And how do we know that Jesus left his physical body at the time of death?
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matt. 27:50)Many have thought that his statement in Matt. 27:46 meant that Jesus felt God had abandoned him during his crisis. Some have even used this statement to contend that Jesus had lost his faith in the Supreme Being. Others - who have speculated that Jesus was God - have simply been confused by the statement.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Still others have tried to retranslate the word sabachthani (being translated here to "forsaken"), using its root of shbq as meaning "to keep" or "to spare." This, however, ignores the fact that the earliest Greek text already defined Jesus' statement, as θεέ μου θεέ μου ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες, being translated here into English as "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
But the Greek text also defined the theoretically Aramaic statement of Jesus, as ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι. Some debate that this could well be Hebrew (as David's Psalm was). So what we have is the Book of Mathew portraying both the original statement of Jesus along with a translation of that statement. In other words, the writer of the Book of Mathew is defining what Jesus said for clarity. This is evidenced by the words of the verse, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν, meaning "that is."
So while many ecclesiastical Christian teachers have tried to re-translate the word sabachthani, they are then stuck with the fact that the text of the Book of Mathew - accepted as scripture - already defines the word and the entire phrase.
Still, the ecclesiastical translation from Greek to English could be more closely examined. The word "forsaken" here has been translated from the Greek word ἐγκαταλείπω (egkataleipō), which can mean "abandon, desert," "leave in straits," and "leave helpless" according to the lexicon.
The word "forsaken" therefore, would be taking the word ἐγκαταλείπω (egkataleipō) to an extreme that is not appropriate for its context. To "forsake" means not just to abandon, but to give up completely or renounce. This would take the Greek word ἐγκαταλείπω (egkataleipō) out of its context.
Let's use an example. Let's say that a father has been helping his son build a fort out of leggos in the boy's bedroom. At some point in building the fort, the father leaves the boy to his own resources to finish the fort, and goes to the living room to watch the game. Is the father "forsaking" the boy by leaving? This would mean the father would be essentially denying the boy was his son - ready to offer the boy up for adoption or something.
No. The father simply left the son to finish building the fort by himself. Why? Was the father doing this to hurt the boy? Certainly not. In fact, the father was probably thinking it would be best to leave the son to his own resources so he could learn more about finishing projects by himself.
This situation actually occurs quite often in the physical world, as the Supreme Being has left us to deal with situations as we see fit - to make our own choices in other words. This is the essence of love - being given choices.
And yes - as we will discuss further below - the Supreme Being did at some point leave Jesus to deal with the situation alone. And this did result in Jesus feeling "helpless" as the word ἐγκαταλείπω (egkataleipō) portrays.
But this feeling Jesus has - of feeling helpless and abandoned - must be understood as part of their intimate relationship - not God forsaking Jesus. In other words, God did not completely abandon Jesus - nor did He forsake Jesus.
The concept of being "forsaken" by God is simply not an appropriate translation here. Nor is it consistent with the life of Jesus and his teachings, who taught we could rely upon God and love God, and serve God - and He would be there for us during our times of need.
Rather, this translation comes from those who fail to see the confidential nature of Jesus' humble and loving relationship with God.
Instead of understanding Jesus' undying love for God, and the fact that he called out for God during his weakest moment, ecclesiastical sectarian teachers and their institutions would rather focus upon the benefits they supposedly derive from Jesus' crucifixion:
They would rather focus upon trying to wipe the consequences of their sins upon Jesus as they proclaim that "Jesus died for my sins." This approach to the suffering of God's beloved and perfect loving servant is quite simply, perverted - and this is the primary reason they cannot see into the confidential relationship between God and Jesus.
It is perverted not only to consider the suffering that Jesus endured at the hands of these demoniac people as a vehicle to become cleansed. It is also perverted to consider Jesus as some kind of sacrificial lamb, as if God has to embark upon some kind of process in order to purify humanity. And it is doubly perverted to imagine that God had to become a man in order to sacrifice for our sins. Yet this is what many ecclesiastical Christian teachers are proposing.
They are saying that God was murdered? That God died for our sins? How ludicrous is that?
God does not need to sacrifice anyone, including Himself, to purify humanity. God does not have to undergo any process. God makes rules but He is not subject to them. He does not need to engage in any kind of sacrifice. God could purify humanity by willing it.
But He doesn't, because He is giving us each the freedom to come back to Him or not. Each of us has the choice to participate in a process that will result in our purification, and Jesus taught us this process. This brings about a purification of our consciousness. It is a purification of our self-centered desires that Jesus' teachings and activities have the ability to cleanse.
The reality is that Jesus, in his perfect devotion to God, called out to God with the prayer of one of the foremost Teachers in his lineage, the Prophet David. As he left his body, Jesus began to recite David's prayer of Psalm 22 (see below).
Why would Jesus begin to recite this very devotional and sublime prayer of David?
This is the exalted attitude of a humble loving servant of the Supreme Being. Jesus was not "God-become-man." He was the perfect loving servant of God. The loving servant does not suppose he has the great connection with God, but relies upon God. In his humility he does not presume he has all the answers, nor does he presume to be the only teacher or savior:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)Rather, he is always reliant upon God, and those previous loving servants of God who engaged their lives in God's loving service. Jesus expressed this as he quoted so many verses from the Saints of the old testament just as he does here. Jesus' reliance upon God was evident among his teachings, which included:
"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it." (John 12:49)We can see that Jesus is relying upon the Supreme Being in his teachings.
And we see in Matt. 27:46 that Jesus is also relying upon the Supreme Being, when this is translated and interpreted correctly.
This might be compared to how a young child might be afraid to wander too far away from their parents. They are not feeling secure when they are on their own. Should such a dependent child find themselves left alone, they would say something like:
"why did you leave me alone?"
This reliance upon God also explains why Jesus once referred to himself as being "one" with God: He was referring to his will being dove-tailed with God's will. He was representing the Supreme Being and doing God's will as God's loving servant. And just as a married couple are considered one in terms of their decision-making - as one can sign for both - Jesus' dependence upon God and focus upon doing God's will created a oneness of purpose between them.
This is not a radical concept, as all of the Saints before Jesus were of the same mind. They each considered themselves God's servant, and worked to do His will.
Despite the fact that Jesus railed against the established Jewish temple hierarchy, Jesus never strayed from the teachings of these Saints like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Joseph and others. And his reliance upon God and those loving servants of God before him gave Jesus real authority, the kind of authority that allowed him to state clearly that his teachings - those teachings that ultimately came from God - were the only way for us to return to the spiritual realm.
This is also why Jesus took baptism from John the Baptist. Jesus held strong to the teachings of John's lineage, which led back to David and Moses, because this is the esteemed method pleasing to God. It is the method by which the loving servant of God teaches. The perfect loving servant of God teaches upon the authority of his predecessors. While the loving servant enjoys a unique and special loving relationship with the Supreme Being, he always sees himself humbly. This is why Jesus always spoke in the third person as he described the attributes of the υἱός τὸν θεός - the loving servant of God (see these verses to understand translation).
And both Jesus' and John's teachings mirrored the teachings of their predecessors. This is why Jesus continually quoted those Saints of the Old Testament such as David, Samuel, Moses and Abraham in his own teachings. This is why even Jesus' most important instruction reflected Moses' teachings:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)Jesus' teachings about love for God did not mirror only one statement by Moses. Moses spoke of this many times in many situations. Here are just a few:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deut. 6:4)So Jesus' teachings were not his teachings. They were the teachings of Moses and many other Saints of the Old Testament. They were ultimately God's teachings, and Jesus and these Saints all were representing God's teachings.
Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and his commands always. (Deut. 11:1)
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul... (Deut. 11:13)
If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow--to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him... (Deut. 11:22)
There is also another, more confidential reason why Jesus and all the other Saints hung on to the teachings of their predecessors: It relates to love, humility, and personal relationship. A person who humbly loves the Supreme Being holds on to the loving relationships that take place between God and His loving servants. He holds on to them because he rejoices seeing the love that others have for God.
This is the nature of the spiritual realm. Everyone in the spiritual realm is feeling love for God but is relishing seeing others loving and pleasing the Supreme Being. They themselves do not feel they have a superior relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the meaning of Jesus' statement about John: "he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt. 11:11). Jesus is commenting that being "greater" has a different meaning in the spiritual realm. The residents of the spiritual realm have a humble consciousness, and thus feel they are the least. This contrasts with the physical world, where we are all striving to be the "greatest."
The bottom line is that while Jesus was suffering on the cross from the brutal crucifixion brought upon his physical body, he was engaged in relishing his loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Loving relationships with God include many facets, but two prominent facets are the joy of being with the Supreme Being, and loving God while being separated from Him.
We sometimes see a similar thing (yet not with the same quality) when two people who are "in love" with each other are temporarily separated by a great distance. They spend their time writing letters, emails, making phone calls and so on, all in an effort to be connected. Yet whenever they do connect, they always go on and on about how they miss the other person, and wish they were together. This might be comparable - yet nowhere near as blissful as love for God in separation.
This bliss of love for God in separation is one of the highest emotions within the hierarchy of loving relationships with God. David was experiencing this as he wrote Psalm 22, and Jesus, completely consumed by his love for God in separation and feeling completely dependent upon the Supreme Being, began to recite David's Psalm as he left his physical body. Jesus was also relishing David's love for God and dependence upon the Supreme Being. We can see this as we read David's Psalm 22 (below).
We can also see from the Psalm that David was writing about himself - during a time of his own persecution by others. There are a couple of verses that illustrate a link between David's Psalm and Jesus' circumstances. This parallel, and the fact that Jesus quotes this verse at this particular time while relishing David's love for God in separation, illustrates how His loving servants become bonded by their mutual love for the Supreme Being.
Here is David's Psalm 22 in its entirety (notice how David is also relishing the love for God of his own teachers - whom he refers to as "fathers"):
My God, my God, why have You left me alone?
Why are You so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One;
You are the praise of Israel.
In You our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and You delivered them.
They cried to You and were saved;
in You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
“He trusts in the Lord;
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 upon You;
from my mother’s womb You have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
My strength 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 have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
But You, O Lord, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver my life from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare Your Name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise You.
You who revere the Lord, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!
For He has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who revere You will I fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the Lord will praise Him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before Him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve Him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim His righteousness
to a people yet unborn—
for He has done it.
As we read this prayer by David in entirety we can get a glimpse of Jesus' utter devotion to God - that he would begin reciting this verse from David's Psalms. And thus we can offer a more appropriate translation of the Greek in this text, with a glimpse of love for God in separation:
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have You left me alone?" (Matthew 27:46)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)