39 of 100: “God forsaken by God — who can understand it?” – Martin Luther & about atonement

God forsaken by God

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamasabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Mark 15:34

1. It is said that Martin Luther once sat down to prepare a sermon on this same text. He sat at his desk, chewing on the meaning of these words for quite some time. Every once in a while someone would poke their head into his office to see if he was okay, because hours would pass and he still hand’t budged an inch. Finally, they say that Luther threw his hands up in the air, exclaimed,

“God forsaken by God — who can understand it?”

and went about some other business.

That mystery is so great and imponderable that it is not surprising that Martin Luther is said to have gone into seclusion for a long time trying to understand it and came away as confused as when he began. – http://www.gty.org/resources/print/bible-qna/BQ032913

2. The famous 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“I think I can understand the words ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ as they are spoken by David in Psalm 22. But how they came to be uttered by Christ on the cross I will never comprehend.” – http://christlodi.org/god-forsaken-by-god/

The atoning work of the Christ

When Jesus cried out ‘My God, My God’ he literally meant that. To deny Jesus’ God is to deny Jesus also. He who denies the God & Father of Jesus also denies Jesus his son. He who understands the Father understands the son. He who struggles against the authority of the  God of Jesus also struggles against the son as the son always honoured his God.

This is a scene when the opponents of Jesus gloat over the God’s anointed. The invisible God has not intervened. The son hangs and the wicked are vindicated.

Rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luk 23:35 )

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Mat 27:39,40) 

And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luk 23:35)

Jesus experienced a defeat. But he trusted in God that he would be brought back to life by his God and concludes his life:

Luk 23:46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!“And having said this he breathed his last.

This is what humans are called to do – to fully trust in their God even as Jesus did “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

Jesus’ trust was justified when he was resurrected and as a mere son of man was exalted to the right hand of God. This is the gospel message concerning faith and hope!

  • Faith: Jesus trusted his God
  • Hope: He would see life again and be rewarded. Jesus experienced poverty but he believed he would experience eternal riches. Jesus’ joy was his hope and his hope was eternal life and heavenly riches.

Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Here is the atoning work of Jesus – His love, hope and faith. For faith and hope will not succeed unless they are motivated by love.

The brutal murder of a righteous man was not new for from the time of Abel many a  righteous men have been cut off by the wicked. The prophets of God were thrust into danger because of the love of God for the wicked that the wicked should not perish since they are also his creation.

Atonement is about love, faith and hope. It is not about animal, human or a God being sacrificed. The Atoning sacrifice of the son was reverent submission, even a brutal death on the cross that opened the flood gates of eternal life. A man locked the way to the tree of life, so took another man to unlock the path to eternal life.

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him (Php 2:8, 9)

Substitution, ransom, blood (or life) have to be understood symbolically as they are a consequence of his obedience (sacrifice). Jesus then becomes a ‘template’ for humans to base their life upon – example Stephen who was stoned.

Rom 5:17  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Rom 5:18  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

It is not a divine being that atones but a man through his righteous way.

Rom 5:19  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The gospel message of life is to be righteous like Jesus, as Jesus was righteous like his Father. But before Yahweh’s Christ was exalted he was tested, tired, suffered, gloated upon and was murdered – yet in all this he proved his love – and thereby obedience that flowed from that love. So the first command is to love the Father with all our heart, mind and soul.



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