Q: #329. Did God the Father really "forsake" Jesus on the cross?
A: One of the last words Jesus said on the cross was (Mt 27:46) “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? (Prophesied in : Ps 22:1)(Also see: Mk 15:34). Why did Jesus say this?
It is quite clear in the Bible that God the Father never forsook Jesus in terms of leaving Him. Of course, since Jesus was fully man AND fully God (the hypostatic union), He could never truly be separated from the Godhead (Col 2:9)(Rom 1:20)(Acts 17:29) or the trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 Jn 5:7)(Mt 28:19). In addition. Jesus said that His Father would never leave Him (Jn 16:32)(Jn 8:16,29).
It is also interesting to note that the Greek word that Jesus used for “forsake” is “egkataleipo.” This same word is also used in (Heb 13:5), when God promises all believers that “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So, if God promises to never forsake US once we belong to Him, can we really believe God would forsake Jesus on the cross?
(See: Ps 37:28, Ps 94:14, Phil 1:6 for a few other verses showing that God will not forsake us.)
So, what did Jesus mean? I believe this is an exact picture of what sin does in all Christians. While God will not “forsake” us, even when we sin against Him, our sin does “separate” us from walking closely with Him: Isa 59:2, Ps 66:18, Jn 9:31, 1 Pet 3:12, Prov 15:29. A good way to think of this is, “Sin does not break our union with God, but rather, our communion with God.”
Let me share a little example I felt like God showed me a while back about how sin can separate us from God and hinder our communication with Him.
Picture a long, narrow corridor with a large room at one end of it, and many doors between it and the other end of the corridor. God is in the large room, and the doors in the corridor represent sin. We are in that corridor, and when we sin, a door closes between us and the large room. We can still talk to God, and hear Him through the door to the large room, but it is a little harder. In addition, the more we sin, the more doors close between us and the big room where God is, and we move farther and farther down the corridor. Eventually, we have so many doors between us and the big room, that we basically cannot communicate with God at all. However, when we confess our sins and repent, we reopen the doors between us and the large room, our communication with God remains strong, and we are never far from that room. (Some people call this “keeping short accounts with God.”)
Now, applying this loosely to Jesus on the cross, Jesus had lived a perfect, sinless life and never had ANY doors separating Him from “the large room.” He was in PERFECT fellowship with the Father at all times. So, when the sins of all mankind were laid upon Him (2 Cor 5:21)(Isa 53:6), it was the first time that doors were closed to “the large room” where God the Father was. His perfect fellowship and communion with the Father was broken. Just as our sin separates us, our sins separated Him when they were laid upon Him. He keenly felt that separation, and this is why I believe He said, “why hast thou forsaken me?” His communion with the Father was broken, but not His union.
(I believe this was that the most painful thing in Jesus’ entire life on Earth.)