Let us spend some time praying over this passage from Scripture–one of several accounts of the final moments before our Lord breathed his last.
Without going back to the passage, can you recall the last thing Jesus said according to Matthew’s account?
Your guess might be: “Eli, Eli, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which, as the Gospel clarifies, means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
These words have been traditionally interpreted as our Lord quoting Scripture, particularly, the first line of Psalm 22, when David cries out:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night,
but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
It was customary for Jews at that time to quote Scripture to express how they felt or to make sense of their situations. So this interpretation is certainly valid.
But theologians caution us against minimizing the meaning of these words for Jesus. He wasn’t just quoting Scripture. Our Lord truly experienced abandonment–not just by his people, but also by his Father.
Just to be clear: Of course the Father never ever abandoned the Son–most especially not on the cross. But in Gethsemane Jesus had accepted to save us by taking our place as sinners, he truly experienced the lot of sinners–which is precisely separation from God. Nothing could be more painful–or frightening–for the Son of God!
For Jesus to express through the Psalm how forsaken he felt on the cross–that’s heartbreaking enough. But if we read the passage more closely, we discover that these words were, in fact, not the last thing we hear from Jesus. The last thing we hear from him is actually a loud wordless cry.
Take a moment to imagine this last cry of Jesus.
How would it sound? If you had been in Calvary at that moment, what would you hear? What would it mean?
And what does hearing this cry of Jesus say and do to you?
We invite you now to sit quietly–or to go to some quiet place off screen–to reflect and pray over these questions.
We suggest you spend about 15 to 30 minutes at least for this prayer exercise. Come back when you’re ready.