A just, loving and all-knowing God came looking for Adam and Eve to call out to them “Where are you?” and then condemned His own Son to suffer the punishment for their sin and sins of the world. The Son is punished to pay the penalty for sinners but the Father suffers in the person of the Messiah. The Holy Trinity meets the demands of justice as the Holy Spirit descended on the Son to empower Him and participate in the sufferings. For God so loved us that not only did He give us His Only Begotten Son but suffered as much by leaving Him alone on the cross to pay the full penalty for us sinners. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).
The key to the seven statements of our Lord on the cross lies in the fourth saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The act of redemption involved the transfer of our sins on to the Son of God who being sinless could always enjoy the presence of the Father in Him to show Him the way and empower Him. The first iota of our sins touching the righteous Lord, who could not be made unclean by touching the dead, the sick or the dying, made Him unclean for Him to be away from God’s presence. All the sins ever committed or likely to be committed by humanity were transferred on to the Lord. Sin is neither big nor small but a sin and gets committed through our evil thoughts, evil words spoken by us or evil deeds committed by us. The darkness of our sins engulfed Him totally and Lord Jesus cried out immediately to His God. The Holy Spirit being the Spirit of God and part of the Holy Trinity also left Lord Jesus at this time and the ‘springs of living waters in Him dried up’.
What did the Lord thirst for? – The first and foremost is the feeling of absolute isolation and the Son who always did only that what was shown to Him by the Father, longs and thirst to be in His Divine presence. This is His Spiritual thirst for He is the source of the spiritual blessings and the water that He gives “becomes to him (the receiver) a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). It is this thirst to be reunited with the Father that, after His resurrection, makes Him say to Mary Magdalene “Do not cling to Me” (John 20:17) for our Savior desires to be filled up again with the same water. After having been filled again He comes to the disciples and breathed on them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” and even challenges Apostle Thomas to touch Him and feel His wounds (John 20:22 &27).
The second is His physical thirst since after eating the Passover Meal, sometime after sunset, He was neither given anything to eat nor drink. The prayer in Gethsemane Park was also an intense battle and “His sweat poured out like drops of water” (Luke 22:44) and after arrest the beatings, mocking and agony of being nailed to the cross causing acute difficulty and agony for every breath would cause severe dehydration. The body craves for a drop of water and this is the physical suffering and thirst of the Lord. The third aspect of His thirst is His thirst for acceptance for “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Rather they demand “save yourself and we will believe in You” (Matthew 27:42) and the Son of God longs for recognition as Moses did and finally departed out of Egypt to save his life from the Egyptian authorities for having killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-15).
The fourth and final characteristic of His thirst is His care for us, the future believers. Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for unification with the believers in oneness with Him and the Father and the prayer was not for the chosen twelve but “also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20-21). His desire to bless us all who have become ‘children of God’ through Him and even others is intense for He “stands and knocks at the door” to eat with those who welcome Him into their hearts (Revelation 3:20).
Challenge for the believers – Lord Jesus suffered and thirsted on the cross that we may never thirst. He promised and ensured the fulfillment of His promise of the ‘fountain of living waters’ by blessing us with the Comforter. The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and continue to get thus blessed with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The second facet of the blessing is teaching us to focus first on the assigned task and then seek comforts for “these things will then be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The third part is His showing and admitting His physical weakness to display His humanity. He never used any power or miracle to meet any of His own needs but surrendered to the will of the Father to suffer. He did not show Himself to be a super human and macho and it is not a sign of weakness to seek help but strength. The fourth aspect is about our reaction to His call – one ran to offer Him sour wine while others mocked Him. How do we react – by looking up to Him, looking at Him to mock and doubt Him or look for someone else to save us? The Savior suffered loneliness and abandonment to promise to us “I will never leave you nor forsake you” to encourage us to “look unto Him – the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
What is finished for us on the cross? – The coming of Lord Jesus on the earth as man was not a singular event but something that was destined “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The All knowing God knew before anything actually came into being about the course of events scheduled to happen and His declaration to the serpent/Satan that ‘the seed of woman will crush your head and you will bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15), was part of that ordaining of events. The cross is the path that the Lord was to take to become victorious over the forces of evil and darkness and this is the glorious shout of the triumphant King about this pre-ordained victory.
Before the day was over different persons had diverse perceptions of this victory; the Chief priests and their henchmen probably celebrated their win over the Messiah; Satan in the dark recesses of hell attributed this to himself while Pontius Pilate thought of this to be the end of a probable rebellious event. Lord Jesus had already informed Pilate “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11). The fact that He was always in control is further confirmed when Lord Jesus informed the Jews “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18). This shout of victory is the first step towards establishment of the “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth by the Messiah king. In Capernaum they wanted to make Him king by force but his kingdom not being of this world, He did not accept that offer for His triumphant entry on to the earth from heaven is slated for a latter time.
Second, this is a God centered cry from the “Fully Human” Son of having remained steadfast in love and obedience. It is not a shout of arrogance like a hunter standing with his trophy but a humble statement to “My God, My God”, a statement about fulfillment of all Scripture prophecies and Moses Law. Third, this is the end of the ‘process of perfection’ of the Son as a human being “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). The message conveyed by God through the sufferings of His Son to us and the forces of darkness is – it is possible to live a life of perfection even when surrounded and tempted by evil prevailing all around us. The fourth facet of this saying is that Lord Jesus was fully human on the earth and these trials proved His achieving perfection through these as Job proved faithfulness to God despite such extreme sufferings. Martin Luther, the great German theologian, who challenged the gross distortion of the Scripture and became the initiator of the Protestant Movement, declared that there are three things essential for perfection of a man. These are – oration, meditation and tentatio meaning prayer, meditation of the Word of God and trials. Everyone must undergo these to become victorious in the battle against evil.
The final point of this saying is completion of all this process of perfection in the Son of God and when He dwells in me with the Holy Spirit, this perfection gets passed on to me and my path to perfection gets easier. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14) and this process works through the “writing of His statutes on our hearts and minds by Him”. I receive this perfection through faith in Him who has raised my Lord and Savior from the dead and “have washed my robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). “It is finished” is a declaration for me also that I am sanctified by His blood and He makes me like Him through the daily “conviction of sin” by His Spirit.
What is the teaching contained in the ‘sixth saying’ for us? – The declaration by the Messiah proclaims completion of atonement for sins of all mankind and our darkness has been replaced by His Light. The torn curtain assures us that the separation from God is over for us and we can henceforth claim to be the “children of God” and heirs of salvation with the Savior. With the sacrifice of the Son of God we are also accepted by God and our salvation is assured. Since all this is provided to us, firstly, we must live a life of purpose, to achieve something for and in the Kingdom of Heaven now established in our hearts. Secondly, live a focused life, identify with humble submission before the Lord, your target and then relentlessly follow that. Thirdly, live a life of humble submission and obedience to the Lord for it is only His will that must prevail in our lives. Lord Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Fourthly, live a life of absolute surrender to the ‘plan and will of the Father’ to work for His glory. The Son suffered extreme humiliation by renouncing His status and ‘glory which He had with God (The Father) before the world was’ (John 17:5). Apostle Paul admits his absolute dependence on the Lord, who lives in Him, by subjecting himself to the Savior’s commands. Finally, be willing to live a life of suffering and trials, like our Lord did. The road to perfection and becoming like Christ passes through various trials for His love is revealed to us through various trials that He suffered for us. “B we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
“Father into Your hands I commit My spirit” – When the sins of the world were being heaped on Him, the Savior found Himself isolated from the Light of the love of the Father and addressed his cry of anguish to “My God” and now when all is done and over, He surrenders Himself to the Father who had sent Him. The Greek word used here is “paratithemai” meaning to deposit, to entrust or to commit to someone’s charge. A similar expression is used by Apostle Paul that “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12) and the words used are “ten paratheken mou” I am confident and sure. Our Lord is sure of His relationship with the Father and this is a final prayer of intimacy to Him. Secondly, Lord Jesus again quoted Scripture in this earnest prayer “Into Your hand I commit My spirit” (Psalm 31:5) but He omits the following part of the verse. The amended prayer has relationship in the beginning and the act of redemption omitted at the end. We have been redeemed by the Messiah and our prayer would be exact verbatim.
The third aspect of this saying is that the ‘spirit’ was surrendered and not the body for God is Spirit and body pertains to this world only. It was the spirit – ‘ruach’ that was breathed into man by God and the same was entrusted by the Son. Fourthly, this final saying represented His view about death itself. His prayer to the Father just before His final journey clearly stipulates His intended reunion with God the Father “But now I come to You” (John 17:13) and this surrender is the final submission. The darkness of our sins that filled the pillar of cloud was like a whirlpool sucking the Messiah down into the fires of hell that could not hold Him. He went there so that we don’t have to go there. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three friends of Daniel were condemned to be thrown into the furnace that was heated seven times more than the usual but the fire could not touch them. But everyone saw in the fire a fourth person walking around with the three and “who looked like a Son of God” and on being taken out it was seen “that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them” (Daniel 3:19, 25 & 27). He went there to open the closed door into heaven for us and His sufferings culminated in this.
“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the medial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” ― C.S. Lewis