A Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 27:46
By M. L. Wilson
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“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, ama sabachthani?”
- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- Matthew 27:46 NIV
Based largely upon the above passage of scripture an entire doctrinal theology has been created and disseminated throughout
the world which teaches that God Most High turned his back on His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, while he hung on the
cross claiming he had literally become sin. What I find interesting about this, is that everyone so easily embraces this
concept. No questions are asked, no thought is given as to the “why” of such a situation. We simply accept it as fact.
But let’s assume someone does ask that “why” question. Maybe some of the questions raised because of that particular
theological interpretation would follow along the lines of:
1. If God can turn His back on Jesus, what chance does the average person have? Jesus was sinless and was only doing what
was necessary to save mankind.
2. How did Christ actually become sin? Is sin some sort of independent element that can be put on someone—even without their
consent? If that’s the case, then wouldn’t God be aware of such a condition and not hold Jesus to blame but recognize His
selfless act for what it was?
3. Is God so distant and remote that He can’t see that Jesus was only doing what God Himself wanted to be done? Why is it
that Jesus should be made to suffer—not just physically, but also through spiritual separation from God the Father?
4. Lastly—and in my opinion the most important—since Jesus went to great pains to assert the fact that He is God, how can
He turn his back on Himself ? This is nothing to dismiss blithely. The very reason that Christ was hanging on the cross was
because of the crime of blasphemy.
There are far more questions that come to mind, but the main points are covered in the
four questions above. To be fair, it is reasonable to assume that these questions had already been asked and answered by
various church pastors, teachers and followers of Christ of many stripes over the years. Of course the disconnect between
question and answer seems to appear in the answers. Despite the implications of a Living God turning His back upon Jesus
Christ, it has been my observation that too many in positions of leadership within the Christian faith remained resolute,
held to the orthodox view they had been taught and simply could not be swayed. Still others seemed to be hesitant—weighing
the implications of agreeing with the orthodox viewpoint. It was as almost as though they understood that there were errors
with the orthodox view, but had no better answer. This reduced them into a position of trying to convince others of the
correctness of the orthodox answer they had been taught, but deep down held their own nagging feelings as to what the real
answer to those questions might be.
Just to be clear, this is not a commentary designed to bash any pastors or teachers for the answers they have been given to
such vexing questions. Despite the difficulty of the question, it remains clear that these people are sincere in the answers
they give in response to the questions presented and that such answers were correct to the best of their understanding. It
remains my belief that most in the church are dedicated, honest, hardworking people who love God and are doing what they
are told to do by Jesus as outlined in Matthew 28:19.
So how did it come to pass that a piece of scripture could wind up being so mangled as to lead to a whole different meaning?
Well that’s a rather long story and it took several hundred years to accomplish. It has taken even longer to solidify into
the error it has become in the minds of Christians the world over. Once a particular teaching falls into the realm of
“tradition”, it becomes like a horrible addiction that you cannot shake no matter how hard you try. If you think overcoming
an addiction to cigarettes or heroin is tough, try bucking a tradition sometime. People will come out with torches and
pitchforks to chase you down.
That brings us to another difficult question. When evidence is revealed which clearly indicates that there has been an
error in interpretation of Scripture, should we really continue to hold on to a traditional view of scripture simply because
its, well, tradition? Would it not be far wiser to find out just what the scripture actually says and then push forward
with those findings?
In the Gospel of Matthew, 27:46, Christ is near the end of His earthly existence, having hung on the cross now for nine
hours. Suddenly he cries out in His native Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which translated means, “My God, My God
why have you forsaken me?”
Now on its face, that verse seems to be pretty clear. Jesus has been hanging in a very uncomfortable position for several
hours after having been beaten, humiliated and abandoned by His friends. It would seem by all accounts, an ignoble end to
what had started out as a promising week. Why shouldn’t Jesus cry out in despair and pain to the one who ultimately put Him
in that position to begin with? After all, didn’t He pray to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to allow for “...this
cup to pass” if it was His will? That would certainly seem to indicate that Jesus was not all that enthusiastic about what
was about to befall Him.
It is at this point that emotions coupled with the “hearing with fleshly ears and seeing with fleshly eyes” sidetrack us
from the reality of the situation. I will reiterate: Jesus is God; He was then and He is now. It is important to remain
clear on the concept that while He was here amongst us, His Spirit was locked into a fleshly body just as ours are. As a
Christian, we must be cognizant of the fact that our bodies are merely containers for our spirits. When our bodies die, our
spirits are freed from those bodies. If we do not concede that point, then nothing else in this commentary will make sense.
Having accepted the spiritual reality of our existence, we can return to the construct of God Almighty and His relationship
with Jesus Christ.
One of the many differences between Jesus and human beings was not so much that He was also God while he was here on this
earth in the flesh; one of the salient differences was that Christ was not of Adam’s seed. Why is this important and what
does it have to do with Christ crying out while near death hanging on the cross? All mankind since Adam and Eve, have been
born of a “sin nature”; that is, they have been born of parents who transgressed an established line of demarcation set
forth by their god.
At this juncture it is necessary to point out that the word Sin means, “To miss the mark”. It is also necessary to draw a
contrast between Sin and Evil in order to understand the magnitude of Christ’s work on the cross. Too often these two terms
are conflated or used interchangeably. This is an error. Sin, Het in the Hebrew, is not the same as Evil, ra in the
Hebrew. Both have very different and distinct meanings. To place this dichotomy into understandable terms it would be helpful to
understand the following: Due to a type of covenantal agreement between
this god and his specific creation, all humans born of that first
creation fall under Sin, but not all of these people are evil. Those who are Evil cannot be such without also being in Sin.
That may sound convoluted, but it is a concept and a truth which Jesus understood quite well. Sin and Evil and their
differences played a large role in the scripture verse we’re exploring.
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