Question:

Do you believe that God forsook Jesus when Jesus cried out "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"


Answer:

And 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?" (Matthew 27:46)

The statement given by Jesus is the beginning of Psalm 22. Too often Jesus' statement is misunderstood because more is ascribed to this brief statement than what was actually spoken. The idea of being forsaken is to be abandoned. For example, God complains that Israel abandoned Him to pursue idols (Jeremiah 1:16; 2:13; 5:7). Here Jesus is asking why has God abandoned him, to allow him to die on a cross. The answer to that question is found in Psalm 22 -- the Psalm Jesus began to quote.

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; they trusted in You, and were not ashamed" (Psalms 22:1-5). It starts out as a cry of despair, but it becomes a cry of trust. The focus should not be on the despair, the immediate pain of the situation, but on the outcome. What is being expressed is exactly the same feeling expressed in the garden. "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will"" (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was not looking forward to his suffering and to his death, but he completely trusted the Father as to the outcome which would result from that death.

The remainder of Psalm 22 well describes the suffering of the Christ upon the cross, but it is punctuated with assertions of complete trust in God. "All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!" But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God. Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help" (Psalm 22:7-11). Even though he must face the ridicule of men as they rejected their own Savior, Jesus knew that God remained with him. No one else would be able to deliver him.

"I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard" (Psalms 22:22-24). The Psalmist realized that God has not fully abandoned him, nor did God fully abandoned Jesus. Yes, Jesus had to die a horrible death from which God did not spare him. But the result was more than what we could imagine. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Jesus's trust was well placed. He was not left in the grave. "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:29-31).

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (Hebrews 12:1-3).

November 4, 2008