This topic comes up every so often, in different forms, and has to do with that moment when Jesus, from the cross, said: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
The explanations I have heard are varied, but few seem to make sense. I suspect this question is one that bothers many, as the man who recently brought it up is relatively knowledgeable in scripture and should have a reasonable understanding of what happened on the cross.
99 percent of the time, the person questioning Jesus’s anguished cry, and the one attempting to explain it, are typically quoting from Matthew 27:46. Here is the somewhat standard version we usually hear from.
Matthew 27:46 MKJV And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?
The word forsaken doesn’t seem so horrendous unless you attach a human to it. Indeed, horror is precisely what Jesus was trying to convey. What was happening to Him was awful no doubt, it was something He had never experienced, and it was happening to Him as He hung on that cross.
The word Forsaken, for the sake of clarification, means Deserted; left; abandoned.
I think I can understand why someone might challenge why Jesus would ask this question – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Because Bible translations don’t always convey the depth of anguish being felt by the subject, in this case – Jesus. Perhaps looking at other translations will help us grasp it all.
- The Amplified Bible puts it this way, “why have You abandoned Me [leaving Me helpless, forsaking and failing Me in My need]?”
- The Contemporary English Version states, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?
- And I will stop with this one. The Easy to Read version tells us that Jesus said, “why have you left me alone?”
Operating on the understanding that Jesus is God; an integral part of the Godhead, and the one who spoke the universe into existence; any form of separation from the Father, it seems, was unfathomable.
John 1:1-4 NASB, In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2) He was in the beginning with God. 3) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. 4) In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
As a side note: What is a significant component of hell? The total and complete separation from God. Many, claim a separation now, they just don’t realize how close He is to them; sadly, they will find out.
I can make a logical assumption here, and say that Jesus was experiencing a complete separation from the Father, even if only for a short time. There is no doubt that this separation had some horror associated with it.
Several commentaries point to Psalm 22:1, where King David is pouring out his heart in anguish before God, as he says, “My God, my God, why have you left me? You seem too far away to save me, too far to hear my cries for help!” Many of the commentaries indicate that Jesus is fulfilling this verse as a prophecy. While that might be true, I do not think it is that complicated. Jesus, the Jew, was trained in the Law and the Prophets and spoke in a language the people would understand.
Another idea passed along to us is the idea that God cannot look upon sin.
I have looked for this phrase, “God cannot look upon sin,” on several occasions, and I can find no direct reference in the Bible. I am going to play on the assumption that I merely bypassed this idea that God cannot look upon sin, then I can allow myself to consider that sin played a role in being deserted because Jesus became sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB 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.
Consider that for a moment. Maybe the best way to approach this idea of abandonment or desertion comes from comes from Israel’s practice of placing their sins upon the “scapegoat.”
Leviticus 16:9-10 ERV “Then Aaron will offer the goat chosen by the lot for the LORD. Aaron will make this goat a sin offering. 10) But the goat chosen by the lot for Azazel will be brought alive before the LORD. Then this goat will be sent out to Azazel in the desert. This is to make the people pure.
This scapegoat is meant to take the sin away from the people, and that is what Christ did. The sad aspect is that most of us don’t understand or believe that took place on the cross.
Another piece of information and a bit of common knowledge is the bronze serpent upon the pole; it was a type of Christ. This terminology “type” is meant to show an alternate representation of Christ before He came to earth as a man.
Numbers 21:8-9 NET. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.” 9) So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that if a snake had bitten someone, when he looked at the bronze snake he lived.
Yes, in essence, He became the serpent, just as He became sin.
Since the premise is that God deserted or abandoned Christ while He hung on the cross, then how do I fit this into the idea of a loving God that will never leave us or desert us?
Isaiah 53:4 NASB Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
Note how it says, “Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” So it is not about God leaving Christ; it is how we have perceived His actions and effect of the cross.
I tried hashing through what I understood, with my wife. She, responded with what most say, God could not look on sin and that is why He forsook His own Son. I paused a moment and replied, then what do I do with a God that loved the world so much that He gave His only son. There was no turning His back or forsaking people. We were all born into sin – train wrecks that should have been thrown into a trash dumpster, and yet Jesus willingly, in-spite of our brokenness, allowed Himself to suffer the pains of a complete desertion from God; and to die on our behalf.