The Seven Words from the Savior on the Cross: Atonement 2
Jesus’ spoken words from the cross emphasize the truths of forgiveness ("Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:34), hope ("Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:43), love (“Woman, behold your son; behold your mother.” John 19:26-27) and atonement (Matthew 27:45-49).
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” (Matthew 27:45-49 ESV). See Mark 15:33-36.
To begin with, we witness the setting in vs. 45. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” According to Jewish time, a day began at 6:00 a.m. and not Midnight. Therefore, according to Matthew and Mark’s gospel, the sixth hour is Noon. The Gospel of Mark in 15:25 also indicates the crucifixion began at the third hour. I.e. 9:00 a.m.
Scripture records Jesus speaking at least three times before this darkness fell. While they were crucifying Him, He repeatedly prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He had spoken to the repentant thief and assured him a place in paradise (Luke 23:39–43). He had also given His mother into the care of His beloved disciple, John (John 19:16–27). But when the darkness came and stayed for three hours, Jesus was silent. That is, until the ninth hour.
Along with the setting of atonement, we also witness Jesus’ statement of atonement in vs. 46. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
As mentioned, the ninth hour is 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. The darkness had lasted for three hours. It was at this moment that Jesus cried out with a loud voice and with great effort “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani.”
Eli, Eli comes from the Hebrew prefix El meaning God. In this form it is personal. My God, My God. Jesus quotes directly from Psalm 22:1. The word “Eli” may also be pronounced “Aylee” or “Eloi, Eloi.”
“Lama Sabachthani. .” This is an Aramaic word. It is used only in Matthew 25:46 and Mark 15:34. It literally means, “You have forsaken me.” Jesus was asking for what purpose has God the Father deserted Him?
It was during the time of darkness that Jesus had been made sin for sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Father had forsaken Him. The darkness was a symbol of the judgment that Jesus endured when He was “made a curse” for us (Galatians 3:13). Psalm 22:2 suggests a period of light and a period of darkness; and Psalm 22:3 emphasizes the holiness of God. How could God who is holy look with favor on His Son who had become sin?