A sonnet by Don Carson on Matthew 27:45-46—
The darkness fought, compelled the sun to flee,
And like a conquering army swiftly trod
Across the land, blind fear this despot’s rod.
The noon-day dark illumined tyranny.
Still worse, abandonment by Deity
Brought black despair more deadly than the blood
That ran off with his life. “My God, my God,”
Cried Jesus, “why have you forsaken me?”
The silence thundered. Heaven’s quiet reigned
Supreme, a shocking, deafening, haunting swell.
Because from answering Jesus, God refrained,
I shall not cry, as he, this cry from hell.
The cry of desolation, black as night,
Shines forth across the world as brilliant light.
D. A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books and Nottingham, UK: Crossway Books, 1994, out-of-print), 51.
Carson identifies the following four ironies in the crucifixion:
The man who is mocked as King is the King
The man who is utterly powerless is powerful
The man who can’t save himself saves others
The man who cries out in despair trusts God
I really appreciated the way that Carson explained the final of these in particular. Why did Jesus cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
Is it out of self-pity? Had He abandoned His trust in the Father?
No, argues Carson. It’s none of these things. Jesus cried out in despair so that we will never have to. Jesus understood what was going to happen on the cross. But He cried out so that “for all eternity [we] will not have to” (p. 36). It’s a powerful expression of His love for us.
Joe Coffey writes,
Stephen Charnock writes,
Not all the vials of judgment that have or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner’s conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures – give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin – as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son! Never did divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our Savior’s countenance was most marred in the midst of His dying groans – when God had turned His smiling face from Him, and thrust His sharp knife into His heart, which forced that terrible cry from Him, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!”
Had we the space and time, it would be delightful to justify this synthesis by providing the exegesis of many passages, and then extend the discussion from Father and Son to the Spirit. Someone might ask, "But what does it matter?" The answer is twofold: (1) If this summary accurately captures at least some of the glorious truth of the nature of the Godhead, to abandon it is to abandon a true understanding of God. If we are to worship God aright, we must worship him as he is, as he has disclosed himself to us. The only alternative is to worship a god who is progressively false as our understanding skews away from the truth. (2) Various truths connected with the gospel itself become incoherent if one abandons robust Trinitarianism. The Father sends the Son; the Son demonstrates his love for the Father by obeying him all the way to the cross; the Son addresses his Father in the anguished cry, "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"; the Father gives the elect to the Son; in the plan of God, the Son propitiates the wrath of God and expiates sin; in the wake of his ascension and session at the Father's right hand, the Son reigns as the Father's mediatorial king until he has crushed all opponents, when he will turn the entire scope over to his Father; indeed, when the Son "offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death . . . he was heard because of his reverent submission" (Heb 5:7). None of these relational displays---and there are many others in the drama of redemption---is coherent under modalism. These relations are tied up with the nature of the Godhead. It is not surprising that those who adopt modalism habitually slide toward a diminished gospel. ~ Gospel Coalition