Matthew 27:46. About the ninth hour Just before he expired; Jesus cried with a loud voice Our Lord’s great agony probably continued these three whole hours, at the conclusion of which he thus cried out, while he suffered from God himself, and probably also from the powers of darkness, what was unutterable; Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani These words are quoted from the first verse of the twenty-second Psalm. (where see the note,) but it is to be observed, that they are not the very words of the Hebrew original; but are in what is called Syro-Chaldaic, at that time the language of the country, and the dialect which our Lord seems always to have used. Mark expresses the two first words rather differently, namely; Eloi, Eloi, which comes nearer to the Syriac. Some think our Lord, in his agony, repeated the words twice, with some little variation, saying at one time, Eloi, and the other, Eli. “This,” says Dr. Doddridge, “is possible, and if it were otherwise, I doubt not but Mark has given us the word exactly, and Matthew a kind of contraction of it.” Both the evangelists have added the interpretation of the words, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? which words the last-mentioned divine paraphrases thus: “O my heavenly Father, wherefore dost thou add to all my other sufferings, those which arise from the want of a comfortable sense of thy presence? Wherefore dost thou thus leave me alone in the combat, destitute of those sacred consolations, which thou couldst easily shed abroad upon my soul, and which thou knowest I have done nothing to forfeit.” Thus, in a most humble and affectionate manner, he intimated to his heavenly Father that he was only by imputation a sinner, and had himself done nothing to incur his displeasure, and showed that the want of the light of God’s countenance on his soul, and the sense of divine wrath due to the sins of mankind, were far more than all his complicated sufferings; but that his confidence in his Father, his love to him, and submission to his will, were unabated, even in that dreadful hour. In other words, while he utters this exclamation of the psalmist, he at once expresses his trust in God, and a most distressing sense of his withdrawing the comfortable discoveries of his presence, and filling his soul with a terrible sense of the wrath due to the sins which he was bearing. Some would interpret the words, My God, my God, to what a degree, or, to what length of time, or, to what [sort of persons] hast thou forsaken me? because lama, in the Hebrew, may have this signification, and the expression εις τι , whereby Mark has rendered it. But certainly the word ινατι , which answers to it here in Matthew, is not liable to such ambiguity; nor can such an interpretation of Psalms 22:1, be made in any degree to accord with the verses immediately following, as the reader will see, if he will please to turn to them. The truth is, our Lord’s words here must be viewed in the same light with his prayer in the garden. For as that prayer expressed only the feelings and inclinations of his human nature, sorely pressed down with the weight of his sufferings, so his exclamation on the cross proceeded from the greatness of his sufferings then, and expressed the feelings of the same human nature, namely, an exceeding grief at God’s forsaking him, and a complaint that it was so. But as his prayer in the garden was properly tempered with resignation to the will of his Father, while he said, Not as I will, but as thou wilt; so his complaint on the cross was doubtless tempered in the same manner, though the evangelists have not particularly mentioned it. For that in the inward disposition of his mind he was perfectly resigned while he hung on the cross, is evident beyond all doubt, from his recommending his spirit to his Father in the article of death, which he could not have done if he had either doubted of his favour, or been discontented with his appointments. That the sufferings which made our Lord utter this exclamation, “were not merely those which appeared to the spectators, namely, the pains of death which he was then undergoing, is evident from this consideration, that many of his followers have suffered sharper and more lingering bodily torture, ending in death, without thinking themselves on that account forsaken of God; on the contrary, they both felt and expressed raptures of joy under the bitterest torments. Why then should Jesus have complained and been dejected under inferior sufferings, as we must acknowledge them to have been, if there were nothing in them but the pains of crucifixion? Is there any other circumstance in his history which leads us to think him defective in courage or patience? In piety and resignation came he behind his own apostles? Were his views of God and religion more confined than theirs? Had he greater sensibility of pain than they, without a proper balance arising from the superiority of his understanding? In short, was he worse qualified for martyrdom than they? The truth is, his words on the cross cannot be accounted for but on the supposition that he endured in his mind distresses inexpressible, in consequence of the withdrawing of his heavenly Father’s presence, and a sense of the wrath due to the sins of mankind, which he was now suffering.” See Macknight. It is justly observed here by Dr. Doddridge, “That the interruption of a joyful sense of his Father’s presence (though there was, and could not but be, a rational apprehension of his constant favour, and high approbation of what he was now doing) was as necessary as it was that Christ should suffer at all. For had God communicated to his Son on the cross those strong consolations which he has given to some of the martyrs in their tortures, all sense of pain, and consequently all real pain, would have been swallowed up; and the violence done to his body, not affecting the soul, could not properly have been called suffering.” Some think Jesus on this occasion repeated the whole twenty-second Psalm. And, as it contains the most remarkable particulars of our Lord’s passion, being a sort of summary of all the prophecies relative to that subject, it must be acknowledged, that nothing could have been uttered more suitable to the circumstances wherein he then was, or better adapted to impress the minds of the beholders with becoming sentiments. For by citing it, and thereby applying it to himself, he signified that he was now accomplishing the things predicted therein concerning the Messiah. See the notes on that Psalm.
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