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, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)
By far, the most heart wrenching words Jesus spoke that day from the cross are taken as a direct quote from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:1-2).
Some scholars believe that Jesus may have recited the entire Psalm, though that seems rather unlikely given the response of the crowd as they believed He might be calling for Elijah. Others believe He might have used the opening line of the Psalm to draw people to realize that He was once again fulfilling scripture. That has a little more merit, but still probably a little stretch for the people who were standing by.
What we do know, what we see here, is the deep and amazing love of Jesus in this moment. In this moment He takes on all our sin, He becomes sin for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:12).
In becoming sin Jesus does the absolute unthinkable, He takes the punishment of the sins that we deserve, separation from the Father. A moment of true hell. For all our sins He becomes sin so that we don’t have to experience this punishment. Jesus becomes sin, and so in this moment we experience what we do not deserve–Peace.
It seems odd, but the reality is there. The most agonizing, painful, heart-wrenching moment on that cross, when He who knew no sin becomes sin itself, experiencing the punishment of separation that you and I deserve because of our sins, becomes the greatest moment for us.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Upon Jesus was the punishment that brings us peace. For there truly is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. No amount of bad decisions. No amount of sinful thoughts. No amount of crushing words and actions. No, nothing at all, can separate us. For He who knew no sin, became sin, so that we could have what we do not deserve. His words of agony. A word of Peace for us.