The chronology: (1) Jesus was with Pilate the sixth hour Roman time, or 6 AM (John 19:14). Note: John used Roman time see John 20:19. (2) Jesus was crucified the third hour of the day Jewish time, or 9 AM (Mark 15:25). (3) The sky was darkened from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, or 12 PM ‘til 3 PM (Mark 15:33). This darkness is acknowledged by first century historians such as Thallus and Phlegon (Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, vol. 1, p 84). Thallus explained it away as an eclipse of the sun. Phlegon however pointed out that it occurred during the full moon. He’s correct. A new month started with a new moon. Passover occurred on the fourteenth day of the month (Leviticus 23:5). This would be the period of the full moon, making a solar eclipse by the moon impossible. (4) He then died.
It was during, this period of darkness that he cried with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 cf. Psalm 22:1).
What do these words mean? One thing I know is that it does not mean that Jesus thought the cross meant failure. He clearly knew that the cross was in God’s plan (Matthew 16:21; 20:17-19; 26:26-28). He endured what he did “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).
1. The common explanation is that God distanced Himself. He is of purer eyes then to behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13). Sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Jesus was bearing the sum total of the sins of humanity.
Some have taken the position that Jesus literally became guilty of all the sins of the world based on the wording of 2 Corinthians 5:21. However, The word “sin” in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is actually a figure of speech (metonymy) the cause (sin) is being put for the effect (sin offering) [see Exodus 29:14 (the word ‘offering’ is not in the original, see ASV); Hosea 4:8 (‘sin’ here being used for sin offering); also Hebrews 9:28]. Jesus was a lamb without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:18). He is our great High Priest “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:25-26). He did not become literally guilty of sin. He no more became guilty of sin than did the scapegoat of old (Leviticus 16:15 –ff; 16:20 – ff).
2. Another view is that Jesus is asking for relief (Psalm 22:1-2). However, none was to be found. Thus taking the Psalm as a whole we have Jesus saying, “I know this will work out in the end; But God can’t I have just a bit of relief?” This I believe to be the correct position.
3. Yet, another view is that this is Jesus speaking from the viewpoint of people. Jesus, before the eyes of men, looked forsaken (Psalm 22:7-8). However, such was not the case (Psalm 22:23 –ff). This view takes Psalm 22:1 as sarcasm. William Cline wrote, “instead of Jesus complaining of being left alone, he was in fact declaring his total trust in God, and his confidence that his heavenly father would never forsake him” (4th Annual Shenandoah Lectures, p. 484).
Some think that Jesus was making another effort to reach some of these people. The Bible wasn’t divided into chapters and verses at this time. One way of referencing a Psalm was by quoting the first words of a Psalm. Thus, it is thought that by Jesus using these words “My God, My God…..” he would be bringing their minds to consider the out-come of the Psalm, that he was not forsaken in the bigger picture (Psalm 22:24).
If this is what Jesus was attempting it didn’t work on some. Perhaps, his speech was unclear at this point. They said, “This man calleth for Elias (Elijah)” (Matthew 27:47, 49). [Elijah you’ll recall was to appear before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). The reference is to John (Matthew 11:13-14), who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17, cf. 2 Kings 2:15). Moreover, Elijah himself did appear (Matthew 17:1-4)].
Whether one takes the position that Jesus was in some way forsaken by God (views 1 and 2) or that Jesus was just forsaken from the view-point of the people (view 3), one thing is clear. Jesus endured much from the cross. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3; cf. Psalm 22:6).