2562. Cries From The Cross

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No. 2562-44:145. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, November 2, 1856, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. {a}

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, March 27, 1898.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? {Ps 22:1}

1. Here we behold the Saviour in the depths of his agonies and sorrows. No other place shows so well the griefs of Christ as Calvary, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony as when this cry rends the air, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At this moment, physical weakness, brought on him by fasting and scourging, was united with the acute mental torture which he endured from the shame and ignominy through which he had to pass; and as the culmination of his grief, he suffered spiritual agony which surpasses all expression, on account of the departure of his Father from him. This was the blackness and darkness of his horror; it was then that he penetrated the depths of the caverns of suffering.

2. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There is something in these words of our Saviour always calculated to benefit us. When we behold the sufferings of men, they afflict and appal us; but the sufferings of our Saviour, while they move us to grief, have about them something sweet, and full of consolation. Here, even here, in this black place of grief, we find our heaven, while gazing on the cross. This, which might be thought a frightful sight, makes the Christian glad and joyful. If he laments the cause, yet he rejoices in the consequences.

3. I. First, in our text, there are THREE QUESTIONS to which I shall call your attention.

4. The first is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” By these words we are to understand that our blessed Lord and Saviour was at that moment forsaken by God in such a way as he had never been before. He had battled with the enemy in the desert, but thrice he overcame him, and cast him to the earth. He had striven with that foe all his lifelong, and even in the garden he had wrestled with him until his soul was “very sorrowful.” It is not until now that he experiences a depth of sorrow which he never felt before. It was necessary that he should suffer, in the place of sinners, just what sinners ought to have suffered. It would be difficult to conceive of punishment for sin apart from the frown of Deity. With crime we always associate anger, so that, when Christ died, “the Just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God,” — when our blessed Saviour became our Substitute, he became, for the time, the victim of his Father’s righteous wrath, since our sins had been imputed to him, in order that his righteousness might be imputed to us. It was necessary that he should feel the loss of his Father’s smile, — for the condemned in hell must have tasted that bitterness; — and therefore the Father closed the eye of his love, put the hand of justice before the smile of his face, and left his Son to cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

5. There is no man living who can tell the full meaning of these words; no one in heaven or on earth, — I had almost said, in hell; there is not a man who can spell these words out with all their depth of misery. Some of us think, at times, that we could cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There are times when the brightness of our Father’s smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness. But let us remember that God never does really forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ’s case it was a real forsaking. God only knows how much we grieve, sometimes, at a little withdrawal of our Father’s love; but the real turning away of God’s face from his Son, — who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused him when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

6. In our case, this is the cry of unbelief; in his case, it was the utterance of a fact, for God had really turned away from him for a time. Oh you poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God’s face, but are now in darkness, — you who are walking in the valley of the shadow of death, you hear noises, and you are afraid; your soul is startled within you, you are struck with terror if you think that God has forsaken you! Remember that he has not really forsaken you, for —

    Mountains when in darkness shrouded,
       Are as real as in day.

God in the clouds is as much our God as when he shines out in all the lustre of his benevolence; but since even the thought that he has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the agony of the Saviour have been when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

7. The next question is, “Why are you so far from helping me?” So far, God had helped his Son, but now he must tread the wine-press alone, and even his own Father cannot be with him. Have you not felt, sometimes, that God has brought you to do some duty, and yet has apparently not given you the strength to do it? Have you never felt that sadness of heart which makes you cry, “Why are you so far from helping me?” But if God intends for you to do anything, you can do it, for he will give you the power. Perhaps your brain reels; but God has ordained that you must do it, and you shall do it. Have you not felt as if you must go on even while, every step you took, you were afraid to put your foot down for fear you should not get a firm foothold? If you have had any experience of divine things, it must have been so with you. We can scarcely guess what it was that our Saviour felt when he said, “Why are you so far from helping me?” His work is one which no one but a Divine Person could have accomplished, yet his Father’s eye was turned away from him! With more than herculean labours before him, but with none of his Father’s might given to him, what must have been the strain on him! Truly, as Hart says, he —

    Bore all incarnate God could bear,
    With strength enough, and none to spare.

8. The third enquiry is, “Why are you so far from the words of my roaring?”: The word here translated “roaring” means, in the original Hebrew, that deep, solemn groan which is caused by serious sickness, and which suffering men utter. Christ compares his prayers to those roarings, and complains that God is so far from him that he does not hear him. Beloved, many of us can sympathize with Christ here. How often have we on our knees asked some favour of God, and we thought we asked in faith, yet it never came! Down we went on our knees again. There is something which withholds the answer; and, with tears in our eyes, we have wrestled with God again; we have pleaded, for Jesus’ sake, but the heavens have seemed like brass. In the bitterness of our spirit, we have cried, “Can there be a God?” And we have turned around, and said, “ ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from the words of my roaring?’ Is this like you? Do you ever spurn a sinner? Have you not said, ‘Knock, and it shall be opened to you?’ Are you reluctant to be kind? Do you withhold your promise?” And when we have been almost ready to give up, with everything apparently against us, have we not groaned, and said, “Why are you so far from the words of my roaring?” Though we know something, it is not much that we can truly understand of those direful sorrows and agonies which our blessed Lord endured when he asked these three questions, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”

9. II. Let as now, in the second place, ANSWER THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

10. The answer to the first question I have given before. I think I hear the Father say to Christ, “My Son, I forsake you because you stand in the sinner’s place. Since you are holy, just, and true, I never would forsake you; I would never turn away from you; for, even as a man, you have been holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; but on your head rests the guilt of every penitent, transferred from him to you; and you must expiate it by your blood. Because you stand in the sinner’s place, I will not look at you until you have borne the full weight of my vengeance. Then, I will exalt you on high, far above all principalities and powers.”

11. Oh Christian, pause here, and reflect! Christ was punished in this way for you! Oh, see that countenance so wrung with horror; those horrors gather there for you! Perhaps, in your own esteem, you are the most worthless of the family; certainly, the most insignificant; but the lowliest lamb of Christ’s flock is as much the object of purchase as any other. Yes, when that black darkness gathered around his brow, and when he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi,” in the words of our text, for the Lord Omnipotent to help him; when he uttered that awfully solemn cry, it was because he loved you, because he gave himself for you, so that you might be sanctified here, and dwell with him hereafter. God forsook him, therefore, first, because he was the sinner’s Substitute.

12. The answer to the second question is, “Because I would have you get all the honour for yourself; therefore I will not help you, lest I should have to divide the spoil with you.” The Lord Jesus Christ lived to glorify his Father, and he died to glorify himself, in the redemption of his chosen people. God says, “No, my Son, you shall do it alone; for you must wear the crown alone; and on your person shall all the regalia of your sovereignty be found. I will give you all the praise, and therefore you shall accomplish all the labour.” He was to tread the wine-press alone, and to obtain all the victory and glory only for himself.

13. The answer to the third question is essentially the same as the answer to the first. To have heard Christ’s prayers at that time, would have been inappropriate. This turning away of the Divine Father from hearing his Son’s prayer, is just in keeping with his condition; as the sinner’s Surety, his prayer must not be heard; as the sinner’s Surety, he could say, “Now that I am here, dying in the sinner’s place, you seal your ears against my prayer.” God did not hear his Son, because he knew his Son was dying to bring us near to God, and the Son therefore cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

14. III. In conclusion, I shall offer you A WORD OF EARNEST EXPOSTULATION AND OF AFFECTIONATE WARNING.

15. Is it nothing to some of you that Jesus should die? You hear the story of Calvary; but, alas! you have dry eyes. You never weep concerning it. Is the death of Jesus nothing to you? Alas! It seems to be so with many. Your hearts have never throbbed in sympathy with him. Oh friends, how many of you can look on Christ, agonizing and groaning like this, and say, “He is my Ransom, my Redeemer?” Could you say, with Christ, “My God?” Or is God another’s, and not yours? Oh, if you are outside of Christ, hear me speak one word, it is a word of warning! Remember, to be outside of Christ, is to be without hope; if you die unsprinkled with his blood, you are lost. And what is it to be lost? I shall not try to tell you the meaning of that dreadful word “lost.” Some of you may know it before another sun has risen. May God grant that you may not! Do you desire to know how you may be saved? Hear me. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” To be baptized is to be buried in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Have you believed in Christ? Have you professed faith in Christ? Faith is the grace which rests only on Christ. Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he should feel himself to be lost, — that he should know himself to be a ruined sinner, and then he should believe this: “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” even the very chief. You need no mediator between yourselves and Christ. You may come to Christ just as you are, — guilty, wicked, poor; just as you are, Christ will take you. There is no necessity for washing beforehand. You need no riches; in him you have all you require, will you bring anything to “all?” You need no garments; for in Christ you have a seamless robe which will amply suffice to cover even the biggest sinner on earth, as well as the least.

16. Come, then, to Jesus at once. Do you say you do not know how to come? Come just as you are. Do not wait to do anything. What you need is to stop doing, and let Christ do everything for you. What do you need to do, when he has done all? All the labour of your hands can never fulfil what God commands. Christ died for sinners, and you must say, “Sink or swim, I will have no other Saviour but Christ.” Cast yourself entirely on him.

    And when thine eye of faith is dim,
    Still trust in Jesus, sink or swim;
    Still at his footstool humbly bow,
    Oh sinner! sinner! prostrate now!

He is able to pardon you at this moment. There are some of you who know you are guilty, and groan concerning it. Sinner, why do you wait? “Come, and welcome!” is my Master’s message to you. If you feel you are lost and ruined, there is not a barrier between you and heaven; Christ has broken it down. If you know your own lost estate, Christ has died for you; believe, and come! Come, and welcome, sinner, come! Oh sinner, come! Come! Come! Jesus invites you to come; and as his ambassador to you, I invite you to come, as one who would die to save your souls if it were necessary, — as one who knows how to groan over you, and to weep over you, — one who loves you even as he loves himself, — I, as his minister, say to you, in God’s name, and in Christ’s place, “Be reconciled to God.” What do you say? Has God made you willing? Then rejoice! Rejoice, for he has not made you willing without giving you the power to do what he has made you willing to do. Come! Come! This moment you may be as sure of heaven as if you were there, if you cast yourself on Christ, and have nothing but Jesus for your soul’s reliance.

{a} This was the first evening sermon preached by Mr. Spurgeon after the fatal calamity at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, two weeks previously. On beginning his discourse he said, “The observations I have to make are very brief, since afterwards we are to partake of the Lord’s supper. I shall make no allusion to the recent catastrophe, — that theme of my daily thoughts and nightly dreams, ever since it has occurred. I hope, however, to improve that event at some future period.” This Mr. Spurgeon did, in many memorable utterances which will be included in Vol. II of his Autobiography now in course of compilation.

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These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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