Was Jesus Forsaken By His Father?

062_A_PhotoI used to believe that God turned his back on Jesus at the cross.  The reason for my blind acceptance of this idea is that the Sunday School teachers and pastors from my youth taught this as truth.  Further, it fit so well with their equally unbiblical notion that God was too HOLY to look upon sin.  The biblical rational for such an argument was based on one of Jesus’ sayings from the cross.   In Matthew 27:46, Jesus says:  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  My teachers and pastors used this as a proof-text that God the Father had turned His back on Jesus at the cross, with the theological rational that God is too Holy to look upon sin.

In that moment, the teaching of such doctrine declares, Jesus took upon himself the sins of the whole world.  At that moment, God the Father was no longer able to stomach the site of his own Son.  The love of the Father took a back seat to the holiness of the Father, and Jesus was abandoned by the one he called Abba. Such a reading of this statement is fraught with difficulties.

Firstly, it destroys the union of the Trinity – a union built upon God’s core nature, which is love.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are at one with one another, expressed as pure love.  This love is not some slice out of a pie we call God. This love (which Jesus incarnates) is the pie-shell that encompasses and permeates all there is to know about God.  Therefore, any theology that sets up one attribute of God (love) against another attribute of God (holiness) divides God. Same is true for all other attributes of God (Justice, Mercy, Wrath, Righteousness, etc.). Each of these must be seen in the light of Jesus – who is the ultimate revelation of God’s core nature (God’s DNA if you will) which is LOVE (or we have to reject the Bible’s clear teaching on that subject, see 1 John 4:8).

So, then, the LOVE of God is never set against any other attribute of God.  Rather every other attribute assigned God needs to be interpreted through the lens of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus.

Further, the one Jesus called Father should not be set against the Son in any biblical theology.  The Bible clearly teaches that God is UNITED.  This is shown in Jesus own words.  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  “The Father and I are one.”  (see John 1).

God is not a multi-personality being, hot one day and cold the next.  The Father and Son share the same nature, the same life, the same character, the same values, and the same pure love.  They are so much at one – so much in tune with one another 0 that Jesus even says in John 14:20 “I am IN my Father.” That’s not just hanging out, folks.  That is a declaration of ONENESS.

So, then, what of the verse of scripture from Matthew.  It must be interpreted correctly in the light of the clear revelation of God as Holy Trinity, as well as with the commonly accepted disciplines of biblical study and hermeneutics.  So, did Jesus SAY:  “God the Father has forsaken me!” NO!  Jesus asked the question, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” There is a difference between asking the question and making a declaration.

One of the key affirmation related to the doctrine of the Incarnation, is that Jesus was both FULLY Human and FULLY Divine.  He was the HUMAN SON OF GOD.  When Jesus was on the cross, he received into himself all the darkness, despair, and brokenness of sin.  I like the way Baxter Kruger describes it:

“The new covenant is the new relationship established in Jesus’ own experience between the blessed Trinity and broken, sinful humanity. In Jesus the Father, Son and Spirit have reached us in our traumatic darkness, and established a real relationship with us at our very worst.
“Our contribution was to crucify the Father’s Son. Dying in the arms of our bitter and cruel rejection, Jesus embraced us in our treachery—and he brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him. This is the new covenant, the new relationship established in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the incarnate Son. Jesus is the new relationship. He is the one in whom the blessed Trinity and broken humanity meet and are together.”

Now here’s what happened.  The humanity of Jesus felt the emotional weight of abandonment by God that comes whenever a person’s spirit is darkened by the terrible effects of sin.  In that moment,  and since Adam in the garden, humanity feels the emotion of being deserted by God when confronted by the darkness of sin.

As a FULLY HUMAN being, Jesus cries out:  “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  I have felt that emotion.  Haven’t you?  I imagine you have.  Every person who has ever felt the weight of SIN (either that they have committed, or that committed against them) has felt this emotion.  Jesus felt the emotion of being abandoned and forsaken. But he not only felt it in himself, but also on behave of us all.

Further, let us reflect on the actual words Jesus spoke.  They were not spoken in a vacuum. Jesus is actually quoting Psalm 22:1, where the question is asked:   “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Now Jesus, being a good rabbi, was so familiar with the scriptures (he lived with them as a human being his entire life) that when stating a single verse, he was referencing its entire context.  (This was a common practice among Jewish Rabbis).

Jesus cry to God (this being the only time Jesus did not use the word Father or Abba), reveals that he FELT forsaken.  He could not sense the Father’s passionate love as he “became sin for us.”   But that does not mean the love and passion was absent.  That does not mean Jesus was actually forsaken or abandoned.  That does not mean God turned on God’s self.

So, it was a question.  Now read the context (Psalm 22).  It will reveal the answer to this question.  Verse 1:  “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Next, and for several verses, the Psalmist speaks of all the reasons for his feelings of abandonment.  This is followed by a prayer for help and an affirmation of faith in verses 19-24.


But you, Lord, do not be far from me.

You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

Deliver me 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.

NOW the ANSWER (faith affirmation_

I will declare your name to my people;

in the assembly I will praise you.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!

Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

For he has not despised or scorned

the suffering of the afflicted one;

he has not hidden his face from him

but has listened to his cry for help.

The FATHER (God) had not despised or scorned the Son (either the Psalmist nor Jesus).  In Jesus darkness moment, when he took the brunt of human sin into himself as the cross, his Abba had not turned His back nor hidden his face. The Father did not forsake the Son when he took the lashing of the whip and felt the crushing blows of the nails being driven into his hands and feet.  Nor was Jesus left alone when he received into himself the full darkness of human sin.  The FULLY human one may have felt the emotion of being forsaken.  But he was NOT forsaken.  That’s good news for us, because the grace Jesus provides means we will never be forsaken, either.  Jesus said to us all, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
by: Steve McVey
publisher: Harvest House Publishers, published: 2014-08-01
ASIN: 0736959823
EAN: 9780736959827
sales rank: 161715
price: $7.27 (new), $4.70 (used)

How would your life change if you really believed and could even feel that God is absolutely crazy about you?

Steve McVey’s penetrating new look at the transforming power of God’s grace leads you to that change. Steve unpacks the biblical revelation of the Trinity as a loving relationship, and he highlights the goal of history: God intends to include us in that circle of love! Steve answers troubling questions that can keep you from fully sensing God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness, such as…

  • Why does God look like a bad cop in the Old Testament and a good cop in the New Testament?
  • At Calvary, was the Father angry at the Son? Is He ever angry with me?
  • Why do I sometimes feel separated from God, abandoned, guilty, and ashamed?

Theologians have described the Trinity as perichoresis?a dance. Are you ready to be swept into the Father’s embrace?


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