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How (and Why) Did God Forsake His Son?

By November 1, 1994July 16th, 2014No Comments


On the cross Jesus Christ asked the Father why He had forsaken Him. How did the Father do that? Also, why did Christ have to “take on our sins”?

The words you paraphrased and quoted come from Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.

The first verse reads, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Jesus asked this question and made six other statements as He hung dying upon the cross.

You are asking how (or in what sense, or how it felt as) the Father forsook His Son. Actually we cannot know the answer to this question, for that was between them only. We should be more concerned with why God had to forsake His Son. Incidentally, the word “forsake” means “turning one’s back on.” God turned His back, as it were, upon the Lord Jesus Christ as He died on the cross for you and me. This incident was the one and only time it happened.

When Jesus asked this question, He was quoting from Psalm 22, a messianic psalm and a prophetic psalm concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Some have labeled it the psalm of the cross.

The many events penned by David in Psalm 22 marvelously took place 1,000 years later in perfect fulfillment, attesting to an infinite God Whose Word is inerrant. The Gospels relate the events surrounding Christ’s death, but no Scripture portion other than Psalm 22 better presents the thoughts of Christ as He hung there at Calvary. In Psalm 22:2 we find the utterance we are dealing with here. Some Bible scholars believe that Christ quoted the entire 22nd psalm while He hung on the cross. Whether this is true or not, we do see the possibility, since the psalm either includes or alludes to the words of His seven final statements.

In verse 3 we find the answer to the question of why God had to forsake His Son: “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” It is a matter of God’s holiness and His attitude toward sin; He must, because of Who He is, disassociate Himself from sin. Yet He cannot overlook sin; He must punish it.

So, because of God’s love for us, He sent His Son to die to pay the penalty in our place. Jesus Christ did what we could not do. As imperfect human beings, we could never be a perfect sarifice; Jesus Christ, on the other band, was the perfect sacrifice, having no sin of His own. He thus took the guilt of our sins upon Himself. He could never save us by His life, only by His death. In fact, He not only bore our sins (1 Pet. 2:24), but He also became sin (2 Cor. 5:21); a curse (Gal. 3:13), the propitiation (one paying for the sins of another; 1 John 4:10) and the ransom (Matt. 20:28).

At that point, God the righteous judge looked upon His Son, our substitute, and saw our sins upon Him. Consequently, He in essence withdrew from His Son. He had to! When God forsook His Son, He did so not as God the Father but as God the righteous judge! As the bearer of our sins, Christ was, in effect, the object of God’s displeasure. However, keep in mind that Christ, though “forsaken,” did not cease to be a part of the Trinity. He was still the Son of God, and He was God. Rather, He ceased to experience intimate fellowship with His Heavenly Father. One might say that Christ went out of fellowship with His Heavenly Father on the cross so that we could, through His finished work, be in His fellowship for all eternity.

As to your second question, I trust that you already see the answer. Sin must be punished through sacrificial death. Only Christ could take our sins and bear them upon the cross. Sometimes we focus upon these precious truths around Easter time, but not so much at Thanksgiving. At this time we should focus not only upon our physical and material blessings but also upon our spiritual blessings in Christ. Even if we were stripped of all our temporal blessings, we would have the blessings of Christ’s finished work on the cross for which to thank Him. We should sing with the songwriter, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.”

Are you glad He did it all for you?

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (November 1994).
© 1994 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.

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