When Jesus died on the cross, some of his last words were “My God, My God, Why Have you Forsaken Me?!” This brings up some questions and difficulties.
First – we see the connection Jesus was making on the cross to Psalm 22 (as you’ll see in my previous post). By speaking these words Jesus was quoting a famous passage from the scriptures that the Jews had memorized, taught, and interpreted for hundreds of years. But Him speaking them from the cross, with His flesh ripped to shreds, His hands and His feet pierced through with nails, and crowned with a mocker’s crown of thorns, Jesus was interpreting the scripture for them. He was saying “LOOK AT ME, I AM THE FULFILLMENT!”
From the cross, Jesus was saying, “Remember,” which was a common theme from the Law and Prophets, “Remember what was said! It’s me! I am living the moment you’ve been reading about and waiting for right in front of your eyes. Don’t miss it!”
Second – we observe that the Father did not forsake Jesus for the entirety of His time He was on the cross. Quite the opposite, Jesus was the at the forefront of the Father’s attention because the Father was unleashing the entirety of His wrath upon Jesus at the cross. His attention was fixed on the Son. This was culminated was the final abandonment of Jesus by the Father as the ultimate wrath God could bestow on Him. As R.C. Sproul has said, “…forsakenness was the penalty for sin that God established in the old covenant. Therefore, Christ had to receive the full measure of that penalty on the cross.”
The ultimate penalty for sin is the complete and utter separation from God, His grace, His presence, His affection, and His sovereignty. At the cross, Jesus experienced the full extent of the Father’s effective wrath and His separation, completely destroying His body and ending with His finally giving up on His own soul. In that hour when the Father had forsaken His Son, Jesus let out a loud cry (which I still have yet to see in any of the depictions of the cross). I can envision this like the blood-curdling, hair standing up on the back of your neck, soul-wrenching cry of despair. (I almost envision this sounding like Wesley’s cry in agony and pain from the classic movie “Princess Bride”) I can envision Jesus crying out so strong that the cross shook from the violent convulsion of Jesus’ body as He cried out from His utter pain, agony, and despair because of the withdrawal of the Father’s presence. This was the crux of the crucifixion.
Lastly – To understand the abandonment, propitiation, and death of Jesus on the cross, we need understand what Jesus was doing.
Jesus had come to die – to absolve the full wrath of God – for sinners.
Jesus was perfect – lived perfectly – died perfectly – to make sinners perfect.
This is what we call the “great exchange.” - Jesus’ righteousness for our sin – Our unrighteousness for His sinlessness.
To understand the forsakenness of Jesus on the cross is to understand God’s wrath fully poured out on the unbeliever. Jesus died in the place of God’s people, those who would believe in Him. But sinners, those who do not believe are still under the power of sin and condemnation of the Father. So when they die, they will suffer, die, and be abandoned/forsaken by the Father because of their sin. The same devastating wrath that was poured out on Christ at Calvary is the wrath that will be poured out upon the unbeliever, and those who die without faith in Christ will utter the same words, “Why have you forsaken me?” And His answer will be, “I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Will Jesus’ words bring life to you, that He was forsaken for your sake? Or will you stand before God and hear the Father say, “depart from me”?
Christian – this ought effect how we proclaim the gospel. We need a sense of urgency; people all around us are dying (death has a success rate of 100% – all of us die) and they are going to experience wrath of punishment and separation from God for all eternity as we stand idly by! Be a part of God’s restoration and reconciliation of sinners. Be used by God to bring the dead to life!