Why Did Jesus Say On The Cross That God Had Forsaken Him?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus cried out on the cross, why God has forsaken Him? What did that mean?
Did the Father Forsake Jesus?
We read of the account where Jesus cried out to the Father about being forsaken just before He died in Matthew 27:45-50 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, 'This man is calling Elijah.' And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.' And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.”
There is an interesting combination of Jesus crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” For one thing, this is the only time that He doesn't refer to God as His Father. Is that because He was bearing the sins of the world, having become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21)? I am not so sure because Jesus does refer to God twice, which in the Jewish vernacular is repeating a name and since we know that repeating someone's name is a sign of intimacy in the Jewish culture, there are still indications of an intimate, personal relationship there between Jesus and God the Father. Also of interest is the fact that in the first part of the sentence Jesus uses the Hebrew name for God (Eli) and then Aramaic in the remainder of the sentence “lema sabachthani.”
The Fulfillment of Psalm 22
When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it was the fulfillment of Psalm 22:1 which also says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” All of Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm that prophesied the events of the crucifixion like the fact that He was “scorned by mankind and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6), He was mocked, (Psalm 22:7), He was surrounded by evil doers who had pierced His hands and His feet (Psalm 22:16), the soldiers cast lots over His clothing (Psalm 22:18), and many other striking similarities to what occurred at Calvary. There is no doubt that David wrote this psalm about Jesus, the coming Messiah. How he knew exactly what it would be like for Christ is not known although we know that the writings of David were inspired so perhaps God gave him revelation about this coming event.
God is Light, Absence of God is Darkness
Jesus crucifixion started about 9:00 A.M. but at noon and then all the way to 3:00 P.M., there was a darkness that covered the land. Since we know that God is light and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5) when the darkness came, it would seem to indicate an absence of God since an absence of light could be seen as an absence of the presence of God. Even in John's Gospel he wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5) and Jesus, being God is “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9) so where there is light, there is the presence of God but when there is no light, it is natural to assume the absence of God results in darkness. Even for those who have or will yet reject Jesus as their Savior, they will be cast into outer darkness at the judgment (Matt 8:12; 25:30) so was the three hours of darkness the withdrawing of God the Father during Jesus' crucifixion? Jesus was, at that time, bearing the sins of the world and sin is symbolic of being in darkness (Matt 4:16). Part of Jesus' agony was probably the separation from the Father. Here, for the very first time in all eternity, Jesus was separated from the Father. You know how you feel when you are separated from your loved ones for a long time but this was nothing in comparison to how Jesus must have felt.
Separation from God
For those who all their lives have rejected Jesus and die in that state, they will forever be separated from God because our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and unless we trust in Christ we cannot be reconciled back to God just as Paul wrote “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18) so part of the possible separation of God the Father from Jesus might have been due to Jesus bearing the sins of the world and since God is completely holy, He cannot even look upon sin as Habakkuk writes “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab 1:13). This seems to make sense of Jesus' crying out with a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt 27:46)?
Are you still separated from God by your sins? For those who have never repented, which means that they have not yet turned away from and forsaken their sins, and then trusted in Christ, they are still at this moment separated from a holy God with no chance of reconciliation after death (Heb 9:27). They need a Mediator and that of course is Jesus “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If you have never been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, then you too will face darkness someday and not just three hours of it but for all time because God will forsake you for you have forsaken His only means by which you might be saved (Acts 16:30-31) and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for your sins.