Why Did God The Father Abandon His Son Jesus on The Cross? #219 #Crucifixion
Hello dear friends, and happy Lord’s Day to you! Please consider joining us live on Facebook at VBC Salinas for a message and time of worship today at 11am Pacific – our focus is on the Holy Spirit, and how we might be missing the fullness and the deeper presence of God’s Spirit in our lives and ministries.
Our Bible readings today include Judges 16, Jeremiah 29, Mark 15 and Acts 20. Our focus for the day is on the crucifixion of Jesus, and we are asking the question of why did God turn His back on His son on Good Friday so long ago? We humans tend to turn our backs to people whom we deem unworthy of our continued attention, or people who are hurting us, accosting us, or are somehow trying to interact with us in a negative way. Jesus was the most pure, loving, kind and perfect human that ever lived, and yet He was despised and rejected by men – beaten, spat upon, stripped naked, flogged, nailed to the cross and taunted while on the cross. That humans did this to the greatest and most precious human that ever lived is stunning enough…that God the Father – who sees all and knows all – would turn His back on beautiful Jesus is several magnitudes more stunning, and yet this is exactly what happened.
I will never forget the first Aramaic expression I ever learned. I was a freshman or sophomore in college, and attending Hilldale Baptist church in Center Point, Alabama. Our pastor, Dr. Edwin Jenkins, was preaching about the last words of Jesus on the cross, and the sermon was on, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani.” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!) That message cut me to the heart, just thinking about Jesus – paying the price for my sin on the cross AND suffering the terror of having His Father turn away from Him in the midst of the greatest trial any person has ever gone through. Why did God do this to His son, and why is it important? Let’s read the passage and then discuss this most important of questions.
To help us understand the beauty and magnitude of the forsaking of Jesus, I’d like to turn first to Spurgeon for us to see the sadness of our savior, and then to Tim Keller to understand the wonder and import of that forsaking.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? This was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. The Jews mocked, but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Let us gaze with holy wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that midday-midnight. First, our Lord’s faith deserves our reverent imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God and cries twice, My God, my God. The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the power of God to sustain him, for the title used—El—signifies strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the all-sufficient support and succor of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would like to know why he is left; he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us! Why hast thou forsaken me? We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. Why? There was no cause in him; why then was he deserted? Hast. It is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud: he endured that forsaking in very deed. Thou. I can understand why traiterous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. Forsaken. If thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? Me. Thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God. Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? The Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven! What a strong crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer! Yet there was a reason for all this which those who rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.
C. H. Spurgeon, Psalms, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 78–79.
And now Keller to help us understand how we benefit from the horror of Jesus being forsaken:
Jesus Christ is getting judgment day. He’s getting our judgment day. It’s coming down on him. As horrible as it is to have a spear in your side, as horrible as it is to die of suffocation, as horrible as it is to have been tortured and beaten … The crown of thorns, nails through your hands and feet … He doesn’t say a thing about that, because compared to this, that’s a fleabite. Jesus is experiencing judgment day, the cosmic horror of un-creation coming down on him, the judgment day we deserve….
No one has ever suffered like this Man has suffered. No one. That’s the first thing you see from “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
The second thing is as you see him saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” we realize no one has ever obeyed God like this. No one has ever suffered like this, but secondly, no one has ever obeyed like this. For every other person who has ever lived, God has said, “If you obey me, you will live. If you give yourself to me, I will give myself to you.”
We don’t often feel that way, because our life doesn’t go this or that way. But that’s the promise, and that’s every other person in the history of the world, before and after. If you give yourself to God, God will give himself to you … except this one. Jesus Christ is trusting God. Notice he doesn’t say, “Cruel Father!” No, he says, “My God, my God,” while he’s being damned. He’s trusting God while he’s being damned. That has never happened before; it will never happen again. It’s unbelievable.
You know, in Moby Dick, when Captain Ahab is actually going down to his watery grave, at one point he yells to Moby Dick, “From hell’s heart, I stab at thee!” Well, it’s very dramatic, but just rhetoric. He wasn’t in hell’s heart. He was going to die, but he wasn’t in hell’s heart. But here’s someone who really was. Here’s someone who really was, but what does he say? He says, “From hell’s heart, I still love you.” No one has ever obeyed God like this. No one has ever been faithful and trusted God like this.
Okay, now why? Why is he enduring infinite suffering, and why is he accomplishing infinite obedience? What’s the answer to the question? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The answer is for you! There’s an answer! It’s not an unanswerable question. For you, for me, for us!
Do you know how many times I’ve said Jesus Christ has come to do this in our place? That’s why he’s a Savior. He has come to live the life we should have lived, and he died the death we should have died. He’s doing both in this cry. He’s dying the death we should have died, but we can’t. He’s paying the penalty of our sins, but he’s living the life we should have lived. This is perfect obedience in our place.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).