“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken me?” Our Acceptance Through His Rejection
Reflections on the Last Seven Statements of Jesus from the Cross
There is nothing more sacred than the promise of our God to His people: “I will be your God and you shall be my people. I will not leave you or forsake you.” There are 50-plus references throughout Scripture that reflect this promise of God to His people. Abraham heard God say, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield” and “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring ... to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” Moses was reminded of this promise, “I will take you to be my people” and then later he himself reminded God’s people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” King David reminded his son Solomon, “God will not leave you or forsake you” and then later Solomon reminded his people, “The LORD our God is with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us or forsake us” (Gen. 15:1; 17:7; Ex. 6:7; Deut. 31:6; 1 Chron. 28:20; & 1 Kings 8:57).
So, it is startling to hear God’s Son scream from the cross, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Being forsaken does not mean being ignored or overlooked. It means ... abandoned. Jesus did not just feel forsaken, he was forsaken. God truly turned His back away from His one and only Son and left him to die a horrible and cruel death.
Why did God the Father abandon God the Son on the cross? To fully understand this, let’s remember Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane which occurred just moments before his betrayal by Judas. Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). “Let this cup pass from me.” Jesus knew what his impending suffering on the cross meant – it was not just dying – Jesus knew he had to drink the cup of God’s wrath. God said to His people who had forsaken and abandoned Him, “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them” (Jer. 25:15-16). As Jesus struggled in crazed torment on the cross, death would have been a form of mercy in His pain, but that was not God’s design. Jesus asked for the cup to be removed because it meant that He had to become filth and be defiled before His Father. Jesus, the holy lamb of God, had to become and wear ... our sin. The Apostle Paul wrote, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
What was Jesus doing on the cross? He was suffering under the tremendous weight of guilt of our sin. The sinless and righteous Son had become the curse! (Gal. 3:13). Philip Ryken, a minister in Philadelphia wrote, “It was as if God had taken a giant bucket and scooped up all the sins of his people – all the jealousy and the anger and the lying, all the rebellion and the stealing and the adulterous affairs, all the hypocrisy and the envy and the swearing – and dumped them all out on Jesus Christ. ‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa. 53:6).”
When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”, he personally experienced God‘s abandonment because of this sin. Sin deserves the full cup of God’s wrath – and Jesus drank the entire cup, even the dregs at the bottom.
Now, here is the ‘Good News’ – the true depth of God’s love for those who believe – to keep his promise to never forsake us, He had to forsake His Son. Romans 3:25 says, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His Son – to be received by faith.” Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Do you believe that Jesus HAD to be crushed by the weight of the guilt of your own sin? Salvation is only for those who know that the answer is ‘yes.’ Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). As the songwriter, Billy Foot, wrote, “I’m forgiven because You were forsaken; I’m accepted, You were condemned; I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me, because You died and rose again.” May we eternally sing of His amazing grace and may we eternally remember the words of our redeeming God, who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
*Riverside Church is a new Christ-centered and Grace-motivated church in downtown Beaumont. Worship services are held every Sunday at 9:45 at the Art Museum.