A Heartfelt Cry of Anguish
Text: Matthew 27 : 32 - 66
Two horrendous trials, two terrible beatings, three hours on the cross! How did Jesus cope with all that suffering? On the human side, how did He really cope? Matthew did not fail to paint a full picture including one where Jesus cried out to His Father from the depths of His soul.
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God,
why have You forsaken Me?'”
How should we understand these words that came from the depths of His soul? Let us consider the following thoughts.
1. The significance of the use of the mother tongue
It is not without significance that Matthew used the very words that Jesus spoke. He used His mother tongue of Aramaic. In moments of registering the highest trauma, the language of the heart is often the mother tongue. Jesus must have felt the deepest sense of anguish in His heart as He uttered these words.
2. The significance of the use of the Scriptures
Even as we study the text carefully, we note that Jesus was in fact citing Psalm 22. The words He uttered were the opening lines of the Messianic psalm written by David. Is there significance in this observation? YES!
When a person is in deep pain, very few thoughts are retained in the mind. The individual has to marshal every ounce of concentration he possessed just to cope with the pain. The Scriptures were the things that Jesus focused His attention on. He drew encouragement and strength from dwelling on the Scriptures throughout His life and ministry. In His darkest hour, He drew strength once again from the Scriptures to help Him cope with his physical distress.
3. The significance of prayer
The words of Jesus must be understood as a prayer. Communion with His Father had always been part and parcel of the life of Jesus. Always, He addressed God as “Father”. In this one instance, the language Jesus employed as He prayed seemed to be far more formal than usual. The words used by Jesus were, “My God, My God…” instead of “O Father…” (Cf. John 17:5, 24).
The significance of this prayer would be better understood if we took time to appreciate Psalm 22. Let us note the following thoughts:-
a) The portrait of a soul fighting doubts brought on by great pain
The Messianic Psalm 22 well portrays the deep and intense struggle of the soul as it battles deep and dark thoughts brought on by intense pain. We must not think that doubts in themselves are wrong. They are not! It is giving in to doubts that constitutes the problem. Psalm 22 well described the kind of pain and distress Jesus underwent.
“A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake their head, saying,
‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”
PSALM 22:6b-8, 13, 16-18
These prophetic statements were literally fulfilled in the crucifixion ordeal Jesus endured. How does one struggle with such intense pain except to train the mind to focus on God’s Word with the idea of fulfilling it.
b) The painting of a soul drawing strength through the exercising of faith/trust
The theme of trust was very real and strong in Psalm 22. Let us consider the following verses.
“Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You and were not ashamed.
But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me;
O My strength, hasten to help Me!
PSALM 22:4, 19
NO PRAYER IS EVER UTTERD IN VAIN
Yes, Jesus’ cry was uttered in anguish! Not to expect that there would be some level of anguish would be absurd thinking. Did God answer His prayer? Let us ponder the following words from the same Psalm!
“You have answered Me…”