What is the meaning behind Christ’s words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)? Today, R.C. Sproul soberly examines Jesus’ cry of dereliction.
If you look in your gospel of John, where it says, “The Word was with God,” there’s a harmless word in there. The word “with.” Everyday word. Nothing philosophical about that word, is there? Here’s the problem. The Greeks had three distinct words, each one of which is translated by the English word “with.” So, the Greek mind understood that there are different ways that you can be with people. And those three words are the words sun, the word meta, and the word pros. You don’t have to remember them, but let me just illustrate them.
The word sun you have heard in English this way: How many of you ever been to a synagogue? How many of you have ever seen a synthesis, or know what a synthesis is? Or syncopated rhythm? That prefix syn-, which has come over into our language, comes from the Greek sun, which means “with.” Sunagógé, the synagogue, was a place where people came together to be with each other. All of us in this room right now are with each other in the sense of sun. We’re part of a group. We’re part of a multitude. That’s one way of “with” someone.
Then the second way in which one could be with somebody is the way the Greek used the term meta, and that means “to be alongside of.” When my wife and I walk down the street, hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, she is with me. That’s meta.
But the Greeks had a third way of speaking about with-ness. And for that, they used the little word in Greek called pros. Now, what’s interesting in the language is that the Greek word for face was the word prosópon. And what pros means is to be with someone in a relationship of face-to-face intimacy. It’s the closest possible relationship that people can have, to be in a pros relationship.
And so, what John is saying is that in the beginning, there was the logos, and the logos was pros God. Face to face. So close, so intimate, so narrowly connected that They could barely be distinguished. In fact, not only were They with each other, They were each other.
Now, that’s a philosophical concept of the highest possible magnitude. I might just take off on that for just a second, because not only do we see the relationship between God the Father and God the Son in this kind of a pros, face-to-face relationship, but also the relationship between the human nature of Jesus and the divine nature was that kind of intimate face-to-face relationship.
Now, think for a minute. The greatest future desire of a Jew is to be able to see the face of God. And when the Jew would express his hope, he would do it by way of benediction. He would say, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
The Jew is saying, “I want to be so close to God that I look Him in the face.” And what the Scriptures are saying about the logos is that that’s exactly the relationship that the Son has to the Father, face-to-face.
Now, the flip side of that, the worst thing that could ever happen to a Jew in the Old Testament was to have God turn His back, for God to turn out the lights of His countenance. And in graphic terms, the worst thing that could happen to a Jew, in fact, the worst image of damnation for the Jew, would be for God to turn His back to that person.
Now, think for a moment of the cross. What happens on the cross? When Christ calls out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” what happens to the earth? It’s like a solar eclipse happens in the middle of the afternoon. The record teaches us that suddenly darkness came upon the earth. And I don’t even think Jesus noticed that darkness, because there’s a very real sense, dear friends, that on the cross, if Jesus was to be forsaken, truly forsaken by God, God had to turn His back. That pros relationship had to be broken for an instant. And if you think about that in any depth, you’ll get a deeper appreciation for the cosmic drama that was going on at Calvary.