I take absolutely zero credit for the following, I just wanted to share because I find it to be such a delightful insight into our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – concerning the last words he spoke before dying on the cross for our sins. The credit, as far as I understand, goes to a brother-in-Christ, Robert Gipson.
“When Yeshua was dying on the Cross, he uttered, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” meaning, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
There have been varying interpretations as why Yeshua said this. Some have argued he said it because at that moment – on the Cross – he genuinely felt (or suddenly realized) that God had abandoned him – and therefore God must indeed have abandoned him….and therefor Yeshua must NOT have been the Messiah. This interpretation has been presented by some non-believing Jews, and also by some atheists.
It’s really hard to blame them for this interpretation, since this utterance by Yeshua – on it’s face – certainly doesn’t seem to support him being the Messiah. On it’s face, it casts doubt on Yeshua being Messiah.
Possibly for that reason, some in the early Christian church developed a rationalization (an apologia) for why Yeshua uttered those particular words: They argued that yes – God actually did abandon him at that moment – but He did so because at that very moment, Christ took on all the sins of the world; all sin in the world was suddenly absorbed by, and concentrated in, one man.
And, so the argument goes, this was unbearable for God to look down upon – so God abandoned Yeshua at that moment; as if this momentary abandonment was a necessary part of God’s plan. Modern Christian denominations, from Roman Catholics to Baptists, still teach this explanation.
But there is another explanation.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” is the opening verse of Psalm 22.
Please read Psalm 22 in its entirety Written circa 1,000 B.C., it prophecies the Crucifixion in eerie detail. “They pierce my hands and my feet” “They cast lots for my garment.” “I am encompassed by dogs”. In Biblical times, “dogs” was a term that Jews used for pagans (e.g. Romans).
Now think for a moment.
Who were the audience that came to watch Christ die, and who heard him utter those fateful words?
They were the scribes and Pharisees, the elders of the temple – the very Jews who wanted him dead, and who came to watch Him die. These were “pious” men who knew the scriptures. As our Lord slowly died on the Cross, the prophecies of Psalm 22 (“they cast lots for my garment,” etc.) were being fulfilled before the very eyes of onlookers, but they didn’t realized it; they “had eyes but did not see”.
Christ had to awaken the onlookers. How could he do this? Well, he certainly couldn’t say much, as he was dying of asphyxiation. He couldn’t say, for example, “Behold! They cast lots for my garments. Behold! They pierce my hands and my feet! (etc…) Behold! The prophecies of Psalm 22 are being fulfilled before your very eyes!” No, he couldn’t say anything like that.
Instead, he just recited the opening verse of Psalm 22. The greater significance of this is that in those days, the Psalms were not numbered (numbering came much later). At Christ’s time, when Jews read various Psalms in the synagogue, each Psalm was known by its opening verse.
So, when Yeshua cried out, “Eli, Eli lama sabachthani,” it was the equivalent of crying out “Psalm 22!”
Then, and only then, would those learned men make the mental connection between the things that were written in the Psalm – and the things that were unfolding before their very eyes. Christ uttered those words to awaken and convict them. Even as he was dying, he was still teaching.”