Simon of Cyrene carries the cross for Jesus to where He is crucified with two criminals, one of which asks Jesus for redemption; some of the spectators are grieved, but many others mock Him; the guards redistribute His clothes; then He dies as His followers watch from a distance and grieve: Mark 15:21-24; Matthew 27:32–34; Luke 23:26–31; John 19:17; Mark 15:25–32; Matthew 27:35–44; Luke 23:32–43; John 19:18–27; Mark 15:33–41; Matthew 27:45–56; Luke 23:44–49; John 19:28–37
It was about three o’clock in the afternoon. Jesus cried out this:
Matthew 27:46 … My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Did it mean God turned His back on Jesus?
Not if Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, which starts:
Psalm 22:1-2My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
The Jews in the crowd would have had to have known the allusion (just as we all recognise contemporary allusions to movies and popular songs), and so they would have known how Jesus would have believed it would end:
Psalm 22To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
In crying out this question, Jesus was finishing off the claim he made at the start of His ministry: that not only did he come to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s scriptures (causing a riot in doing it), but also that through Him, there will be deliverance.
And in the middle, it’s clear from Psalm 22 that God did not abandon the psalmist or Jesus:
Psalm 22 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
There was a moment when Jesus (and the psalmist) felt forsaken, but it didn’t last long because they both knew God better than that.