Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me
The first line of a hymn identifies the hymn. The first line of a psalm identifies the psalm. When Christ is on the cross, he utters this famous passage. It was an expression of his innermost feelings. It was an honest plea for understanding. But it was also a teaching moment. Those who had derided him saying, "If he be the King of Israel let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him," (Matt. 27:42) were the chief priests and scribes. They should have known the scriptures better than anyone else. They should have known that the passage, "my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" was the first line of the 22nd Psalm. They should have recognized that Jesus was referencing the whole psalm when quoting this line. They should have thought about the content of this psalm. They should have recognized that the Messiah was at that moment on the cross and suffering just as the 22nd psalm had prophesied. They should have then felt remorse and guilt. They should have then understood that their mockings had been prophesied by David a millennia previous.
"Is it possible that the Heavenly Father had really forsaken him? Could God have abandoned him in this most sacred and terrible hour? Yes, indeed. For Christ had become guilty of the sins of the world, guilty in our place. What happens to the rest of us when we are guilty of sin? The Spirit of God withdraws from us, the heavens turn to brass, and we are left alone to stew in our guilt until we repent. In Gethsemane the best among us vicariously became the worst among us and suffered the very depths of hell. And as one who was guilty, the Savior experienced for the first time in his life the loss of the Spirit of God and of communion with his Father." (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, 119.)
Jeffrey R. Holland
Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually-that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)
The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, "Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me" and "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him"? (John 16:32; 8:29)
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ's mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind-us, all of us-would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ's determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was "finished." ("None Were with Him" Ensign, May 2009, 86)
Psalm 22:13-19 Description of the Crucifixion
For us, it is hard to imagine an individual reading Psalms or Isaiah and not seeing the Messianic prophecies contained therein. They seem so second nature to us, that anyone familiar with Jewish literature would certainly comprehend them. What do the Jews think when they read these passages?
"I am an attorney and was raised on a farm in Transvaal, South Africa, of Orthodox Jewish parents in a very formal Jewish environment. In the 1950s I married a Jewish girl, but something was missing in my life. Although I knew there was a God, I did not really know him. I regularly went to synagogue and I tried to run a kosher Jewish home, but eventually I abandoned this practice. Unhappily my marriage ended in divorce.
"Then on a miraculous day I met my present wife, Edwina. Early I found out that she was a Mormon, but I paid little attention to this. As time passed, I realized that I loved her more than life.
"But what was I to do? You can realize the problems that arose within my family because I was dating a gentile. So I decided that I should investigate the Mormon religion for six months, and thereafter Edwina would investigate Judaism for six months, and it would all be solved. We would be Jews. I will never forget Edwina's smile when she said, "Investigate, and then we'll see."
"During the next months I spent many lonely hours worrying and reading.
"Eventually, one morning about two o'clock, I turned to the Bible. A thought entered my mind. I realized that I knew Psalm 23 well, but I had never read Psalm 22. As I began to read, suddenly there came a dawning in my mind. David was describing the crucifixion in all its terrible magnificence many years before the event: (Quotes Ps. 22:13-19.)
"As I read this, I knew as surely as I live that Jesus was the Messiah! Can you imagine what this did to me? During the next three months I discovered that all my concepts were wrong.
"My whole life changed and I came to one conclusion: I was wrong. With this knowledge that the Messiah had come, I started to seek his church. I read the Book of Mormon in earnest. Yes, it was written 'to the convincing of the Jew and gentile that Jesus is the Christ.'
"As I read I prayed. The Holy Spirit manifested the truth of the gospel to me. I went to Edwina and told her I wanted to be baptized. Later we were married. Now, at 41, I serve on the high council of the Transvaal Stake. I have never found in my entire life such satisfaction and purpose as I do now." (Isaac Swartzberg, "A Jewish attorney finds the Messiah," Ensign, Dec. 1972, 63)