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‘My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?’ Didn’t Jesus Already Know?

Welcome back to the Ask Pastor John podcast with John Piper. Podcast listener Bridgette writes in to say: “Pastor John, I love the Lord deeply and my faith continues to grow, but I’ve always struggled with Matt 27.45–46″>Matthew 27:45–46. Why would Jesus call out to the Father ‘why have you forsaken me?’ when Jesus knew the answer? It was for this very reason Jesus came, to be forsaken on our behalf! Could you give insight into this, so that this hurdle in my faith can be removed?”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Those terrifying words occur in two gospels—Matthew 27:46).

Now, one very important fact to remember is that these words are the exact first words of Psalm 22. And that is important because Jesus seems to have known that the whole psalm in some way or other was about him, because at least three other parts of this psalm are quoted in the story of his death. So you have got verses 1–2. This is what the psalm says: “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And in verse 7: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads”—and those are exact words. “They wag their heads,” quoted in Matthew 27:39: “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads” to show that this psalm is being played out in the death of Jesus. And in verse 16 of the psalm, “They have pierced my hands and feet.” And in verse 18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are part of this psalm that contains, as it were, a script for Jesus’ last hours. Now, why did he say it? She wants to know why. Why did he say it? And here is a three-part answer.

First, this was a real forsakenness. That is why. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” means he really did. He really did. He is bearing our sin. He bore our judgment. The judgment was to have God the Father pour out his wrath on us, and instead, he pours it out on him—and that necessarily involves a kind of abandonment. That is what wrath means. He gave him up to suffer the weight of all the sins of all of his people and the judgment for those sins. And we cannot begin to fathom all that this would mean between the Father and the Son. To be forsaken by God is the cry of the damned, and he was damned for us. So he used these words because there was a real forsakenness. That is the first reason.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.