A Remez – Why did Jesus Say Why Have You Forsaken Me?

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In Matthew 27:46 when Jesus spoke from the cross and said “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”, was He really asking a question of Adonai? Did He go through all that pain and effort it required for Him to speak just to question God? Or was this a phrase and a technique known as a ‘remez’ and not a question at all? Why did Jesus say “Why have You forsaken Me?” and what is a remez? Read on to learn more!

 

An image of a crown of thorns lying on the wood of a cross next to two nails and a hammer and text that says Why Did Jesus Say My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? - Learn About the Remez

The Weight of the Cross

On Calvary, Yeshua (the Hebrew for Jesus, which I will use interchangeably), His back bloody and raw from the Roman whipping post, lifted all His weight up using his feet and slid His bare flesh up that wooden cross.

During crucifixion, a person’s weight hung down on the cross, pulled down by gravity. This made it difficult to take in oxygen. In order to take that needed oxygen into their lungs, they had to lift their weight up somehow and take in enough air before having to lower their weight again.

That is why legs were broken as a means of speeding up death. With the legs broken, a person couldn’t lift their weight up and they would suffocate.

The effort it took the Messiah to do that was significant.

Not only did He have to lift up all his weight in order to bring that vital oxygen into His lungs to speak, He had to slide His raw, striped back up the wood with its rough and splintery surface, in order to do it.

Yeshua felt, seven distinct times, that He had something so significant to say that it was worth all the agony to say it!

Imagine the weight each word carried.

A Remez- Why Have You Forsaken Me?

One of these statements He made was in Matthew 27:46 :

“My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”

TLV

It appears to be Jesus crying out to God to ask why His Father has left Him at this time.

Some have speculated it was because, at the moment Jesus bore the sin of the world as He took our place, God had to turn from Him since God cannot look upon sin.

But God sees us even in OUR sin. Our sinfulness does not cause God to forsake us. God cannot dwell with sin and we cannot remain in our sinful state and be in relationship, but He doesn’t turn us away.

You see, this was not a question at all Jesus was asking. Why did Jesus say ‘why have You forsaken Me’ then?

Jesus was offering a remez to the religious elite who stood by. He was making a statement, not asking a question.

Jesus felt, seven times, that He had something so significant to say that it was worth all that agony to say it! Click To Tweet

What is a Remez?

A remez is a Hebrew word and it means “hint”.

It was a method of study often used by Rabbis where they would quote a verse or part of a verse in order to have students of the Word recall the verses before and after it. The remez was simply a technique used to invoke recall of a scripture. It was not unlike an actor being given part of a sentence to help them recall the rest of their lines.

I can give you a modern day example that will give you an idea of how a remez is used and how effective it is.

If I were to say to you “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down” do you immediately begin recalling the remaining lines of that song? Did it come to your mind right away?

Yes, I admit it. You just got Rick Rolled in my blog post! Bet you sang it too! You did, didn’t you?

But now you understand the technique of the remez, so it worked!

A Remez From Jesus to the Religious Elite – Why Did Yeshua Ask Why Have You Forsaken Me?

In Matthew 27:46 it says:

About the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”

TLV

You see Jesus is not asking God anything here! 

An image of a cross with a grown of thorns on it and a robe draped on it with Matthew 27:46 quoted

He is giving the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders a remez. He is bringing to their attention the words of a Psalm.

Jesus is bringing their recall to the first verse in a very important Psalm in fact! It was Psalm 22!

In Psalm 22, a Psalm that speaks clearly of the awaited Messiah, in verse 2 (some translations have it as verse 1) it says:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Distant from my salvation are the words of my groaning”

TLV

A Remez – To Show Who He Was, Yeshua HaMashiach

Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) is bringing this Messianic Psalm to their attention.

He was saying “I AM the Messiah”! He was in essence saying, “You remember this Psalm that speaks of the Jewish Messiah? You’re looking at Him! You’re crucifying Him!”

It would not have been lost on the Pharisees and Sadducees! They knew the Psalms all too well. They knew very well the prophetic Psalm He was recalling to them and why!

Anyone who had any doubts was likely convinced on hearing this remez from a wooden cross.

The Pharisees knew! The High Priest knew! And the Sanhedrin knew!

They saw the veil of the Temple torn from top to bottom upon the death of Yeshua!

Oh, they knew who He claimed to be, they knew He fulfilled the prophecies and God confirmed it by tearing that veil of separation in two!

The Lion is Coming!

They had stood there looking at their Messiah but they didn’t recognize Him. What they wanted was a Lion, they got a Lamb.

They could not accept a suffering Messiah. They were expecting a Messiah to free them from Rome, not come lowly riding on a donkey’s colt.

Oh but the Lion IS coming! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah! The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world is coming again to reign and He is bringing the armies of Heaven with Him, Adonai Tzevaot! The conquering Messiah they wanted will soon be coming to reign in the Messianic Kingdom!

Oh but the Lion is coming! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah! The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world is coming again to reign and He is bringing the armies of Heaven with Him! Click To Tweet

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

27 Comments

  1. Great post!
    I remember hearing so many in Christian circles declare that the sin on Christ’s ‘shoulders’ was so great that the Father had to turn His face away, and then someone quotes Jesus quoting Psalm 22 as proof.

    One day at a Bible Study, we were cautioned about how we sometimes have to look close at these things we always say, because we don’t always think them through or check the Scriptures. Then that same night, the conversation about the Father turning His face away happened. I said, “Hey, I think if we look at the Scriptures, we’ll find no proof that it actually says that. In fact, it seems the opposite. Isaiah tells us that it pleased the Lord to crush him; Revelation tells us He’s the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world; Paul tells us this is the fulfillment of everything that was promised and the mystery of God that has been coming together for ages, and is now revealed. It’s all part of God’s plan… so I don’t think it’s something that He can’t bear to look at.”

    Later I realized that Psalm 22:24 – in the passage Jesus is quoting – plainly states, “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard him, when he cried to him.” Literally the opposite of what we often hear.

    I’ve also heard (but need to confirm) that the “He has done it” at the end of Psalm 22 in the Septuagint is the same Greek word (maybe root word) for the declaration, “It is finished!”

    One of the men there later came to me and told me he had looked at it more and agreed with me, then told me about “Remez” as a technique. It seems so clear that Jesus was giving a massive “hint” to those watching.

    It’s powerful to think that no matter how great our sin, the love and grace of God is so much greater — that nothing we do is so powerful as to cause God to turn His face away, but that His mercies and grace are so powerful as to look right at all the worst humanity has to offer and pay the debt through His shed blood.

    Haha, sorry for the long rant, but I’m happy I found your post from just two weeks ago… Psalm 22 is the subject of our church Bible Study tonight, and I was just looking up remez to prepare and refresh my memory on this passage.

    1. Thank you for your comments Dave. I think sometimes there is a tendency to “read” Christian thought into prophetic language. We want things to fit but the reality is that the reality is not always nice and neat. A study into the prophetic leads us oftentimes into the literary and into prose and into language that isn’t quite so simple. I appreciate you leaning more into those things!

  2. Thank you for this article, I have been looking for information on Jesus’ Jewish teaching methods. Currently, I am a seminary student wanting to integrate this into a paper. However, my seminary, from what I can find, has no information on this subject. While I do agree with what you have said, my professor would not accept this as “academic.” Do you have any sources that could be used on a seminary level paper concerning Remez and Pardes?

    1. There are some on Sefaria that you might find useful. You can do a search for the word remez. Much is in Hebrew but there are some in English. Here is one. https://www.sefaria.org/Kedushat_Levi%2C_Genesis%2C_Bereshit?ven=Kedushat_Levi_translated_by_Rb._Eliyahu_Munk&lang=bi
      You sort of have to sort through the various teachings on it as some were used in teaching Torah and some became used in Kabbalah as well.

      There is an article called The Place of Story and Storytelling in Messianic Jewish Ministry: Rediscovering the Lost Treasures of Hebraic Narrative by Bill Bjoraker published in the Kesher Journal in Jan 2, 2018 that touches a tiny bit on it.

      Chabad.org I am sure has some as well. Since it is a a rabbinical method, rabbinical sources are likely going to be the only good sources. It was something I learned through the years so I don’t know many specific sources but I will go through my library here at home and see if I can find anything for you as well.

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