Was Jesus Forsaken By The Father While He Was On The Cross?
In Matthew 27:38-54, Mark 15:25-39, and Luke 23:32-46, there was a crowd watching and listening to the statements Jesus was speaking while on the cross. When Jesus says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", the audience mistakenly believes He is crying out for Elijah. The text does not indicate that Jesus was praying to His Father. Instead, it says He cried out in a loud voice. There is some important background information that we need to study in order to answer this question.
- Jesus said He would not be forsaken by His Father (John 8:28-29). In John 8:21-30: Jesus is only a few days away from His impending death, yet He is going to teach the Jews about His death and what is going to happen. Jesus says "the One who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone because I always do what pleases Him." Jesus says that the Father is with Him and has not left Him alone. This statement is an important piece to our understanding of the question. The phrase rendered, "is with me" is in the present tense, indicating continued action. It is a statement that means He will never be separated from God. The idea is that the One who sent Jesus is the One who will continue to be with Him.
- Jesus said He was not alone and that the Father was with Him (John 16:32). Here Jesus begins to speak about the upcoming events that will happen to His own disciples. Notice John 16:25-33. He says the hour is coming when the disciples were going to scatter, leaving Jesus alone. That is exactly what happened in the garden of Gethsemane. But Jesus says that, though the disciples were about to leave him, He would not be alone. "The Father is with Me" is in the present tense, which means continuous action. Jesus is saying that not only is the Father with Him right now but will continue to be with Him even when all the disciples scatter and leave Him.
- Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22 while He was on the cross. It is generally recognized that what Jesus was saying on the cross is a quote from Psalm 22. This psalm is referring to a difficult time in David's life, possibly when he was running for his life from Saul or some other tribulation in his life. This psalm is a prophecy of Jesus' crucifixion. There are some great details where this prophecy was being fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus, such as (a) the despising and mockery of Jesus (Psalm 22:6; Matthew 27:42,43), (b) the piercing of Jesus' hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:31), and (c) Jesus' statement on the cross being considered (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35).
- It appeared that Jesus was forsaken but, in fact, He was not. Read Psalm 22:19-31. David says that despite the despair through which he was enduring, he felt that death was near. God had not really forsaken him at all. Notice verse 19 where David says, "but you, O Lord, be not far off." Notice verse 24, "for He has not despised nor disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help." Notice how the psalm has changed its tone. The first 18 verses are a cry out to God and David makes the statement asking "Why have you forsaken me?" But as David goes through the psalm he says that God has not forsaken him. It appeared that God had forsaken him because of all the things that were going on. But then he says that God was really right there the whole time. It appeared that God had left him, it appeared that God had despised the afflicted one, but God had not hidden His face from him.
- It helps us to understand Deuteronomy 21:22,23 and Galatians 3:10-13. Many of the Jews most likely did not believe Jesus was the Messiah because their own Scriptures taught that if a man hanged on a tree, then he was accursed of God. Notice that it says: "If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree." But Jesus never committed a sin (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15). He was not deserving of physical death, yet in order to fulfill the predetermined plan of God, He had to die in order to bring about the remission of sins (Acts 2:22-24). Jesus was shown to be cursed, in the sense, that He was crucified (that is, hanged on a tree).
The Jews and Romans are watching Jesus hanging on the cross. When He made this statement, they were listening. They were mocking and insulting him. Jesus quotes Psalm 22 to show the fulfillment of the prophecy that David made. We have seen that Jesus said that the Father would not forsake Him. Jesus had never been alone. So what is Jesus doing? When Jesus cried out these words from Psalm 22, He wanted everyone to hear Him and to remind them of the psalm of David and how that this Messianic prophecy was being fulfilled before their own eyes. The lesson of Psalm 22: It may look like God has left Jesus because of all the evil that is transpiring, but God is still with Him. It appeared that Jesus was forsaken, but as the psalm points out, God had not hidden His face and did not despise the afflicted One.
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