based on them – all free! They are designed for use with our new product line, The Shepherd, the Lamb. We think you will find much of value here as you help members prepare to observe Good Friday and celebrate our Savior’s Resurrection!
Read Matthew 27:45-46 as you begin.
The shelves of Christian bookstores in recent years have been filled with books written by people who believe they have visited heaven (or hell) and have returned to tell about it. Regardless of what we think about those reports, we have one report that is totally reliable.
While Jesus Christ hung on the cross, his experience was anything but heavenly. He cried out in anguish, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani.” You know what those words mean; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (See Matthew 27:46.) Christ was quoting words from Psalm 22.
These ancient words from the Psalter are ones that Jesus knew well even as a child; yet now, on the cross, the words of Psalm 22 took on a vividness, a harsh reality that our Savior had never before experienced. On the cross, Jesus became the one utterly forsaken.
That word, forsaken, hits like a ton of bricks. Christ has been utterly forsaken on the cross! This is a mystery no human being will ever fully comprehend. Jesus, burdened by your sins and mine on the cross, has been forsaken – forsaken by God. He is in hell.
This is not a metaphorical hell. This is not a state of mind or anything of that sort. This abandonment is far worse than any of the beatings he endured. It is far worse than having his body supported solely by nails. Jesus is utterly alone. Although people stand around him, gawking or spitting, he is alone. In anguish, he asks his heavenly Father, “Why? Why have you forsaken me?”
Although Jesus asks the question, we can provide an answer. We are the answer! Our sins are the reason God sent his Son to earth in the first place – to die as our substitute. Our Loving Shepherd is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. We are the reason God abandoned Christ there on the cross. Our sins nailed Christ to his cross.
Our sin is part of the answer to Jesus’ question. Really, we could say that it is the answer that lies on the surface. But if we dig a little deeper, we find a deeper answer. Jesus asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Again, we are the answer! God loves us so much! That love led Christ to his cross. That love led him to stay on that cross and to die there. Your Loving Shepherd willingly offered himself up for you!
Jesus is pinned up there on the cross. He hangs between two criminals. His arms, spread out from side to side, support the entire weight of his body – all because God loves his creation. All because God loves you! Our Loving Shepherd went to wondrous lengths to bring us back into a right relationship with himself. Love held our Lord Jesus to his cross.