My God, My God 

Darkness Too Pure
Psalm 22 Suffering Servant
Say It and Mean It Quest for the Historical Jesus
Ends of the Earth



When Jesus was crucified, darkness covered the land: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." (Matthew 27:45). This "darkness," in mourning for the first-born, was prophesied by Amos:

"And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day." (Amos 8:9-10).

The thick darkness God brought upon Egypt separated between Israel and Egypt: "And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (Exodus 10:21-23). Sin separates: Jesus spoke of the place of exile of sinners as "outer darkness." Sin brings darkness in its train, and severance from God:

  • “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. . .
  • “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
    We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.”
  • (Isaiah 59:2-10).

How can darkness envelope Him who is the light: "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12)? Because He bore our sins, having none of His own, and thus He cried:

"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

Too Pure

God is of purer eyes than to behold evil:

  • “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?”
  • (Habakkuk 1:13).

Those who talk with Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses have often heard the Lord's cry brought forth as itself a sufficient refutation of Christianity: "When Jehovah's Witnesses or Muslims ask Christians, 'If Jesus was divine, to whom did he cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"', these questioners assume that if Jesus is God, then there can't be any other persons who possess the divine nature." (Paul Copan, Contending with Christianity's Critics, Kindle location 4077). To whom is Jesus crying out? He is crying out to God the Father; here is an interpersonal relationship, though not between God and one who is not God. While it is only because the Son took on flesh that He found Himself strapped to an execution machine, or at risk of such a fate, this cry is not the cry of 'flesh.' The fellowship between Father and Son has endured since before the world was: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24). Though it had endured from eternity past, on the cross this fellowship was, if not broken, at least thrown into eclipse. Jesus Himself was without sin: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). But He was offered as the effectual sacrifice for sin: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28).  Jesus came into the world to be made sin for us:

"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." (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When Jesus was "made sin for us," then how could His fellowship with the Father remain intact?

Psalm 22

Psalm 22, a psalm of David, contains a remarkable prophecy of the Messiah's death on the cross at the hands of wicked men:

  • My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
  • “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
  • “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
  • “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
  • “They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
  • “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
  • “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
  • “He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
  • “But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
  • “I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

  • “Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
  • “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
  • “They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
  • “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
  • “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
  • “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
  • “I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
  • “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
  • “But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
  • “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
  • “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

  • “I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
  • “Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
  • “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
  • “My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
  • “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
  • “For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.
  • “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
  • “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
  • “They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”
  • (Psalm 22).

 Foolish atheists will sometimes try to deny that there are real correspondences between Psalm 22 and Jesus' crucifixion, but intelligent ones do not devote their energies to denying the obvious. Rather, they turn it around, claiming the gospel report is made up, out of whole cloth, based on the prophesied details. Thus John Dominic Crossan tells us the gospel record of the crucifixion is 'prophecy historicized:'

"But there is an even more likely origin for this tradition in Psalm 22, which, more than any other Old Testament text, was a virtual quarry for passion prophecy concerning the crucifixion. At least, therefore, within that general using of Psalm 22 to create crucifixion details, the statement in 22:16 that 'a company of evil-doers encircles me' best explains that fivefold agreement on the presence of the two thieves. . .First, the twin thieves are not history remembered but prophecy historicized. Their presence comes originally from Psalm 22 as the basic prophetic background for crucifixion details." (John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? pp. 133-136).

Christians of course do not agree that the gospel record is fiction. And the fact that Jesus cited this psalm on the cross must surely rivet the reader's attention to it. It is an irony indeed that God has held out as bait for the detractor such a remarkable instance of fulfilled prophecy. To Ronald Reagan, writing to his dying father-in-law Loyal Davis, an atheist, the fulfilled prophecy of Psalm 22 was so remarkable a proof that Jesus was the Messiah, that it was worth citing, in circumstances where it cannot have been possible to give a lengthy disquisition: "Crucifixion was unknown in those times, yet it was foretold that he would be nailed to a cross of wood." (Ronald Reagan to Loyal Davis, August 7, 1982, Washington Post). To others, like Bart Ehrman and Muslim apologists, this very same correspondence between the Psalm and Jesus' crucifixion is the very proof He cannot have been God:


A speaker who quotes a well-known passage is compressing and compacting a lot of information into a very small package. When you start the recitation, you also know how it ends; the finale does not come as an unexpected surprise. Interpreters who want to know the whole story should not neglect to read the whole psalm, which does not end in defeat but in triumph.

That Psalm 22 speaks in images of such startling clarity and vitality of a crucifixion, presents a problem for the unbeliever. John Dominic Crossan is only the latest in a long line who must find some way of turning things inside out. Here David Friedrich Strauss explains why Psalm 22 has got nothing whatsoever to do with the Messiah's crucifixion: ". . .while Ps. xxii. is the complaint of an oppressed exile. As to the 17th verse of this Psalm, which has been interpreted as having reference to the crucifixion of Christ, even presupposing the most improbable interpretation of כארי by perfoderunt, this must in no case be understood literally, but only figuratively, and the image would be derived, not from a crucifixion, but from a chase, or a combat with wild beasts; hence the application of this passage to Christ is now only maintained by those with whom it would be lost labour to contend." (Strauss, David Friedrich; Eliot, George. The life of Jesus critically examined (Kindle Locations 16242-16246).) It is "lost labour," therefore, to contend on this point with Jesus, who patently thought Psalm 22 was about Him; He quoted it on the cross.

The psalm the Lord is quoting is a prayer, and as even the pagans realized, one can pray on a cross: "Those who are shut in prison hope for release, they say, and many a one hanging on the cross still prays." (Ovid, Letters, Book I, Letter VI. To Graecinus). This prayer is no admission of defeat, as will be seen.

The Suffering Servant

The suffering servant came into the world to bear the sins of many:

"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12).

He was numbered with the transgressors, who do not feel the warmth of God's presence and favor:

"For three hours, darkness was over all the land. . .As that veil of night was lifting, the cry rose, single, echoless, in all its uniqueness: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' It was the only key to the darkness, which otherwise would be an impenetrable mystery. Midst all that man could do, Christ spoke words of forgiveness and blessing, but that which He experienced in those three hours brought to His lips the cry of direst agony. So the darkness contained that in which man had no part. It was then that the Savior endured the forsakenness — and that of His God — a forsakenness involved in His bearing our sins, and thus in the making of atonement. The latter was a work wrought entirely of God. Man had no share in it. His guilty hands might nail the Lord Jesus to the Cross, but more than that he could not do; he might add to his sins, but could do nothing for their removal. The supreme sufferings of Christ were not at creature hands. They were endured when 'the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'" (H. C. Hewlett, The Glories of Our Lord, pp. 94-95.)

Jacques Joseph Tissot, Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani

Hymn-writer Fanny Crosby, who was blind, felt that she would know her Savior when she met Him in glory by the nail-prints in His hand. Then we shall see Him face to face:

Say It and Mean It

The prophecy of Psalm 22 is, not that the Messiah will pretend to cry, "My God, my God, etc.," without really meaning it, but that He will cry it and will mean it. This must happen, just as surely as the other things predicted in the Psalm, for instance that the assembly of the wicked will pierce the Messiah's hands and feet. At this, the believer can only start back, dumbstruck with wonder and astonishment:

"The first verse expresses a species of suffering that never at any other time was felt in this world, and never will be again — the vengeance of the Almighty upon his child — 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" (quoted of R. H. Ryland, Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 22, Kindle location 11044).

Sin blocks our fellowship with God, and on the cross the Messiah was bearing the sins of the whole world. The felt loving presence of the Father was withdrawn in the face of this monstrous scar of sin. Just as those abandoned in Hell cannot see the loving face of their heavenly Father, so the Messiah could not on the cross; sin blocked out the light. He had no sin of His own; it was our sin He bore. This estrangement Jesus willingly took upon Himself in order to save us.

  • “...he was now without a sense of the gracious presence of God, and was filled, as the surety of his people, with a sense of divine wrath, which their iniquities he now bore, deserved, and which was necessary for him to endure, in order to make full satisfaction for them; for one part of the punishment of sin is loss of the divine presence. Wherefore he made not this expostulation out of ignorance:...but because he stood in the legal place, and stead of show, that he bore all the griefs of his people, and this among the rest, divine desertion; and to set forth the bitterness of his sorrows, that not only the sun in the firmament hid its face from him, and he was forsaken by his friends and disciples, but even left by his God; and also to express the strength of his faith at such a time. [...]
  • “The heinousness of sin may be learnt from hence, which not only drove the angels out of heaven, and Adam out of the garden, and separates, with respect to communion, between God and his children; but even caused him to hide his face from his own Son, whilst he was bearing, and suffering for, the sins of his people. The condescending grace of Christ is here to be seen, that he, who was the word, that was with God from everlasting, and his only begotten Son that lay in his bosom, that he should descend from heaven by the assumption of human nature, and be for a while forsaken by God, to bring us near unto him...”
  • (John Gill, Exposition of the Bible, Commentary on Matthew 27:46,

Some interpreters hear Him speaking corporately, on behalf of the members who will comprise His body, or even those whom He would have wished to make up the number. In other words the 'god-forsakenness' is not His own, but that of those for whom He died, who will not take the proffered salvation:

“. . .that the complaint of Jesus Christ to His Father proceeded from the sentiment with which He was affected, in representing to Himself the little fruit which His death would produce; in considering the small number of the elect who would profit by it; in foreseeing with horror the infinite number of the reprobate, for whom it would be useless: as if He had wished to proclaim that His merits were not fully enough, nor worthily enough, remunerated; and that after having done so much work, He had a right to promise to Himself a different success in behalf of men. . .That millions of the human race for whom He suffers will nevertheless be excluded from the benefit of redemption. And because He regards Himself in them as their Head, and themselves, in spite of their worthlessness, as the members of His mystical body, seeing them abandoned by God, He complains of being abandoned Himself: 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!'”

(Louis Bourdaloue, Sermon on the Passion of Jesus Christ, Luther, Martin; Calvin, John; Knox, John; Latimer, Hugh; Zwingli, Huldreich; FenÚlon, Francois (2017-03-12). The Great Orators of the Reformation Era (Kindle Locations 2802-2810). Gideon House Books).

This view, however, cannot really be correct, because the lost are not 'in Christ.' Nevertheless, whatever the nature of His distress, it is real. There shouldn't be any need to stress this point, but if it didn't happen, then the prophecy is unfulfilled! How often do we hear this type of thing, "Changing the order and wording of such episodes usually reflects a distinctive understanding of Jesus's life, teachings, and death on the part of a Gospel author who was far more interested in the theological significance carried by the story than in historical accuracy." (L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christ, p. 116). If there is no "historical accuracy," then there is no "theological significance!" The "theological significance" of things which were prophesied but never happened is exactly nil. We still await the fulfillment of some things. The God who authored scripture is also the God who rules history; He does not prophesy of things that don't occur.

There is plainly a distinction drawn in these verses; as the heretics perceive, "Do you really believe that when Jesus was on the cross, He must have meant, 'Myself, myself, why have I forsaken myself?' instead of what is actually in Mark 15:34: ,My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Gail Shamblin Lara, Remnant Fellowship website, retrieved 5/30/22). To this diet guru turned heretic, the cry of dereliction is sufficient proof that Jesus cannot be God, as Christians confess. To be sure, there cannot be more than one will in the Trinity, while there can be both a human and a divine will in the incarnate Jesus Christ. Yet a threatened estrangement looms within God's own lived experience, not between 'natures' which have no such inter-relationship, but between persons.

While Jesus' recitation of this Psalm cements His claim to be the awaited Messiah, His cry on the cross has paradoxically been used as an accusation against Him by his bitterest enemies, such as Bart Ehrman. But in the meanwhile it has also treasured by those He has redeemed, who understand the cost of their ransom.

"He ended his life with the words, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' — confession which can hardly be otherwise interpreted than that God had not helped him to carry out his intention and attain his object as he had hoped He would have done. It was then clearly not the intention or the object of Jesus to suffer and to die, but to build up a worldly kingdom, and to deliver the Israelites from bondage. It was in this that God had forsaken him, it was in this that his hopes had been frustrated." (Reimarus, Fragments of Reimarus, Section VIII, Kindle location 270).

This cry of dereliction is a camouflaged trap for unbelievers, almost all of whom will eagerly admit that the Lord said those words, but in so admitting have also conceded the Lord claimed to be the Messiah. Reimarus wants to make of Him a failed Messiah,— he ". . .pretended to be a Messiah," (ibid. Kindle location 349),— but oddly enough those like Ehrman who deem Him no Messiah at all willingly follow Reimarus' lead, the suffering servant seeming an easy target; but the blows they land only confirm His identity.

Quest for the Historical Jesus

There are very many Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah which Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled. In some cases these involve events not within the control of the Lord and His disciples, but in other cases they involve actions,— say, reciting a set phrase,— which might easily be accomplished by any Messianic aspirant, even Rabbi Schneerson, by conscious patterning: the Messiah is to say 'x,' therefore I will say 'x:' 'Hello, people! x!.' If you read much of the 'historical Jesus' literature, you will discover that these authors deny the first category absolutely, in a most irrational way: if the prophecy says that the Messiah will do 'x,' 'x' being a happenstance not within the control of the Lord or His disciples, then Jesus of Nazareth cannot have undergone 'x.' If you stop to think of it this is like saying, if the prophecy relates that 'the Messiah will toss a coin in the air and it will come up heads,' this means that if Jesus of Nazareth tosses a coin in the air it can never come up heads, which is absurd.

They are also somewhat prone to deny the second category, on this basis: if Jesus of Nazareth consciously and intentionally patterned His actions after those of the Messiah, then He was, if only in pantomime, claiming to be the Messiah. Now there is nothing historically impossible in a man claiming to be the Jewish Messiah, many men have made that claim down through the years. Here their bias is showing: though it is by no means impossible for a man to claim to be the Messiah, this man cannot have so claimed; His followers made up this claim at a much later date. But you will find a curious anomaly. 'Scholars' who color all sayings black which report Jesus of Nazareth saying something which the Messiah was prophesied to say do not ever color this one black. Why not?

Ends of the Earth

There is a song that runs, "When He was on the Cross, I Was on His Mind." All believers can sing this song, but students of Psalm 22 notice a special application. Suffering and dying upon the cross, Jesus thought about. . .us.:

“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
“For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28).

Under the theory that, in quoting the opening lines of the psalm, he intimated the remainder, then not only His own people of the Jews were on the Messiah's mind, but the distant outcasts of far distant shores as well. This is a persistent, though in some quarters unpopular, theme of scripture:

“Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:4-5).

Kimchi rebuts the Christian application to our Lord of the great promise that "all the families of the nations shall worship before You," by pointing out that Jews and Muslims do not worship Him: "Behold, all his words are belied. Then he says, All the kindreds of the nations, while, as you see, the Jews and the Mohammedans do not believe in him." (R. David Kimchi, Longer Commentary on the First Book of Psalms, Psalm 22, p. 109). But the promise is secure: