Someone writes: “You said that Jesus is the only person who ever trusted God perfectly. But what about his cry on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34) Doesn’t this show that Jesus as a man questioned God’s purposes? That very fact gives me great encouragement when I don’t know the answers to life’s circumstances I encounter.”
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What was going on in Jesus’ mind when he cried out the question you quoted? I believe an important clue is found in the cross-reference which many Bibles provide to other texts from this verse. This cry of dereliction is actually a quotation from Psalm 22:1. We may assume that Jesus was familiar with the entire Psalm, which pictures God’s servant in what appears to be a hopeless situation, surrounded by enemies and apparently forsaken by God. Not only this, his enemies understand the situation very well and mock him, saying that God will not come to his rescue (Ps. 22:1-8).
But then the tone changes. In verses 9-21, God’s “abandoned” servant remembers that God has been his God since birth, and he calls on God to rescue him this time as well. Stirred by such reflections, the suffering servant explodes in a declaration of faith — an outburst of confidence that God, who truly seems so distant, even so removed, will yet act on his behalf. “I will tell of Thy name to my brethren,” he says. “In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee” (v. 22). “He has not despised the affliction of the afflicted, neither has he hid his face from him. But when he cried to him for help, he heard” (v. 24).
The story of God’s marvelous deliverance will resonate throughout the whole world, says the suffering servant, to “all the ends of the earth” and “all the families of the nations” (v. 27). God’s people will repeat this powerful tale throughout all the coming years. “It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation . . . to a people who will be born, that he has performed it” (v. 30-31).
Jesus quoted only verse one of this Psalm, but I have no doubt he recited the rest of it in his mind. Far from doubting God’s faithfulness, Jesus commited himself to his faithful Father — “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:47; see 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:19). And God did not let Jesus down. It was dark on Friday, but then came Sunday! The tomb burst open and Jesus, thought to be forsaken and abandoned by God, rose from the dead to ascend to God’s right hand in heavenly glory!