One of the most dramatic moments in the crucifixion happened at about three in the afternoon.
Matt 27:46-50 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, "This man is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
I know the popular thought about this verse: My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me? Taking those words literally creates a considerable problem. What happened to the faithfulness of God in Jesus’ darkest moment? Did the God, who said He’d never leave us nor forsake us, leave Jesus when He needed Him most? Does God have a limit to what He can or will handle before He has to give up on us?
Though God clarified much of the historical mystery through the cross, there is still some mystery that remains. We read words like: 2Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And we really don’t know what that means. How did He do that? When did He do that?
We know that Jesus was taking on the burden, the cost and the consequence of our sins when He died, and was setting up the divine exchange we call salvation where we exchange our sin for His righteousness, but were those consequences applied physically, emotionally, spiritually, or all three? What happened between Jesus and the Father when the penalty of sin rolled over onto Him? We don’t know.
All my life, I’ve heard preachers say, God had to turn His back because He couldn’t look at Jesus becoming sin for us. God was too holy to embrace Jesus when the iniquity of us all fell on Him, so He had to forsake Him.
It preaches well, but there is no Scripture telling us the Father forsakes Jesus the moment He died.
Of this I am convinced: God did not abandon His Son. I see the Father like a heavyweight prize fighter. Ever watch videos of Mohammed Ali? He never takes his eyes off the target. This was the target from before the foundation of the world. God would never look away at the most strategic point that brought the solution into the plan. You don’t close your eyes at the point of pulling the trigger and hope you hit the target.
And beyond that: In no place in any Scripture does Jesus speak to the Father as My God. He will use the name God in general, He’ll call Himself the Son of God, but when praying or speaking directly to God, He always calls Him Father. He speaks of God as One when talking about Him, but in personal context, He breaks that down into the three parts of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit.
Why would Jesus, in the darkest moment, change that intimacy? As kids, when we were hurt, we cried out to our parents. We’d scream Mommy or Daddy. Never would we suddenly switch to their formal names.
But what about: My God, My God, why did You forsake Me? If that isn’t about God forsaking Jesus what is it about? Jesus is quoting Scripture. Psalm 22 is a prophetic description of the crucifixion in Psalm 22. Jesus was telling those watching to read that and be strengthened by what David wrote.
It would tell anyone watching what was going on. But more so, it would tell them they could count on the faithfulness of God in what they were going through.
Ps 22:1-5 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.
Jesus was helping His followers remember that the faithfulness of god would remain reliable for whatever they would face.
Why didn’t He quote: Isa 53:3-6 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Because those verses were personal. They reminded Him what He was going through and why this was necessary. Until the Holy Spirit came, they didn’t understand this Scripture. But they could identify with the emotion of being forsaken.
Anyone watching Him die, felt the agony of Psalm 22. To them the dream was over, God seemed to be shutting down the new adventure. They felt rejected. They were despised. They thought they’d been forsaken. And looking at the cross, perhaps even thought God had turned His back on the Son. But Jesus made sure they knew better. Because, had God forsaken Jesus, He would have had to have changed into different God. What would that say about Him? Whom He had shown Himself to be was a God of consistent faithfulness.
Deut 32:3-4 For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
Ps 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness.
Ps 36:5 Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Deut 31:6 Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
Ps 37:28 For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones;
Ps 94:14 For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.
If the Father had forsaken Jesus, He would have had to cancel all the promises that spoke of His faithfulness.
And the writer of the Book of Hebrews would need to rewrite:Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…except for that moment when God forsook Him.
God didn’t forsake Jesus. If He had, what would that say about us? Could there be a point in our distress when God would stop being God?
Isa 49:13-16 Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
Paul had experienced that: 2Cor 4:7-10 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Paul had been there. He had felt the same desperation Jesus felt. Pain, agony, desertion, alone. Yet, as did Jesus, Paul saw in his desperation that God was completely faithful.
Folks, please don’t think God forsook Jesus. Don’t ever think God deserts His children in their time of need. Don’t ever think He turns His back on us. Don’t ever let your despair lead you to deny God’s faithfulness. God never forsakes His kids.
- God does not forsake His children.
- He did not forsake Jesus on the cross.
- He will not forsake us in our time of distress.
- Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.