The Passion of the Christ

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Matthew 27:46

That was Christ’s call of loneliness, the most gut-wrenching in history, as He hung on the cross. Moments later He cried out again and gave up His spirit. It’s odd, but those words remained seared in my mind more than any other. Perhaps it’s because they’ve always drawn my attention since I first picked up a Bible. There’s so much hurt; so much loneliness. How could this be coming from God Himself?

I remember reading those words for the first time years ago. It was the first time God’s humanity struck home with me. It’s the most vivid example of a uniquely Christian theological concept – the trinity. The trinity, of course, is the notion that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are a separate yet singular entity. But at that moment Jesus, who had been with God for eternity, was now alone. The Christ, God incarnate, abandoned.

Jesus could take the beatings, and I can stand to watch it portrayed in movies and plays. Sure, I cringe and wince each time he is hit and spat on. But I am prepared for it all. Indeed, it is usually just as I had imagined. And although the wail, “My God!” might also be as I had imagined, I still can’t stand to watch it. At that moment Jesus was once again alone, just as He was in the garden, but this time the weight of all of humanity’s sin was on his shoulders….alone. He was separated from God spiritually and physically. I hesitate to even type that out; it doesn’t really do the notion justice. Out of this silent loneliness – an unfathomable loneliness – He cries, “Why? Why did you foresake me?”

It’s hard for me to watch, and it’s even harder for me to understand it. Why would Jesus say such things? The reason that most theologians will give, and correctly give, is that He’s quoting Psalm 22. He was both fulfilling prophecy and expressing the anguish – yes, God has emotion – of being separated from the Father. These are all true answers and will please the academics among us.

But that answer is incomplete for me. There’s something very human about His cry. It’s a constant reminder to me that God did not just take on human flesh for 33 years. Rather, Jesus was fully human, separated from the trinity and experiencing pain alone, abandoned. At some point we all cry out “Why God?” The answers will not always come when we want them, we may still hurt, we may still thirst. But Christ was also alone, and He too cried out. We are not alone. God understands.