A reader recently sent a a series of questions about the experience of Jesus on the cross. I have answered most of the questions in previous posts (since the list below). In this post I will address the question about what Jesus meant when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Here is the question the reader originally submitted:
I am a believer, but I am troubled by an atheist’s questions. I was talking to an atheist the other day, and he said that God doesn’t know what it’s like to lose a son because he knew all along that Jesus would rise in three days, so he only lost him for the weekend! He also questioned that if God is Jesus, why did he beg to be saved from the cross when he was in the garden? Also, shouldn’t Jesus already have known he would rise again in three days? Why did he ask God, “Why have you forsaken me?” Wouldn’t he know that he’s only going to be dead three days?
Since this is such a complex set of questions, I am answering them in four posts:
- How to Answer Questions of Atheists
- 2 Traditional Explanations for How God knows what it is Like to Lose a Son (both of which I reject)
- 2 Ways God Knows What it is like to Experience the Death of a Child
- Why did Jesus say, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
The first three posts covered most of the issues, but there are two main questions left.
First, why did Jesus beg to be saved from the cross when He was in the garden? Second, why did He ask God, “Why have You forsaken Me?”?
That first unanswered question I have already attempted to answer in a previous post where I talked about the phrase, “Let this cup pass from me.” Though my interpretation of that statement by Jesus in the garden is somewhat controversial, it seems to make the most sense out of the context, and Jesus’ attitude leading up to the cross. I do not think Jesus was praying for a way out of the pain and suffering; His love for humanity was too great for that. No, I think Jesus was praying for strength to face the pain and suffering He knew He was about to bear.
So I am not going to write anything more about that here.
Let us focus instead on the statement of Jesus from the cross where He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Why Have You Forsaken Me?
This question from Jesus on the cross is found in Matthew 27:46-47 (and in Mark 15:34), and is a quotation from Psalm 22:1. It is asked by Jesus as He suffers on the cross, and faces the sin of the world being poured out upon Him.
The main point of the question above is that since both Jesus and God the Father knew that God would raise Jesus from the dead (Matt 12:40), in what sense what Jesus forsaken by God?
In other words, if being forsaken means to be abandoned, rejected, despised, how could Jesus say, “Why have you forsaken me?” when He knew that He would be raised from the dead, and therefore, not ultimately forsaken, that is, not really abandoned, rejected, or despised?
The answer, I think, lies in understanding to some degree the eternal relationship that has existed between God the Father and God the Son. Understanding this relationship, and the cry of Jesus from the cross, leads to a shocking idea (for me, anyway) about the experience of Jesus on the cross.
His Eternal Relationship seemed Broken
Since God the Father and God the Son have existed in an eternal relationship, they had never been separated by anything for any length of time in any way, shape, or form. Nothing had ever come between them the way of will, desires, intentions, thoughts, or purposes.
We humans have a difficult time grasping this, since we don’t know what it is like to live in such a relationship at all, let alone for all eternity. All of relationships, even those that are the most loving, have areas of discord and misunderstanding.
But God the Father and God the Son (along with God the Holy Spirit) always lived in a perfect relationship and perfect unity.
Yet when Jesus went to the cross, He took the sins of all people, throughout all time, upon Himself. He bore our sins in His own body (1 Pet 2:24). He who knew no sin, became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). He became a curse for us (Gal 3:13).
I believe that from the perspective of Jesus on the cross, it seemed that God had “abandoned” Him to sin.
Though sin cannot damage or pollute God in any way, sin does cause a separation between Himself and the sinner. It appears that when Jesus took the sin of all people upon Himself, a separation came between Him and God that had never before existed.
So when Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” it was because He was experiencing a brokenness in His relationship with God the Father that they had never before experienced. Yes, He knew that God had not finally and ultimately forsaken Him, and He knew that He would be raised again in three days, but the cry of Jesus from the cross is not about those things, but about the separation from God He experienced for the very time in all eternity.
This experience of separation from God elicited the cry of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He had never experienced this separation before, and though He knew that He would be reunited with God in a short while, the pain and agony of the separation was caused this cry of despair from Jesus.
But had God truly forsaken Jesus? I don’t think so. I don’t think God did forsake Jesus any more than God forsakes us. Jesus was not a God-forsaken God.
The God-Forsaken God?
I might be going out too far on a theological limb here, but there is a part of me that thinks it is only here on the cross where Jesus finally experienced the pain and turmoil of what it is like to be a sinful human being separated from God. Though Jesus came as a human being to rescue us from our sinful plight and in so doing, experienced almost everything He could as a human, He never really experienced the fearful and agonizing predicament of being separated from God by sin.
It was only when He took our sin upon Himself on the cross, it was only when the crushing despair of being separated from God came upon Him, that He finally felt what we humans have lived with since we were born. The pain and anguish we feel every day, the suffering of being separated from God that has so numbed our souls, the despair and fear that drives us to live as we do, was felt for the very first time by Jesus on the cross when sin came upon Him.
His cry, “My God, my God, Why have You forsaken Me?” is not the cry of the God-forsaken God, but is the heart cry of every single human being on earth. It is the cry we have been voicing since the beginning when we fell into sin.
And finally, God came to earth in Jesus Christ to experience this separation for Himself. And when He did, the suffering is so great, He cries out, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”
Do you see? This is not just the cry of Jesus on the cross. This is the cry of every single person on earth.
It is our pain, our fear, our hurt, our despair, finally being given a voice. It is the cry of God fully entering into our broken condition and fully experiencing the sense of separation from God that sin causes, and crying out in anguish and despair over this sense of loss, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
When we feel that God is ignoring us, or has abandoned us, Jesus knows what we feel, and He cries out to God on our behalf, “Why have You forsaken Me?”
When we experience fear in the night about our future, Jesus knows what we feel, and He cries out to God on our behalf, “Why have You forsaken Me?”
When bad things happen in this world, and we wonder what God is doing about them (if anything), Jesus knows what we feel, and He cries out to God on our behalf, “Why have You forsaken Me?”
When we feel despised and rejected, abused and slandered, misunderstood and forgotten, and we wonder why God seems to be doing nothing to protect and defend us, Jesus knows what we feel, and He cries out to God on our behalf, “Why have You forsaken Me?”
The separation from God that Jesus experienced on the cross is the separation from God that humans experience every day. Certainly, since He is God and since He bore every sin of every person, He experienced this separation to an infinite degree. But still, the cry of Jesus from the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” is not just the cry of Jesus, but is our cry.
It is the cry of every single human being on earth. Jesus was giving voice to our pain and anguish.
Do you feel abandoned by God? Jesus knows what that feels like. Do you feel forsaken, neglected, forgotten, and overlooked? Jesus knows what that feels like. Do you feel like God has turned His back? Jesus knows what that feels like.
But here is the thing…
The original question was “How can Jesus say ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ when God did not actually forsake Him?”
Yes. And just as Jesus felt what we all feel to be forsaken, so also, none of us have been forsaken, just as Jesus Himself was not.
Though you may feel abandoned by God, you are no more abandoned than was Jesus. Though you may feel forsaken, forgotten, neglected, and overlooked, these things are no more true of you than they were of Jesus. Though you may feel unloved, this is no more true of you than it was for Jesus.
Though Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He was NOT forsaken. And neither are we.
This is a feeling that Jesus experienced, which is a feeling we ALL experience.
And this feeling does not come because we are forsaken, but because of sin. Sin has separated us from God; it has not separated God from us. This is why God had to reconcile the world to Himself (1 Cor 5:19). He didn’t need to reconcile Himself to the world, for He never left or abandoned us.
Though we may feel forsaken, we are not forsaken any more than Jesus was forsaken.
God did not forsake Jesus, and God does not forsake us. The presence of sin in our lives makes us feel like we are forsaken, like God has abandoned us, forgotten us, or left us alone to suffer and die, when in fact, God is right there all the time, holding us, loving us, and crying with us over our pain.
It is sin that makes us feel separated from God, and this is the feeling Jesus expressed on the cross, and is one reason Jesus went to the cross – to take our sin and bear it away into death so that we can see that God has not left us, has not abandoned us, and has not forsaken us, but has fully entered into our pain, our suffering, and even into our sin, so that He might show us how much He loves and cares for us. This truth is explained in more detail in my new book, The Atonement of God.
I am not sure if this answers the reader’s question, but it does help explain what Jesus meant when He said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It also helps us understand that on the cross, Jesus understood the feeling of being a sinful human being, and it is for this reason that we can trust His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5).
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Bob MacDonald says
I think it is a good idea to read the whole psalm. Psalm 22 is being quoted and it is a lovely study in the cost of being in charge. Psalm 20 is a prayer for the ruler; Psalm 21 an answer; and Psalm 22 the cost and the result of such a gift – worship. You wouldn’t read a hymn book in sequence, but the psalms are brought together to be read in sequence.
In this psalm in verse 20 (Hebrew numbering) the hart (deer or doe, male and female), which is in the inscription(1), is also invoked within the three circles of animals in verses 13-22 (bulls lions dogs – dogs lions wild bulls).
But you, יהוה, you be not distant
My hart, to my help, hurry
This image of the hart and the role of eating in the psalm prefigure the Eucharist. The worship and eating are noted in the second half of the psalm – a uniformly positive section of the poem. Note particularly verses 28-30.
The afflicted will eat and be satisfied
Those who search for יהוה will praise him
May your heart live for ever
All the ends of the earth will remember and will turn to יהוה
All the families of the nations will worship in your presence
for to יהוה is the kingdom
and he governs in the nations
All the sleek(2) of the earth will eat and worship in his presence
All who go down to dust will bow
but his being he could not keep alive
Note the corporate aspect of worship. It is vital that we learn to govern ourselves – together – and not just by self-interest or national interest. If indeed the deer or the hart of the inscription takes up into himself all the sins of the world and we eat of his own flesh in the Presence – we are also to note our unity with all the families of the nations. (So we could use this psalm as a prayer for Syria).
Much more to say about this psalm. It is a good one to pray as a whole. It has taken me years to ponder it and with many distractions and tangles. Working out how the Psalm relates to the New Testament and to the words in the mouth of Jesus is a journey worth taking.
(1) In the inscription, the word hart is construct singular, ending with the ‘t’ sound. In verse 20, it is a feminine plural form likewise ending in ‘t’. It is convenient that hart can be seen as singular or plural. In verse 20 we have hurry, a word that sounds so similar to the dawn, that one cannot help noticing both the structural play and the allusion of assonance. Hart in its masculine plural form (אֵילִים ayilim) is a cipher for the name of God, (אֱלֹהִים elohim).
(2) sleek, דשׁן (dshn) fat, feels like a misprint for sleep, ישׁן. So one might translate with the correction to the text as ‘All who sleep in the earth…’
you know that Jesus came to the world in body and soul. So it was the flesh saying to God the father that “Why have you forsaking me” the Spirit will never die but the flesh will die. So it was the flesh saying and not the spirit.
Chuck McKnight says
I’m afraid that this is one where I’m going to totally disagree with you, Jeremy. 🙂
I don’t believe that Jesus was truly forsaken by God in any way. When he said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” he was simply quoting the opening line (or the title) of Psalm 22. He was effectively saying, “Take a look at this Psalm. It is being fulfilled in me.”
And indeed, when we do look at the Psalm, we see messianic fulfillment all the way through it. Furthermore, by the end of the Psalm, we see very clearly that the Psalmist never really was forsaken either. The grief he endured simply caused him to feel as though he had been forsaken, but God never forsakes us, and I don’t believe he ever forsook Jesus.
Mark Pixley says
Totally agree with Chuck here, Jesus is using a typical Rabbinical motif by only quoting the first part of a scripture, consider he probably wants to quote it to the end but physically it is almost impossible due to what is happening to his lungs and rib-cage during the Crucifixion. This Psalm declares boldly that “He has not abandoned the afflicted”(vs.24)…Psalm 22 is probably one of the most graphic representations of exactly what was going on and Jesus is declaring the reality to everyone who can hear it…by only speaking the first phrase his hearers would immediately know the rest of the Psalm and understand…the Psalm ends with the same phrasing that Jesus ends with, he says “It is finished” the psalm says “He has done it”…its easy to miss-see from a Greek model rather than the Hebraic model…God di not forsake Him…that is not what the Father is like…not even slightly.
But was Jesus not G-d in flesh,? and if the flesh was speaking, whom was it speaking to.? Many scriptures speak of G-D walking among his people in flesh.
Taco Verhoef says
Did you read the whole post?
Chuck McKnight says
Indeed, I did. Did I miss something?
Taco Verhoef says
I thought Jerry explained (I might be wrong) that God did not really forsake Jesus, in the last part of this article.
Chuck McKnight says
Jeremy did write the words, “God did not forsake Jesus.” But he still maintained that Jesus was in some way separated from the Father. I don’t believe that Jesus was forsaken in any way whatsoever or that he experienced any level of separation.
If anything, I would say that God’s presence was more fully and directly upon Jesus during his crucifixion than any other time. God is love, love comes from God, and Jesus’ death on the cross was the single greatest act of love this world has ever known. So we can be absolutely certain that God was right there in the middle of it.
Taco Verhoef says
I thought Jerry meant that it was a feeling Jesus experienced, just like we experience lots of feelings. He was human after all. But you might be just as right in that he quoted the first line from the psalm and meant the whole.
Jeremy Myers says
Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could have been, or maybe I misspoke. I don’t exactly think Jesus was forsaken by God…
My error, it was supposed to have read Jesus was G-d in flesh I have and always believed in the trinity. The not I have no idea why it was there, I may have been thinking of something else, I do,that a lot.
Sandra Leigh says
If we take seriously the holiness of God, then we must believe that when Jesus took sin upon himself, that the result was a temporary separation between Jesus and God. If we do not admit this, then maybe we don’t really believe that sin separate us from God.
As for Psalm 22 – if the Psalmist did not feel abandoned by God, then why did he write it that way? The Psalm begins with an expression of an honest human feeling, but feelings do not always equate to fact. The Psalmist then progresses to a place of faith that triumphs over those feelings. Don’t we all progress in our faith? Don’t we all struggle with feelings that lead us astray? In the end, neither Jesus nor the Psalmist were abandoned.
I personally think that the author did a great job explaining the passage. My thanks to him.
Thank you Sandra
Sin and God will never come together. Jesus had to carry the world’s sins and die for that. That is why God separated himself from the fleshy Christ/ sinful Christ, who became a sinner by carrying the sin of the world. This is an old post, but we will continue debating it till someone believe that Christ was not using figure of speeches or just quoting other scripts. Christ lived the scripture that was foretold about him. If forsaking does not mean what we know, then we are living a total lie. Jesus felt the separation from God, and he had to voice it out in repeating the Psalmist
Thomas Dohling says
“sinful Christ, who became a sinner by carrying the sin of the world” –Surely you don’t mean what you have posted! “Sinful Christ, who became a sinner” what blasphemy is this?!
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15, NKJV.
“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24, NLT.
He was an offering for our sins. He carried our sins. He did not become defiled with our sins — “yet without sin.” The sin was ours, not His. We are the sinners, not He!
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.
No, my friend, by carrying our sins, the Christ did not become sinful nor a sinner. He atoned for our sins. He was the ransom paid to redeem us. The Innocent One paid with His life to redeem us, the guilty ones, who had been kidnapped and held hostage by Satan. He paid the price to set us free.
What about 2Cor.5:21? — “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” He knew no sin (He was without sin). To be sin for us (the Greek word means sin-offering)(see also Romans 3:25; 8:3).
“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past” Romans 3:25, NLT.
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” 1 Peter 1:18-19, NLT.
Maria Cancilieri says
Perfect way os explanation
How could Jesus take a line out of something that was not even written yet. The bible was written over 1000 years after Jesus’ death..
>The Bible was written over 1000 years after Jesus’ death.
Even the mythists, who deny that Jesus existed, put forth an individual (Jude the Galilean) who died circa 100 BC, as one of the physically existing figures that Jesus was composed from, when the Bible was written in 300 AD.
IOW, even using the false chronology of mythists, less than 500 years passed from the birth of the model, till the entire New Testament was written.
Well it wasn’t written that long after, you clearly do not know facts. It is fie you disagree and I encourage you to. about being here makes you either someone who is searching for him or trolling. I mean your even contradict yourself, was it 1000 yrs or was it 300 yrs. Though I do suggest you find a specific place to stand on this matter, study it, then lead with it…otherwise no one will take you serious.
Thomas Johnson II says
I am not sure how true it is, but I read in a similar article that Psalms 22 was written nearly 1000 years before Christ, that would mean this Psalm foretold of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, that is probably a good estimate of when it was written.
I’ve never heard so much double talk, and beating around the bush, and saying two divergent things at the same time, and making one explanation, then changing it 180 when someone else makes a comment that is grounded in reality.
This whole exercise is enough to make a non-believer out of a believer. Seriously, this is a legitimate question, regardless of who asked it. So don’t treat it as if it was somehow naive, or a dumb question to ask by a non-believer.
Hence the reason Psalm 22 is called “A Prophetic Portrait Of the Cross”
Jesus kept saying, “it is written”… There were writers/ scrips even before Christ. There were writers even before Moses. I will give you two examples, Exodus 4:24 -26 indicate that Zipporah read about Hebrew tradition of circumcision and used that knowledge against Moses who grow up as an Egyptian and God sort out to kill him for not following that tradition. Otherwise if it was not written as a Median, Zipporah couldn’t have known. Matthews 2, tells us about the scholars from the east who followed a star, verse 2 They ask, “where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star… These people studied what was written and since they studied heavenly bodies as well, they practically followed the star to get confirmation of the birth of Christ
I think you are spot on because I just learned that a few yrs ago, it would have had significance to the Jews that were watching because they would of known what he was saying.
Tony Vanfe says
I must say that I too believe this statement rests in the fact of the relationship that the Father & Son had. Its uniqueness could only be understood by the eternal Godhead. Yes, forsaken, only truth can come from the lips of Jesus, he was forsaken (in Godhead). I have always believed the eternal Godhead suffering (i.e.spiritual) was the true suffering of the cross. Good thoughts Brother.
Every time that Jesus directed prayer to God, he always used the intimate term Abba Father, with one exception i.e. His cry from the cross. This leads me to believe that this was not Jesus praying or crying to His Father, but was simply, publicly declaring that He was now fulfilling Psalm 22. Infact rather than God forsaking Jesus, I think, if it were possible, it was the opposite. Surely at that time there would be such a closeness, a reassurance of that great love. The amount and intensity of the pain, anguish and suffering that Jesus went through on the cross, on our behalf, is beyond human comprehension.
Jesus said “As the Father has loved Me, so also have I loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9) Charles Spurgeon made some comments about this verse, that have always stuck with me.
1 Love without beginning. God never began to love Jesus
2 Love without limit. God loves Jesus with an unbounded love.
3 Love without change. God always loved Jesus alike, equally.
4 Love without end. When will God leave off loving Jesus?
In the same way does Jesus love you and me.
This bothered me at one time in my relationship with Jesus until I had a dream in which the Lord said to me,
“I said these words not for my sake but for yours. I paid every penalty that should have been yours including being separated from God. I did this for you.”
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, Jesus did this for you, and for every person who needs to know how much God loves them, and that no matter what, they are forgiven.
Thank you Joseph! I am an old nanny and yet have struggled with this passage, but I know in my heart that you have shared the simple truth of what Jesus meant. If the Precious One was to truly die for all we experience then He had to experience a separation from His and our heavenly Father….even if it was a split second (as we humans understand time) and He was fulfilling the prophecies and plan just as stated in Psalm 22 by letting us know that all that God says will and is coming to fruition. I believe Christ knew exactly what was about happen but Jesus had to experience what God knows we all experience every day (complete separation and brokenness). If Christ did not experience the fullness of our pain and separation from God how could he atone for us. Again, God did not leave Christ but Christ’s flesh left our loving Father for an instant but God was watching and caught Him the absolute instant he closed His eyes and said, “it is finished”. God says what He means and means what He says. God will NEVER leave us but we most certainly leave Him many times a day while the Holy Spirit pleads us to return. But brothers and sisters there will come a time when if we do not make a choice to accept the free Gift that hung on that wooden cross then we will be separated from that Precious One for all eternity and that is OUR choice not God’s. My grandaughter at age 7 made a humorous and profound comparison…….”you know nanny being saved isn’t complicated….. people just MAKE it hard. It’s kinda like painting a wall with a tiny artist brush instead of big roller like you use”. She might have also been sharing something I missed. 🙂 Much love to you all!
Vivek Chaudhary says
Isaiah 9:6 …his name shall be called ….everlasting father. In john Jesus said, me and my father are one; you have seen me so you have seen the father. Jesus Christ creator of this world said that I have power to give my life and bring it back. He said that you will destroy this temple and I will build it again in 3 days.
My point is that the omnipotent God became flesh and he had all the qualities of a normal human being. If he had any other divine powers manifested at the cross, he couldn’t have been a perfect sacrifice. He had to fulfill old testament prophecy from Psalm 22:1 but interestingly in verse 24 it says “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
I have a beautiful story to illustrate why the punishment that he took. Will leave it for some other time.
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for weighing in. Have you written or published your story anywhere?
Vivek Chaudhary says
No I haven’t. Although I have thought about writing on several topics including my parents and grand-parent testimonies.
ps 22.24 is the verse that answers the question. God did not turn his face away. just as it was pointed out, God does not abandon us, tho we feel he does. jesus expressed the universal cry of mankind. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. 2 cor. 5.19 the teaching we have heard on this about abandonment has come from the mind of man, not the word of God, i think. where does the Word itself teach this? rather it teaches God NEVER abandons those who seek him ever. grace and peace my brothers.
all this article shows is opinion. Why can’t humans just admit they do not know? There is no proof for the existence of a religious God. Stop making things up.
Nor is there any proof that God does not exist, or for that matter that we do exist. Perhaps we are merely a line of computer code. We must each decide what we choose to believe.
Jeremy Myers says
good point, Sam.
Jeremy Myers says
I think the evidence for the existence of God is more compelling for the evidence for no God.
Read psalm 22 specially verse 11-18
jesus was fulfuling what was said in psalm 22
he wanted draw our attention to that verse
Jeremy Myers says
Yep! I think I wrote about that in a different post.
That was so great.Bless God.
Jeremy Myers says
Glad you found it helpful.
How can an atheist answer anything concerning God when he doesn’t even believe in Him???????
The burden of proof doesn’t lie wit the atheist it lies with religion? Religion must prove the existence of god which in my opinion it does not. A bunch of words written in a book, that supposedly made it through the most corrupt times of civilization unchanged, is not proof. You can sit 20 people in a circle and give a statement to the first person and 19 people later it will come out different so it should be expected for people that don’t believe to believe. A book of stories and blind faith isn’t enough. Jesus didn’t die for any of my sins! If there was a god and a Jesus…Jesus died for gods sins because god would have already known we would be sinners. There are 7 billion people on this planet of which 2.1 billion are christians that means there are 4.9 billion people that believe differently than you do and they believe it to there souls. Yet Christians will say that they will face some god on judgement day for their beliefs? Why? Because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born into a Christian household ? Most people believe what they believe because that is what they were born into, is that their fault? No! So why should they be judged by anyone or any so called god. How about the newly discovered tribe in the amazon? I assure you the name Jesus has never crossed their lips. Christians are a bunch of self-righteous people passing there judgement on those who do not believe. Who would ever follow any god that would supposedly send people to any kind of so called hell because they do not believe. That is not love…that is fear. There should never be an “or else” factor in any religion, of course unless it was invented to control the masses. Which it was!
Thomas Dohling says
Why are you here?
Yuri Wijting says
My guess is that he felt the presence of God leave him. So for a moment he was on his own.
Redeeming God says
Matthew Richardson says
It has been suggested (and the idea has merit) that, at the moment our sins were placed on Jesus’ shoulders, God’s spirit left because He could not abide the presence of sin. Jesus would have been left alone, as a mere human, to carry those sins. Those sins would have taken the place of God’s spirit. I’m not sure how true this idea is. What are your thoughts ?
Jeremy Myers says
I have heard that idea (and I taught it for many years). It could be right, but I am moving away from it right now. I think what Jesus felt was what we all feel. Just as sin makes us FEEL separated from God, even though we are not, so Jesus felt this same separation, which for Him, was much worse. But He wasn’t any more forsaken or rejected by God than we are.
Matthew Richardson says
Fair point. He was not forsaken or rejected so much as separated.
This passage speaks to me about doubt, and about the very natural doubt that we have about the existence of God. Even Jesus had doubt. So, when I am in the presence of people who would have me believe that their whole life is puppy dog kisses and butterfly wings, that are all “Jesus” this & “glory” that, who would have me believe that there is not an ounce of doubt in their soul, I should know that they are being disingenuous because even Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, son of God had doubt. Are they to have me believe that their faith is stronger than that of Jesus?
Ben Cooper says
I agree with your conclusion on this one, Jeremy. Recently, folks like Paul Young have argued that Jesus really wasn’t separated from the Father, but that it only felt like it. My question is: If Jesus did not endure a period of separation from the Father, as the actual penalty for sin, than why else would he go through all that torture and shame, and death? Clearly His sacrifice was more than just symbolic! I think Colossians 1:19-22 & 2:13-15 make this point pretty clearly.
Jeremy Myers says
Eh … well, you may want to go take a second read through this post. I am saying that while Jesus felt He had been separated from God, He really wasn’t. Maybe Paul Young got his idea from me! Ha!
I understand those Colossians texts quite differently.
Leigh Pinkston Kelly says
There is some supposition that Yehoshua was in continuous contact with his Father YHWH but that as Yehoshua’s spirit was preparing to leave his body in death, it lost contact with the Father. That would have felt to Yehoshua like a withdrawal or “forsaking.” We know, of course, that his inanimate corpse only remained in the tomb for two and a half days before the spirit was returned to it but we do not have any way of knowing where his spirit was during that time. (Some creeds say that it descended into Hell or Limbo to gather the souls there. Yehosua himself had said to the “good” thief that he would be in Paradise that day. However, after he rose from the dead, he told the disciples not to touch him because he had not yet risen to be with his Father. As with so much in scripture, it is contradictory and confusing.)
As I see it…
If we take the much alluded to Psalm 22 into consideration, it tells us what forsaken means. He gives examples of those that were not forsaken (the opposite of being forsaken). They called on God in distress, and He heard and helped them; He responded to deliver them from their ordeal. When the Son called out, it was not that He was no longer God manifest in the flesh, or that His spirit was departing, for it is not until after He cries, It is finished, and Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit, that He dismisses His spirit by a voluntary act of His own will.
When He was forsaken, He was forsaken. It is not an exaggeration, nor a euphemism, but a reality. He did not say it just so we could hear it, nor just for us to look back in to the Psalms (though there is merit in both). The reason He cried, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? is because He was forsaken. Otherwise it is an insincere, hypocritical cry. God did not stop being His God, nor did His Father stop being His Father. He was forsaken in that God did not respond to His cries of distress. His suffering for sin, though He entered of His own will, and in obedience to His Father, were so awful that He cried for relief. How did God respond? Did He respond as He did to those in days of old? Did He come to His rescue? No, He forsook Him, He left Him to suffer, He offered no relief.
He appeals not to His Father, but to God the judge. Why, as a righteous judge, have you left me with no help? We see, in the twenty-second Psalm, that His faith never waivered, as He looks to the God who has left Him alone, and says, Even though you have forsaken me, You are holy. There was no injustice done, as He was taken the punishment for sin and sins. It is righteous for God to punish sin. He has arranged, through this tremendous event, that it is punished on Christ, and not the guilty party.
“God forsaken by God — who can understand it?”
1. It is said that Martin Luther once sat down to prepare a sermon on this same text. He sat at his desk, chewing on the meaning of these words for quite some time. Every once in a while someone would poke their head into his office to see if he was okay, because hours would pass and he still hand’t budged an inch. Finally, they say that Luther threw his hands up in the air, exclaimed, “God forsaken by God — who can understand it?” and went about some other business.
2. The famous 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote: “I think I can understand the words ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ as they are spoken by David in Psalm 22. But how they came to be uttered by Christ on the cross I will never comprehend.” – http://christlodi.org/god-forsaken-by-god/
That mystery is so great and imponderable that it is not surprising that Martin Luther is said to have gone into seclusion for a long time trying to understand it and came away as confused as when he began. – http://www.gty.org/resources/print/bible-qna/BQ032913
God forsaken by God – who can understand it?
I agree that there is holy ground on which we must tread carefully; however, there is a danger in ignoring what is written on a subject just because it is dealing with the infinite. When the Lord spoke to Nicodemus He said that we could not understand the heavenly if we failed to understand the earthly. Therefore, it is our duty to examine the earthly, the types, the pictures, and through understanding of these things, the deep things can be revealed by His Spirit.
If the Lord did not want us to understand, at least in some degree, that Christ was forsaken, and what that meant, then we would not have had Psalm 22, or else our Lord would not have quoted Psalm 22 from the cross, and had the Spirit record it eternally in the gospel records.
We must trust our God that when we have come to close, just as Moses and Joshua, we will be told – Take off your shoes. Of course, up until that point, it is the honour of kings to search out a matter. I would find it difficult to accept that God wants us to stand back at a safe distance rather than getting as close as we possibly can.
History is inundated with references to the anti-Semitic attitude of Martin Luther. Therefore, his inability to grasp these deep matters may not be to the complexity of the issue, but the carnality of the man.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Here are some of my difficulties:
>> The reason He cried, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? is because He was forsaken.
Difficulty: Does the above statement shows Jesus himself had a God greater than himself?
Or Why does one God cry out to another God if they are both of the same Godhead?
>> Otherwise it is an insincere, hypocritical cry.
So when Jesus was in the flesh his Godhood was limited or lost some of his Divinity:
Php 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Php 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
I.e. he ‘emptied himself’ of the ‘form’ of ‘God’ and transformed as ‘form’ of ‘servant’ i,e. ‘likeness of men’
I.e. the big question has always been how divine was Jesus after this transformation and early Christians struggled with this concept that led to many theories till it was firmly established that Jesus full God and fully man.
‘So the absolute truth is ’Jesus full God and fully man’ so every passage needs to be interpreted only by this truth so we may get difficulties to reconcile all passages by that ‘truth’.
>> He was forsaken in that God did not respond to His cries of distress.
But why did Jesus in his divinity (Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence) miss it and ‘felt’ forsaken?
>> He appeals not to His Father, but to God the judge.
The Father is God and judge. When Jesus taught about the father he spoke of the Father as both as a merciful God and also the one who judges.
Example Parable of the dragnet v/s parable of the lost coin v/s parable of the vineyard, etc.
>> that His faith never wavered
Difficulty: One God of the Trinity had faith in another God of the Trinity?
>> I would find it difficult to accept that God wants us to stand back at a safe distance rather than getting as close as we possibly can.
It is apparent Everyone struggles with this verse. Many views existed regarding the understanding of the the Divinity of Jesus pre and post Nicea:
“The event at the center of orthodox Christianity—Jesus’s crucifixion—was radically reinterpreted by the Gnostics. Rather than a sacrificial death, or atonement, that frees believers from sin, the destruction of Jesus’s body in the Gospel of Judas and other Gnostic texts frees his divine soul to rejoin God. But the Gnostics departed even further from orthodox views of Jesus’s suffering and death. Some of their writings say that although Jesus looked as though he inhabited a physical body, this was only an illusion. He was a divine being who could appear in many different forms, like that of a child in the Gospel of Judas. Other Gnostic writings say that while a human being named Jesus did actually die, the divine part of him, or the Christ, did not. Instead this divine part descended into Jesus at his baptism and departed his body just before Jesus’s death on the cross, when he uttered the words, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?””- http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/gospel/learn.html
“The author of the Apocalypse of Peter writes that the “living Jesus” was above the cross laughing while the substitute fleshly part was crucified.[x] Jesus thought it was hilarious that the people who were crucifying a man did not realize that it was not Him.[xi] He rejoiced at His deception to the people, and He laughed at their ignorance. – “ http://globalchristiancenter.com/bible-and-theology/apologetics-and-polemics/5048-views-of-jesus-part-3-gnostic
I’m just showing how people at all times struggled with the above passage.
>> It is righteous for God to punish sin.
It is also righteousness and glory and pleasure of God to forgive sins. This is radical statement, but that is what the parable of the lost son teaches us. It is true that Jesus is the way- but the verses on substitution can be taken allegorically rather than literal!
The idea of substitution and the demand for justice is an interpretation.
Also if we consider Moses who gave stoning as a punishment, Jesus with greater force taught about Hell fire! But Bother Moses and Jesus proclaimed God as merciful as well.
>> There was no injustice done
If we read the pages of the bible there is a ‘pattern’ of ‘injustice’ being inflicted on the righteous. Example Abel does not receive justice, prophets persecuted, Moses himself opposed, etc. The parable of the vineyard also shows how the prophets before Jesus suffered ‘unjustly’ to meet the preaching demands of God.
>> He forsook Him, He left Him to suffer, He offered no relief.
This did not start at the cross!
While he was yet alive his feelings are revealed.
Joh 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
So we see Jesus aware of what is to come.
“Now is my soul troubled.” > His suffering for sin, though He entered of His own will,
The statement is true but there is an important angle that is missed as we see the GREAT battle of WILLS between the human Jesus and the Father!
Luk 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
“Not my will”
— Did the Human Jesus have a different will before he incarnated —> days of incarnation –> After his assertion.
“ not my will, but yours ” is as problematic as ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’
That is that the two members of the Godhead had a clash of wills @ Gethsemane.
>> He was forsaken in that God did not respond to His cries of distress.
The Father did not ignore Jesus…
Luk 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.
He was not forsaken! The father what needs to be done but he did not protect the righteous one from his enemies who mocked him!
But another difficulty:
Again how does the created (angel) comfort the ‘creator’ (Jesus)
>> He has arranged, through this tremendous event, that it is punished on Christ, and not the guilty party.
While the scriptures speak off the sacrifice of the lamb, the lamb was not sacrifices as per Moses’ writing.
The death of Jesus came about by the jealousy of the leaders.
All humans are destined to die – so also Jesus and the thieves.
If Jesus died of old age would he have redeemed mankind?
Was it the ‘torture’ and the ‘blood cells’ that it did for the Father to cause forgiveness?
I will take time to address the entirety of your response when able to do so, but for now, after a cursory reading, am left to wonder: When Jesus said, My God, my God, why did You forsake me? was He sincere? Was He forsaken? The bible, Jesus Himself, says He was. Whether we can offer a philosophical or theological formula for it does not negate it from being truth.
Again, there is risk to accepting scripture based on our ability to understand and define it. The finite must put on infinite. His ways are far above ours, as the heavens to the earth. Whether we can put it in a box cannot change the fact that it is true.
I would also be curious, at what point had God forsaken Him before the cross? In the garden, was not an angel sent to strengthen Him. Where did the angel come from? The Lord Himself said that Hw could call to His Father, and angelic legions would be dispatched. This is why He did not cry Father, but God. God, a triune being, has different roles and persons. The world has a God, but not a Father.
After reviewing your last comments at length, I am left baffled. The majority of your ‘difficulties’ seem to arise in that you are failing to believe the simple statements of scripture. The scripture plainly presents Christ as a merciful and faithful high priest (to name one example). We could look back to the passage under consideration and ask, of this Messianic Psalm, to whom did the Lord put His trust while in the womb? It seems that the subservient role of the Son has alluded you.
Again, I must stress that our inability to discern the details does not negate the truth of the scriptures. God has told us certain things, and, thus, we have understanding of them. The Spirit of God has recorded that Jesus, the Son of God, cried out, My God, Why did you forsake me? Is the Spirit of God lying? Was Jesus lying? By no means…let God be true, and every man a liar.
I would find further conversation difficult since my only source can be the word of God, and since you seem to have placed a question mark on its reliability. I would pray that your intellect, as great as it is, would not stand in the power of man’s wisdom, but find its root in the wisdom of God. Do not attempt to explain spiritual things to a natural mind.
It seems that, perhaps, you have missed the primary subject matter of the scriptures – the Lord Jesus. When you have acquired knowledge of Him, these ‘difficulties’ will prove to be dilemma.
If you look up that word became, in what the true meaning is. You would find that it means finish. Jesus did not become our sin, he finished our sin. As though it were not sin any longer. If Jesus is God, then how could he possibly be separated from God? Makes no sense. It has been thought that when he cried, ” Eli”, it reffered to Eli the high priest. Could be possibly meant when he cried this that he was saying. Why has the priesthood forsaken him? After all it was the high priest at the time that killed him. They were the ones who incensed the people to choose, Barrabas, not Jesus. Like choosing sin over truth. Was it meaning something deeper? Like why has the church chosen to forsake him? In revelations we know that it is the seven churches reprimanded to repent. I know they are represented here but it rings of truth. Do we as a people follow as closely as Peter did, yet in the most crucial part, deny the relationship with Jesus that he means for us to have. These questions have bothered me. It makes me wonder all the more.
Norman Wengerd says
Dear Jeremy, I have been listening to your podcasts for a period of time and find them very helpful. I have been a Jesus follower for almost 55 years and recently have been reflecting on the issue of violence projected in the OT especially. I was at a Good Friday Service tonight and again had the drill of God having required the Death of his Son. The passage used was Isaiah 53. Especially verse 10. Can you help me with this seemingly conflicting passage challenging the nonviolence of God against His Son? Thanks and Blessings!
Darla drury says
Is it possible that Jesus is symbolism for man kind. That we are created by a creator and our world gets distroyed every so often to reset balance. Then we are given diffrent instructions but grouos egos cause them to be rewritten to favor themselves. Now everthing is out of balane. There is a pole shift soon and we will all go through hell but some will make it and claim god choose them to repopulate the earth.
Surprising, being Messianic, that you did not cover that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, a Prophecy that was predicting His death in detail. Quoting it proved that all the Jews would realize He was the prophecy fulfilled, not because of sin or separation. Some of these men had literally memorized the entire scripture and they would have heard this and understood.
Artie Whitefox says
The Unseen Father never seperated from Jesus at any time. That was the only time. It was extremely traumatic for Jesus. The Unseen Father had to face Satan’s prison. 1 Peter 3:19 – 20. Satan was hoping upon hope, that his work was not in vain getting Jesus to sin. Satan failed. The Unseen Father preached to the lost in that prison. Jesus, as a result, rose up from the dead. Satan could not steal the throne that Jesus sits on. Christ proved that people who have blood in them, can keep God’s laws. Jesus was good to people not giving excuses as to why he should not be good to people. Jesus did not have a collection of money bags saving them up for Golgotha, saying he needed to pay for the sins of the world. We seem to think he did with peoples emphasis on money.
Considering that Jesus was the final sacrifice, so that animals no longer needed to be sacrificed for sins… Maybe all the sins (that were, and ever will be) became absorbed into Jesus. Collectively, all sin would equal the Devil. Maybe Jesus/God allowed the Devil to enter and become “Him” before death and the phrase “My God, why have you forsaken me?” were the words of the fallen angel before humankind was set free of sacrificial forgiveness?
I’ve always seen this in the context of Jesus quoting the first line of Psalm 22 which explains the absolute trust He had.. inspite of the horrors he was experiencing.. and if you read the psalm to the end.. His total trust in God…not the opposite..not so sure about the usual explanation of being separated because of His taking on our sin..but maybe more about His total trust in his Father’s faithfulness no matter what?..thus is surely how we have to believe..even if we feel we deserve separation..
Lonnie Lane says
I would like to know if I can have permission to use your drawing of Jesus on the cross that is just his face looking up to heaven on the cross. It won’t let me copy it here. It is at the top of you “Why Did Jesus say, “My God,My God, Why did You forsake me? page. I am writing a book including dealing with the Cross and would like to include it if possible. I don’t know if it’s yours or if you ‘borrowed’ it. Can yo give me permission to use it? Thank you.
Why do I feel dead? Like I am in hell separated from God. Everything feels different.