Written By Thomas Perez. August 26, 2011 at 7:35PM. Copyright 2011.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
The manner in which Christ died has already been opened in the solitude and patience in which He died. The third, to wit, the instructiveness of his death, now follows, in seven excellent and weighty sayings, which dropped from His blessed lips upon the tree, while His sacred blood dropped on the earth from His wounded hands and feet; so that on the cross He exercised both his Priestly, Manly, and Prophetic office together, redeeming us by His blood, and instructing us by His words.
There are seven quotations of Christ upon the cross which are His last words, with which He breathed out His soul. The last words of a dying man are remarkable; the Scripture puts a remark upon them, 2 Sam 23:1 “Now these be the last words of David.” How remarkable are the last words of Christ!
These words are seven in number; three directed to His Father, and four more to those about Him. However, we will concentrate on the First statement and the Fourth Statement by Christ. Of the first sort, “Father, forgive them”, etc. In which we have first, the mercy desired by Christ, which is forgiveness. Secondly, the persons for whom it is desired (them), that is, those cruel and wicked persons that were now filling their hands in His blood. And thirdly, the motive or argument urged to procure that mercy from His Father, “For they know not what they do”.
First, the mercy prayed for, that is, forgiveness; “Father forgive”. Forgiveness is not only a mercy, a spiritual mercy, but one of the greatest mercies a soul can obtain from God, without which, whatever else we have from God, is no mercy to us. So great a mercy is forgiveness, that David calls him blessed, or rather admires the blessedness of him, “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” This mercy, this best of mercies, He requests for them, “Father, forgive them”.
Secondly, the persons for whom He requests forgiveness, are the same that with wicked hands crucified Him. Their fact was the most horrid that ever was committed by men: they not only shed innocent blood, but the blood of God; the best of mercies is by Him desired for the worst of sinners.
Thirdly, the motive or argument urged to procure this mercy for them, “For they know not what they do”. As if he should say, Lord, what these poor creatures do, is not so much out of malice to me as the Son of God; but it is from their ignorance. Did they know who, and what I am, they would rather be nailed to the cross themselves, than do it. To the same purpose the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 2:8. “Whom none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Yet this is not to be extended to all that had an hand in the death of Christ, but to the ignorant multitude, among whom, some of God’s elect were, who afterwards believed in him, whose blood they spilt, Acts 3:17. “And now, brethren, through ignorance you did it.” For them this prayer of Christ was heard. Yet at the same time, we are all to blame for His death upon the cross, since we too walked (in former days) in ignorance. Hence the observations are;
1. That ignorance is the usual cause of enmity to Christ.
2. That there is forgiveness with God for such as oppose Christ through ignorance.
3. That to forgive enemies, and beg forgiveness for them is the true character and property of the Christian spirit.
These observations contain so much practical truth, that it would be worth our time to open and apply them distinctly in all practicality.
Yet upon all this, as He (Jesus) was mediating on the behalf of the ignorant, He suffered what many call a ‘Separation’. Let us now look at His forth quotation….
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
The Trinitarian Interpretation
This verse contains the fourth memorable saying of Christ upon the cross; words able to rend the hardest heart in the world: it is the voice of the Son of God in an agony: his sufferings were great, very great before, but never in that extremity as now; when this heaven rending and heart melting out-cry brake from him upon the cross, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? In which are considerable, the time, matter, and manner of this his sad complaint.
First, The time when it was uttered, “about the ninth hour,” that is about three of the clock afternoon. For as the Jews divided the night into four quarters, or watches; so they divided the day, in like manner, into four quarters, or greater flours; which had their names from that hour of the day that closed the quarter. so that beginning their account of their lesser hours from six in the morning, which with them was the first, their ninth hour answered to our third afternoon. And this is heedfully marked by the evangelists, on purpose to show us how long Christ hanged in distress upon the cross both in soul and body, which at least was full three hours: towards the end whereof his soul was so filled, distressed, and overwhelmed, that this doleful cry brake from his soul, in bitter anguish, “My God, my God,” etc.
Secondly, the matter of the complaint is not of the cruel tortures He felt in His body, nor of the scoffs and reproaches of His name; He mentions not a word of these, they were all swallowed up in the sufferings within, as the river is swallowed up in the sea, or the lesser flame in the greater. He seems to neglect all these, and only complains of what was more burdensome than ten thousand crosses; even His Father’s deserting him, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is a more inward trouble that burdens Him, darkness upon his spirit, the hidings of God’s face from Him, an affliction He was totally a stranger to until now; here He lays his hand in this complaint. This was the pained place, to which He points in this dolorous outcry.
Thirdly, the manner in which He utters his sad complaint was with a remarkable vehemency, “He cried with a loud voice,” not like a dying man, in whom nature was spent, but as one full of vigor, life, and sense. He gathered all his spirits together, stirred up the whole power of nature, when He made this grievous outcry. There is in it also an emphatical reduplication which shows with what vehemency it was uttered; not singly, my God, but He doubles it, “My God, my God,” as distressed persons use to do. Similar to Elisha, when Elijah was separated from him by the chariots and horses of fire, he cried out, “My father, my father!”
Nay, moreover to increase the force and vehemency of this complaint, here is an affectionate interrogation, “Why have you forsaken me?” Questions, especially such as this, are full of spirits. It is as if He were surprised by the strangeness of this affliction: and rousing up Himself with an unusual vehemency, turns Himself to the Father, and cries, Why so, my Father? O what do you mean by this! What! hide that face from me that was never hid before! What! and hide it from me now, in the depth of my other torments and troubles! O what new, what strange things are these! Lastly, here is an observable variation of the language in which this astonishing complaint was uttered; for He speaks both Hebrew and Syrian in one breath, Eli, Eli lama, are all Hebrew, sabachthani is a Syrian word, used here for emphasis sake.
A Different Perspective
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
I believe it goes deeper than a mere explanation of a Trinity. God is One, and as such He is (according to the Oneness belief), One Person. Jesus inhabits; the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Humanity – Man.
Man cries unto his God as Adam had cried onto God lamenting, as the clay saith unto his Maker (Potter); “Why hast thou made me thus”? This astonishing complaint is made during Jesus’ ordeal upon the cross. It is the inner workings of His Humanity that is at work – Man redeeming Man. It is not the Divine, at this moment of shock; taken by complete surprise by alienation, but it is the spirits of His (Jesus’) ancestors, who often cried out unto God when feelings of distrust or questioning arose.
There are many examples of compliant; there’s Job, who cursed the day of his birth and subsequently questioned God.
“Man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Job 14:1 NIV
Job complained and questioned why God allowed terribly bad things to happen to him when he had lived a virtuous life. Even though he complained, Job never quit doing good and he never turned against God. In fact, Job said:
“Though he slay me yet will I trust him.” Job 13:15 KJV
While Job continued to trust God, he wanted to plead has case before God himself. He wanted to ask God, “Why?” He was frustrated by God’s silence.
“If I only knew where to find Him; if only I could go to His dwelling! I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments”. Job 23:3-4 NIV
We have all been faced with the question of why bad things happen to us. We want to plead our case before God. We want answers to our questions. So did Job.
Another biblical complainer was Jeremiah the prophet:
“You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked proper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” Jeremiah 12:1 NIV
Again Jeremiah used an exaggeration as he prayed to God for answers. The wicked and treacherous do not always thrive. The good do not always suffer. But because we think it should never be that way, we tend to remember those instances when it happens.
So did Jeremiah get an answer from God? Yes, he did. God told him it was going to get worse! That was not the answer Jeremiah wanted. He probably wanted God to say, “I’m sorry, Jeremiah, I will correct this situation right away.” If that is what Jeremiah wanted, he never got it. But Jeremiah accepted the answer he received. Did God answer Job’s request to be allowed to come before God and plead his case? Yes, in the final chapters of the book God spoke to Job. However, when confronted with the majestic power of God, Job withdrew his complaint.
There’s Abraham, who would question God’s justice and mercy in regards to the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Should not the God of all the Earth do right”? Similarly, this very same Patriarch when asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac said; “Is this the voice of my God”?
For example the writer of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, complained:
“In this meaningless life of mine, I have seen both of these: A righteous man perishing in his righteousness, And a wicked man living long in his wickedness.” Ecclesiastes 7:15 NIV
How many times have you heard someone complain in a similar way, “Only the good die young.” We have a deep feeling that the wicked should suffer and good people should be blessed with wealth, prosperity and a long life. Solomon had more to say:
“There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.” Ecclesiastes 8:14 NIV
So, he is saying that the righteous should be blessed and the wicked should be punished, but it often happens the other way around. Most of us would agree with that. We say “Yes!!” when we see an evil person get what is coming to him. We ask “Why?” when a good person suffers. We think it should not be that way. Why do we think that? Did God put the idea of fairness into our heads?
Here is a shocking revelation about this life. This life is not fair! Furthermore, God never promised that this life would be fair. But that doesn’t stop us from thinking that it should be and complaining that it is not. Solomon was not the only Biblical writer who complained about the situation. Another complainer was Asaph, a director of choral music in the house of the Lord under David and Solomon. Notice his words in Psalm 73…
“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills….“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; In vain I have washed my hands in innocence.” Psalms 73:3, 4, 13 NIV
Are the wicked always prosperous? Is our clean living all in vain? Not really, but we sometimes feel that way. These words of Asaph are an exaggeration which results from frustration. This is a frustration which you may have had at some time – perhaps now.
If being good does not bring good things to your life and protect you from the bad things, then why should you be good? On the other hand, if you knew that doing good would always bring rewards and always prevent bad results, wouldn’t you have more incentive to be good? In other words, if you knew that living a life of virtue would always give you health, wealth and prosperity with never a problem of pain and suffering, would you live a virtuous life?
In Judges 6, we see that the Israelites had been severely oppressed by the Midianites for the past seven years. Countless times, the Midianites would ravage the crops and the livestock, leaving the countryside totally impoverished.
Then, an angel of the Lord appeared to a prophet who happened to be threshing wheat in a wine-press. His name was Gideon. Threshing wheat sounds fairly noble, but the reality was Gideon was hunkered down in a winepress because he was afraid the Midianites would see what he was doing and ransack his grain. He was undercover, so to speak. The angel greets Gideon, calling him a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). But before the angel can instruct Gideon in the way of the Lord, Gideon interrupts with a barrage of questions.
In Judges 6:13-14 (NIV) we read:
“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
Gideon just questioned God’s goodness, His power, and His promises. That is pretty heavy. The amazing thing is that the Lord did not chastise Gideon’s questioning spirit. Rather, He answers Gideon with a task to accomplish.
Similarly, or rather I should say, this is exactly the ignorance of Man coming forth out of the Holy breath of the Man Jesus. Jesus, at this moment of ignorance thus felt the separation of His Divine (Father). The separation, now bestowed upon Him, as He (The Word) once bestowed it upon Adam, – cutting him (Adam) from the Tree of Life. Such a cut off was due to Adam‘s ignorance of the scale. The scale of ‘Good and Evil’. Man was not meant to know the balance…this scale…for only God knoweth the good and evil properly, for He is Eternal. “For the day you eat of it, thou shalt surly die”, For dust you are, and unto dust shalt thou return”. It was the knowledge of the good and the evil which fell upon Him (Jesus), as it did in the first Adam. The first Adam was given a choice. Moreover, upon the creation of Man; God created the concept of freewill (as given to Adam), and set a standard against it called obedience. In this Man failed, but in this Christ Jesus passed – thus becoming the new Adam.
Yet, some would erroneously ask, if Christ Jesus is the Almighty God, then why the ignorance of God – why do I presuppose an ignorance upon His divinity? The answer to that supposed paradox is, I don’t. I only declare the ignorance of the Son of Man – as His ancestors (and all of Mankind for that matter when they asked), “Where is God?” Do we not utter the same rhetoric, when we have our prayers unanswered? Do we not declare, in so many words or less; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” Thus is the ignorance of the unbelievers. We are looking in a mirror darkly, thus is our growth in Christ. As Thomas grew from the doubter that he was, to the bold procurator of the truth when he said – “My Lord and My God” – thus is our fate as we continue to manifest the example of Jesus.
Moreover, Jesus told His disciples with respect to His death “Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that he shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Thus the eternal Spirit of God, the Father, did not leave the human body of Christ until His death. That is why shortly after Jesus uttered the words…”Into your hands I commit my spirit”. Spirit in this case is referring to Jesus’ human spirit.
This ignorance was provided for as full payment through Jesus. For now, at this pivotal time in recorded history, even Jesus found out what ignorance is really all about. That is not to say that in His omniscience (as God) He did not know – if that was the case, His Omniscience would be shaken. But rather it is to declare His full realization of sin’s ignorance (as in the Judean ignorance offering), His guilt offering (as revealed by the Law), and His propitiational offering of His Divine blood – “For life is in the Blood”. For this Life was to become a sin bearer; bearing the iniquities, sins, transgressions, and most importantly, the ignorance of us all.
Nor do I declare ignorance upon the Son of Man during His ministry prior to the ‘Separation’. What I do convey is this, ignorance found bliss when ignorance was made aware of itself – and thus being crucified itself and through the Body of the innocent Man, found freedom from the curse! Ignorance was never found to be aware in Adam (for Man continued to sin) but it was thus revealed in Jesus during the ninth hour (3 o’clock). The ignorance of the law was nailed upon His tree of Life. And its (the Law) precious truth’s, as in the finer spirituals aspects of the Law, was hid from Him. Yet in all this He knew He was keeping and fulfilling the deeper message of the Law – Loving your neighbor as yourself, thus demonstrating the exercise of laying one’s life down for His sheep. “For greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for another”.
And no greater proclamation of truth can ever underscore Jesus’ bold statement of accomplishment upon this new Tree of Life, as He declared; “It is finished”. Truly, even at this moment, He came to His senses, as His Divinity met with the Man once again reunited and reconciled. God was in Christ reconciling the World unto Himself. This is not to say that there was a separation in His Oneness – God and Man, His very essence; but it was a realization that Jesus the Man, through Christ, had experienced the emotional, spiritual, and physical – the latter causing the physical death of Jesus. Similar to Adam – whose ignorance founded the institution of death as the result of disobedience.
Man had truly redeemed Himself. It was Man redeeming Man. And God becoming our Father – Abba – once again. This is truly the twofold ministry of the Mediator, Jesus – the Man, Son of Man – Son of our ancestors, the Human race. Jesus, the deity; the Almighty One, the incarnate One – now Redeeming (past, present, & future) – Our One and true Mediator and Saviour of all Men – the Lord Jesus Christ.