Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Did God forsake Jesus on the cross?

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Jesus (Matthew 27:46)

I have been having some interesting conversations around the purpose of Jesus death and resurrection of late. One thing that often raises eyebrows among friends is when they discover that I am skeptical of the idea that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy the Fathers wrath that was aimed at us. Certainly, He suffered on our behalf and in our place. But did He die to save us from the Father or was it to save us from something else? So I have now begun to make notes of any Bible verses that I find relating to why Jesus died on the cross and what His death and resurrection means for you and me. I have only just started and the list is already sitting at over 100 verses! I will post my findings here once they are a bit more complete and organized. But for now, I wanted to maybe write a few posts addressing the scriptures that often get used to validate the idea that Jesus went to the cross to appease the wrath of the Father, starting with the above mentioned quote from Matthew 27.

The interpretation of Matthew 27:46 presented by some says that when Jesus took on our sin and shame upon Himself (which did happen) the Father turned His back on Him. At the same time it is argued that He poured His wrath out on Him so that His anger might rescind against us. The argument as far as this particular verse goes rests on two points; the first being that Jesus almost always preferred saying ‘Father’ instead of ‘God’. So it is suggested by some that by calling God 'God' instead of Father on the cross, that the special connection shared between Father and Son had been broken and the godhead had suffered a temporary divide. The second point would be that the plain meaning of the words Jesus spoke seems to be present a pretty clear case that He was indeed forsaken.Or does it?

Starting with the first and weaker argument, it feels like I am pointing out the obvious when saying that the reason as to why Jesus used the word ‘God’ rather than ‘Father’ here is that He is quoting directly from the Old Testament. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me” is the opening line of Psalm 22. So it makes sense then that Jesus would use ‘God’ rather than ‘Father’ if He is quoting from scripture which He clearly is. As to why He said it, one can only speculate; perhaps the reality of what was happening on the cross reminded Him of this Psalm or maybe He said to encourage those around Him (which will make sense later on). Maybe it was simply said to fulfill what David had written? Whatever the reason, the link between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46 is vital in our quest to answer our original question of whether or not the Son had been abandoned by His Father.

Psalm 22 is clearly Messianic, verses 7 and 8 (derided by His enemies) are fulfilled in Luke 23:35, verse 16 (hands and feet pierced) in John 20:27 and verse 18 (lots cast for His clothes) in Matthew 27:35, 36. It is after verse 18 though that it takes a turn from one of despair to hope and praise. It is verse 24 in particular that I want to highlight to you,

“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”.

You can be sure that Jesus knew the rest of David’s Psalm, including verse 24, as would many of those around Him as well. In fact, to really drive this home, Jesus Himself, just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested, told His disciples in John 16:32 that they would all soon leave Him but that He would not be forsaken by the Father! “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, and now has come, that you will all be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet, I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” How wonderful and amazing! This is why Paul can say that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This is why Jesus could, just after quoting Psalm 22, with confidence quote from Psalm 31 and say “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.

The Father never forsook Him, not even for a moment, not a chance.

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