Mark 15:34: Did God Forsake Jesus?

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I’ve been thinking about Psalm 22 lately and wondering if our Savior wasn’t perhaps giving one final teaching even from the cross. His cry of “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” couldn’t be the voice of a despairing man.

Response revised: 8-Apr-2012

Question from Nancy Johnsen (Fremont, California, U.S.A.) that was published in the “Readers’ Perspective” column of Jerusalem Perspective 50 (Jan.-Mar. 1996): 9.

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 22 lately and wondering if our Savior wasn’t perhaps giving one final teaching even from the cross. His cry of “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” couldn’t be the voice of a despairing man. Although I can’t possibly imagine the pain that Jesus was experiencing, I don’t believe that God the Father ever “forsook” him. I’ve heard sermons explaining that God the Father couldn’t look on the sin-laden body of His Son on the cross of crucifixion. However, I find the reference to Psalm 22 to be more enlightening. The details of the crucifixion of the Lamb of God couldn’t have been more clearly delineated than in that Psalm written hundreds of years earlier.

Oh, wait! I just looked at Luke 23. It doesn’t have any mention of the Psalms 22:1 citation. Does that mean that the writers of Matthew (27:46ff.) and Mark (15:34ff.) inserted this reference to bring the attention of the reader to the highly prophetic text of Psalm 22? I am astounded by how many references to that turning point in human history, the crucifixion of Jesus, are made in Psalm 22: “He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him” (Ps. 22:8; cf. Mt. 27:43); “They part my garments among them and cast lots upon my vesture ” (Ps. 22:18; cf. Mt. 27:35, Mk. 15:24, Lk. 23:34b); “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16b; implied in Mt. 27:35a, Mk. 15:24a, Lk. 23:33); “All they that see me laugh me to scorn” (Ps. 22:7a; cf. Mt. 27:39, Mk. 15:29, Lk. 23:35b).

 

Jerusalem Perspective responds:

Nancy Johnsen wrote without knowing that the late Robert Lindsey had discussed Mark 15:34 in a forthcoming article titled “Paraphrastic Gospels” (Jerusalem Perspective 51 [Apr.-Jun. 1996], 10-15). There Lindsey analyzes the Lukan and Markan versions of Jesus’ cry from the cross. If, as Lindsey suggests in this article, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is Mark’s replacement for Luke’s “Into your hand I entrust my spirit,” Nancy Johnsen may have provided the reason for Mark’s substitution of a verse from Psalm 22—Mark viewed the whole of Psalm 22 as a foretelling of the words Jesus uttered while hanging on the cross.

The Isenheim Altarpiece painted Matthias Grünewald (1512–1516). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Isenheim Altarpiece painted Matthias Grünewald (1512–1516). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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