If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew, chapter 27. We will be looking at verses 45 – 49. First, in verses 45 – 46 we see Jesus and this great cry of distress. And then again in verse 46 we see the role of God the Father in the crucifixion. And finally in verses 47 – 49 we see the ungrateful, inappropriate response of those who were present during the crucifixion of Christ.
I. The Son’s Cry
First, let’s look at verses 45 – 46. In these verses Matthew is bidding us to look at what Christ endured, and to consider the measure of His love. It’s high noon, and yet Matthew tells us that in the sixth hour, the sky was darkened and that the whole land was in a deep darkness. And amid this darkness Jesus lifts up this heart-rending cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” And we must stop and ask, “What is Jesus doing here? What does that cry mean?” Jesus is quoting from the very first verse of Psalm 22.
In quoting this Psalm, Jesus is pointing to the isolation from the love of His heavenly Father which He willingly endured for us. Jesus is saying, “My dear friends, I want you to understand that I experienced what the Psalmist thought he experienced. I experienced the loss of the Father’s face and favor. I was His Son and suddenly I lost all sense of His love, of His comforting favor, of His presence. It was all withdrawn because I was a curse. I was being made the penalty for sin. It pleased the Lord to bruise Me. I was bruised for your transgressions.” This terrible sense of isolation really ought to touch our hearts deeply and show the magnitude of His love. He was looking right into the funnel of the judgment of God, and He was doing it alone. And so, as He cries out, He is pointing us to that sense of isolation which He experienced.
II. The Father’s Silence
In verse 46, Matthew is also pointing us to God’s refusal to answer. If you look at the first verses of Psalm 22, the psalmist is crying out in anguish because he doesn’t feel that God is answering him in his distress. And here the Lord Jesus Christ is emphasizing that on Calvary there is no voice. When Abraham went up Mt. Moriah, and he got to the top there was a voice from heaven which said, “Touch not the lad.” But here on Calvary there’s no voice, there’s no answer to Jesus’ cry. And Jesus is drawing our attention to this because He wants us to understand that, though God had so often come to the rescue of His people, and though God will certainly come to your rescue in time of need, the Father did not rescue Him. It is the heart of the plan of God not to rescue Him in order that He might rescue you.
And why does Matthew show it to you? Because he wants you to understand that Jesus is not getting the Father to love you by dying on a cross. It all began with the love of God the Father. Notice how often the New Testament emphasizes the work of God the Father in the cross of Christ. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Where’s the emphasis? It’s on God the Father. It all began with the Father’s love, and when we look at Calvary we are moved. We’re moved by the silence of the Father.
But we make an enormous mistake if we fail to see how the Father was moved in what was happening on Calvary. When the Father looked at the cross, He saw His own Son, the last person in the universe that He wanted to see on the cross. And yet, He says nothing. Why? Because of His love for you. He will not answer His Son, because His Son has taken your place. He has born your penalty. And so, there’s no answer for the Son because that is the stratagem of the Father’s love to redeem you from sin.
III. The Witnesses’ Ingratitude
And then Matthew turns us to verses 47 – 49 and, to our astonishment, shows us the incomprehension and the ingratitude of those who were standing inches from the central act in God’s work of redemption. These people have the work of Christ in their face, and yet Matthew shows us three faulty responses.
In verse 47 there is misunderstanding. They hear Him quoting from Psalm 22 and they say, “Oh, He’s crying for Elijah.” The Jews in their day had a superstition. They believed that since Elijah was taken up to heaven before dying that anytime a righteous, persecuted man was facing death that he might cry out to Elijah, and that often times Elijah would come and rescue that man from persecution. So in their superstition they think that Jesus is crying out for Elijah to come and rescue him. It’s a supreme irony, isn’t it? That to the very end Jesus’ opponents misunderstood who He was claiming to be.
And then in verse 48 we see an example of pity. The soldier goes and he soaks a sponge with sour wine and gives Jesus a drink. It’s interesting that the pagan is the only one that shows a kind response to Jesus. But pity is so far short of what is demanded by the sacrifice of Christ.
And then in verse 49 there is a response of ridicule. There are some of those members of the mob who are saying, “Well, let’s just wait around and see if Elijah shows up.” They are still mocking our Lord and Savior. They’re right there before the cross, and they still don’t understand. This shows that it takes the work of God’s grace to understand the meaning of the cross. It takes the Spirit working in your heart to believe.
So today if for the first time you’re coming close to understanding what God did in Jesus on the cross, that is a sign that the Spirit Himself is working in you, to open your eyes that you may see and believe and embrace Him. And I want to say, that if you have not embraced Him, and you go into eternity without having embraced Him, you will face God’s wrath by yourself, and you will face the outer darkness. But if you will but trust in Him and rest in Him, put all your hope and confidence in Him, see your righteousness as rubbish, and His righteousness as golden and white and clean garments and take them on, being justified in Him by faith, you will fellowship with Him and with His Father forever. Oh, my friends, respond to Matthew’s call to embrace the crucified one who will come and reign.