Why Did God Forsake Jesus?

45From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-46).

Have you ever wondered why God could forsake Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God? If you have ever had the opportunity to read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, one is struck by the majesty of the purest person to ever walk this planet. Even those that lived with Jesus, His disciples for three years, tell us that they had never seen this man commit any sin (1 Peter 2:22). Is it possible that there was a person who walked this earth and was sinless? The Bible records that there is not a man that has not sinned:

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

How could Jesus be different from you and I and not sin? This was the very reason that He was born of a virgin. The Holy Spirit had come on His mother Mary, and she conceived in a different way to the rest of the Homo Sapiens race. Jesus was 100% God, but also 100% man. Adam, the one who first sinned, had passed on to all of us this default in our nature to be disobedient to our Creator, what the Bible calls sin. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were told,

16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die(Genesis 2:16-17).

This death that they were warned about was spiritual death, which is separation from God, and, of course, physical death too. After they ate the fruit Adam and Eve did not fall down dead, but something happened within their inner nature that made them hide from God when He came to enjoy their company (Genesis 3:8-10). Sin causes a barrier between God and us:

2But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

God has gone to extraordinary lengths to take this barrier of sin that separates Him from us. He came to this planet in the person of His Son being born of Mary in order to take upon Himself the payment of sin that we owed because of our sin. In His justice, God cannot weigh some in the scales and say one has done more good than another. The problem is deeper than that. All of us have sinned. There is not a person on Earth who is good enough to live with a Holy God. The wage that we receive for our life of sin is to be separated from God for eternity, what the Bible calls death. But God in His love for us chose to come to earth and pay our penalty of sin Himself:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 2:19).

When Christ hung on the cross, He was loaded down with your sin and mine, the just for the unjust to bring us to God, that was why He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He took your debt of sin, the very thing that separates you from God, upon Himself. The just punishment of your sin was paid for at the cross. That was why He could shout a victory shout right at death, “It is finished!” The Greek words that are translated into English as “It is finished” literally mean, “Paid in full.” This is the Good News! Your sin and mine has been paid for! To become a Christian is to receive the full pardon for your sin that was paid for by Christ. Will you give your life over to Him and believe the good news of your deliverance from the penalty of sin, and ask Him to come into your life? There’s no better day than today.

Keith Thomas

From Where Comes This Yearning for God?

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you have asked yourself some of the hard questions? Questions such as: “Is there more to life than what I am living?” “Who is God?” “What purpose is there to life?” God has placed within man a God-shaped void that has no real peace until the void is filled. Many of us have tried to fill the void with other things, alcoholic drinks, drugs, money, prestige, power, sex, but nothing fills the emptiness. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote, “Within each human being there is a God-shaped void.” The scriptures speak of this inner void with words from King Solomon: “He [God Himself] has also set [the thoughts of] eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). God has placed a yearning for Himself within the central core of our being. In us looking for God and seeking to know Him, we must remind ourselves that our yearning for Him is a result of Him yearning for us. The Bible tells us that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He has sought for His bride since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, when Man turned away from Him. He cried out, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The author C.S. Lewis wrote, ”

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.[1]

This desire of our hearts finds no rest until we find God in Christ. The fifth century philosopher, Augustine, wrote: “Our hearts are unquieted until they find their rest in Thee.” Paul the apostle also referred to this inner longing that God has placed within us. He wrote:

26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).

He alone is the Bread of Life that satisfies (John 6:35). He alone is the Living Water, that when you drink of Him, you will never thirst again (John 4:14). The big question, then, that we are all looking to have answered is: “What must I do to gain eternal life with God?” Within this question, and the answer to it, we find the crux of the Gospel message.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

To be born-again is to enter into the New Covenant by receiving the person of Jesus to sit on the throne of your life—to live in your life, directing and empowering you to live for Him. The most wonderful thing is that God has so loved us that He gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a substitute to pay the debt of our rebellion against God, and to restore us to Himself through the death of Christ. We no longer have to hide from God in our sin. “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He has taken the sin issue out of the way. Isn’t it time you entered into this new life?

Keith Thomas

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Published by HarperCollins, New York, 1952. Chapter 10.

An Organic Union with Christ

4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15:4).

If you have come to the place where you have entrusted your life to Christ, at the point of repentance and abandonment to Him (believing), something happened at the core of your being. The Spirit of God came into your life and baptized you into the Body of Christ:

12Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

In some mystical unseen way, the Spirit dipped us, soaked and saturated us (that’s what the word baptism means) into an organic union with Christ. Notice that this is not some Christians that were baptized by the Spirit, but the word is that all those who are Christians were placed into the spiritual body of Christ. This is a spiritual union that has been made between you and Christ and also with the rest of the family of God—your brothers and sisters in Christ. The Spirit of God is Himself maintaining the connection with the Head of the Body, Christ Himself. We are the arms, legs, hands and feet of the organic union with Jesus Christ. You are one with me, as I am one with you, as long as we are in Christ Jesus, a phrase that is repeated 174 times in the New Testament (and its equivalents in Jesus, in the Lord, in the Son, etc.). Just as in my younger days as a commercial fisherman, my fishing nets were towed along the bottom connected to the trawler, nothing happened without the connection.

In our passage from John 15:4, we are told that unless we remain in Him and keep that ongoing organic connection vital, we will not bear fruit. Connection to Christ is the key. It’s a bit like emailing or texting one another back and forth either via the Internet or Facebook or some other program. Both of you are connected by an invisible source, the Internet, but what we are talking about in the picture of the vine, is a living connection, a connection that is unseen but very powerful. There is a flow of life-giving sap from Him to you through that connection that will bring forth fruit.

Let’s think more about what Jesus is saying. He says that He Himself is the vine and that we are the branches. Fruit is not seen on the rootstock. The manifestation of the fruit of the vine is at the level of the branches.  First of all, every vineyard comes from a single vine. It starts from a single rootstock, and what we are saying is that Christ Himself, and the spiritual DNA of the sap of His life, flows into every single branch that is connected to Him. Paul the apostle, in his letter to the Romans, uses the same analogy when he shares that the Gentiles have been grafted into the rootstock of the covenant that God made with Israel (Romans 11:16-20).

Jesus describes His relationship with His followers this way: “I am the Vine. You are the branches.” He does not say, “I am the foundation and you are the upper floors.” He describes our relationship with Himself as an organic union. He has so united Himself with us that He does not want to be known apart from us, or for us to be known apart from Him! The Spirit connects us organically to the person of Christ. He identifies with us. We are identified with Him. “For to us to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21a).

Keith Thomas

The Way of the Cross

23Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:23-27).

In the year 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany. He had gained an empire, but yet in his dying days, he had found out the truth that to live for oneself and to gain an empire without Christ seated on the throne of one’s life was to die a miserable death. One hundred and eighty years after the death of Charlemagne, about the year 1000, officials of the Emperor Otho opened the great king’s tomb where, in addition to incredible treasures, they saw an amazing sight: the skeletal remains of King Charlemagne seated on a throne, his crown still on his skull, and a copy of the Gospels lying in his lap with his bony finger resting on the text, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”[1]

Too many people rush about seeking for fame and fortune, desperately putting all their time, energy, and money into climbing the ladder of success, only to find at the end of their lives that their ladder has been against the wrong wall. Life is too short to have regrets about how you have spent your years in frivolous things. He tells them, and us, that if we really want to follow Him, to be His disciple, there are three things we must do: deny self, take up a life of cross-bearing, and do it daily.

There are some that feel that to deny oneself would be not to do anything pleasurable, not to ever eat chocolate, or go see a movie. They say that to deny oneself means to do nothing that would be fun. However, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If to follow Jesus means to never enjoy life or never to have fun, it sure doesn’t sound like it would be a life of living to the full. So what does it mean?

  • To deny ourselves. I believe that this means that pleasing our Lord is to be a higher priority that pleasing self. We must put His will first and foremost in our lives.  If we can imagine a throne room in the temple of our hearts (1 Corinthians 3:16), Christ needs to sit there, and not ourselves. He must rule and reign. The Greek word translated as deny means not only to say no to something, but also it is used to refuse someone. William Barclay, the Bible commentator, further defines it, saying:

Ordinarily we use the word self-denial in a restricted sense. We use it to mean doing without something, giving up something. For instance, a week of self-denial is a week when we do without certain pleasures or luxuries, usually in order to contribute to some good cause. But that is only a very small part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself means that in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.[2]

  • You and I, as disciples, need to take up our cross daily. A cross was an implement of death. When a man was seen carrying a cross, people knew he was on his way to death. A life of purpose (a life of dedication to Christ), i.e. real life, has a way of coming to us when we dethrone self and place Christ as the center focus of our lives. This life that we have on Earth is but a seed to be sown into the lives of others. Selfishness is gone when an attitude of heart that is dead to self reigns. Paul the Apostle was a great example for all of us in his words: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To be crucified with Christ is to live with the purpose of doing God’s will daily, even when our flesh life craves the opposite. This is a Spirit-controlled life.
  • We are to follow Him. Many seem to follow the way of self. They bow at the shrine of I, Me, Mine, Myself. To the follower of Christ, his heart is to be like Jesus in every way that He lived His life. We are to follow His example. He modeled to us how we are to live. Christ Jesus has bought us, not with silver or gold, but with the most valuable thing that He had: His blood, His life in this world. Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries who died seeking to reach the Auca Indians of South America with the message of Christ, said this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Shadow of the Almighty, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Page 15).

These notes are taken from the Bible study on Luke in the middle column, the study called 20. Peter’s Confession.

Keith Thomas

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke Volume One, Printed by Crossway Books, 1998. Page 342.

[2] William Barclay.  The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.  2. The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Press, 1958) p. 167.

Does God Know Everything that will Happen?

The big question that most people have about the Bible is this, “Can I trust that what I read in the Bible really will happen?” Does the Almighty God, the creator of the Universe, really know the future? Did you know that a quarter of the contents of the Bible are made up of prophecies about the future? In describing His foreknowledge of events that will happen, the Lord Himself states:

9Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
10I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. 
I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’ (Isaiah 46:9-10).

3I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. 4For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. 5Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ 6You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them? “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. 
7They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them’ (Isaiah 48:3-7).

When the people of Israel were wandering far from God and worshipping nature deities in the form of idols, He used a prophet, Isaiah, to speak to them as to who was really God. To set Himself apart from other so-called deities, God said: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you” (Isaiah 42:8-9). To prove and authenticate that He alone is God, the Lord says that He knows the future and tells us ahead of time. He says, “Before they spring into being I announce them to you.” He challenged the false gods and idols to do the same:

21“Present your case,” says the LORD. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. 22Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. 
Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come,  23tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. 
Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear (Isaiah 41:21-23).

The Lord God puts all the false religions to the test—“tell us what the future holds, if you really are God,” He says. No other scriptures from any other holy book states the future ahead of time. Just to prove that He is God, again and again, He spoke of things that were future. Let’s just take one for today, the prophecy about the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 26:1-14.  I don’t have room to reproduce the whole passage. You can read it online elsewhere or in the Bible. God spoke ahead of time about six specific things that would happen to the city:

  • Nebuchadnezzar would attack the city and capture it (v.7, 10).
  • Many nations would come against the city and plunder it (v.3-5).
  • There would be a siege on the city by Nebuchadnezzar (v.8).
  • The stones, timber and rubble of Tyre would be thrown into the sea.
  • The city would be a bare rock and a place for fishermen to spread their nets.
  • The city would never be rebuilt

 Seventeen years after this prophecy was given, history records that the Babylonian king came against the mainland city of Tyre. You can check this out on Wikipedia.org.  He was after the great treasure that was there—the city of Tyre had become very prosperous. Nebuchadnezzar was after the treasure to finance his army. When he arrived with his army, their dust covered the city. He used massive force and with battering rams he broke down the walls and captured the city. There was only one problem, though; ships had shifted the majority of the treasure to the two little islands that were half a mile from the land. Nebuchadnezzar and his army were furious but try as they might; they were unsuccessful in capturing the island fortress, partly because they had no ships. Nebuchadnezzar carried on down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Some would say that this left the prophecy partially unfulfilled, and for several years it was so. 240 years later came Alexander the Great on his conquest of the Persian Empire. He also attacked the city of Tyre, and to get to the island off of the coast, he built a causeway with the rubble that was left of the mainland city of Tyre. Literally all of the rubble of the city of Tyre was thrown into the sea to make the causeway. Alexander finally captured the city and even today there are pictures of the local fishermen spreading their nets on the bare rock of where the ancient city stood. The causeway changed the way the tide ran past the city making the old island city now underwater, just as Ezekiel prophesied. A Jewish traveller in the 1100s, named Benjamin of Tudela, came to the ancient spot where Tyre once existed and wrote:

“A man can ascend the walls of New Tyre and see ancient Tyre, which the sea has now covered, lying at a stones throw from the new city. And should one care to go forth by boat, one can see the castles, marketplaces, streets and palaces in the bed of the sea. New Tyre is a busy place of commerce, to which merchants flock from all quarters.” Benjamin of Tudela, the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela.

Keith Thomas