Matthew 27:46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (which means My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).
As the time of his death drew near, Jesus nearly screamed the saddest sentence in the Bible. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? No one will ever know the agony Jesus felt as he bore the sins of the world. The intimate fellowship he enjoyed with his heavenly Father was gone, and darkness filled his soul.
Jesus felt these words more deeply than anyone else ever could, but he was not the first to say them. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? is a quotation from King David (Psalm 22:1). It is the first sentence from the twenty-second Psalm which parallels Jesus’ death in many other ways.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. He trusts in the Lord, they say, let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him. Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God (Psalm 22:7-10).
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment (Psalm 22:14-18).
To fully appreciate these words, we must remember that they were written about a thousand years before the crucifixion. And yet, Jesus fulfilled them perfectly. Furthermore, the Psalm ends on a positive note by describing the result of Jesus’ death for his people. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22: 30-31). Since Jesus knew the end of this Psalm, his cry of despair was also a cry of hope. In his darkest hour, Jesus looked ahead to what his death would accomplish.
Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Jesus was crucified Friday morning and died that afternoon. With Pilate’s permission, Jesus was promptly entombed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They had to be done before sunset, since that is when the Sabbath began, so the burial was done rather hastily (John 19:38-42).
To better honor Jesus’ body, some women prepared additional spices. They brought them to the tomb early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath had passed (Luke 24:1). Jesus had predicted his resurrection several times, but the disciples did not understand what he was talking about (Luke 18:31-34). The fact that these women brought spices for Jesus’ body shows they had no expectation of his resurrection.
Matthew 28:2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
The angel rolled back the stone, not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in. According to Luke’s gospel, there were actually two angels (Luke 24:4). This is not a contradiction but a fuller account. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:5-6).
It was early in the morning, and the sun was beginning to rise. Likewise, the light of understanding was beginning to rise for these women. Jesus’ crucifixion was a tragedy to them, and all their hopes were buried with him. But the God of hope raised Jesus from the dead, and now their hopes were rising too.
It is worth noting that the first witnesses were women, because the testimony of women was considered less reliable than the testimony of men. If the gospel writers invented this story, the apostles would have arrived first to provide a unified and credible witness of the empty tomb. The fact that all four gospels state that women were the first witnesses shows they only cared about presenting the facts. This is another way the gospels reveal their authenticity.
Matthew 28:8-9 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings, he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Because they were able to clasp his feet, the women understood that Jesus had risen physically. The empty tomb was compelling evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it was not the only evidence. [Jesus] appeared to [his disciples] over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), wrote Luke.
If Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb, but he did not make appearances, another explanation might be possible. (Perhaps his body was stolen). If Jesus made appearances, but his body was still in the tomb, then his appearances would have been ghostly, and not very credible. But since Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, and he appeared in the flesh many times, the disciples could be absolutely certain that Jesus defeated death.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is as verifiably certain as any event in history can be. It is the one miracle sufficient to justify our faith, and is completely open to investigation. The reason more people do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is because it requires a change of life. Since most people do not want to change their life, they choose not to believe in the resurrection. It has little to do with evidence, and much to do with sin.
Reflection and Review
Why did Jesus cry out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
How do female witnesses add credibility to the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection?
Why don’t more people believe that Jesus rose from the dead?