As we know from the Gospel accounts, the disciples failed pretty miserably when it came to supporting Jesus. Over the next few posts we’ll look at what they did – and didn’t do – as Jesus suffered.
Jesus was abandoned by friends
Jesus spent hours in turmoil, crying out to God, in Gethsemane. He knew what was coming: an unjustified arrest, a sham of a trial, physical torture, emotional humiliation and a gruesome public execution. (Imagine knowing all that was about to happen, and still choosing to go ahead with it!)
As he pleaded with God to take away the coming pain, Jesus needed the support of his closest friends in the faith. He even asked them directly and specifically to support him. (Matt 26:36, 38)
But what did they do? These deeply flawed men on whom Christ later built his Church… They fell asleep. Yep. They did not travel the hard road with him. He had to do it alone. (Matt 26:40, 43, 45)
Jesus was abandoned by GodNot only did Jesus’ friends in the faith abandon him, but God also abandoned him. On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. (Matt 27:46NIV)
Thankfully, you and I don’t have to face the ultimate suffering: separation from God. Jesus’ sacrifice reconciled us to our loving God, who has promised never to abandon us. (2 Cor 5:18, 21, Rom 8:38, 39)
Take comfort in this: Jesus knows what it’s like to face an unimaginably painful future, alone. Jesus knows how it feels to be abandoned and left to fend for himself. He knows! I find that so reassuring.
[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Heb 4:15-16)
Why Was Jesus Forsaken on the Cross?
I have heard it said: Whatever happened on the cross must have been very terrible for Jesus to cry out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Have you thought much of what took place on the cross? What was it that made Jesus feel abandoned, forsaken by His heavenly Father?
Why did Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
This question comes from the crucifixion of Christ. On the cross Jesus said “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34b). Jesus felt abandoned and forsaken because He really was abandoned in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus, who knew no sin, was made to be sin on behalf of all who would believe (2 Corinthians 5:21a). This was fulfilled on the cross. As the sinless Lamb of God was made sin, the full hammer of the wrath of God the Father was poured out upon Jesus, the Son (Isaiah 53:6; 10). This was all in accordance with God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). As Jesus died accursed upon the tree (Galatians 3:13), He was abandoned and forsaken by God’s goodness, kindness, love, etc. Jesus was left with only God’s wrath, vengeance, and fury. Jesus endured this for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2a) because of the love He has for God the Father and for us (Ephesians 5:2).
What an incredibly weighty topic. Let’s dig deeper into the Word of God to discover more of these wonderful and terrifying truths.
Psalm 22, Fulfilled In Christ
Before we dive into the meat of this question we must first note that there are objections to Jesus actually being forsaken of by God the Father. Some deny it. Those objections will be addressed in their own section below. For now, let’s look to what God’s Word says.
The Scriptures (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34) record Jesus saying, as He is dying on the cross for the sin of the world,
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
Jesus knew Psalm 22. He does not paraphrase. He quotes it word for word. This psalm is a Psalm of David. As such, many commentators explain that this had some sort of direct fulfillment in David’s life. However, Jesus is quoting this psalm as Messianic. And the Scriptures tell us that David wrote some prophetic psalms directly about the Messiah. For example, look at Peter’s message on Pentecost:
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:29-32, bold added)
Some of David’s psalms are undoubtedly prophetic. They are directly about the Messiah. Jesus points to Himself as the fulfillment of David’s Psalm 22.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)
Jesus quotes directly from the first half of verse 1. He is announcing to the people, and to us, what was happening to Him. He was actually being forsaken by God. Jesus was enduring the full weight of the hammer of God’s wrath against sin.
Notice that the Psalm doesn’t say, My God, my God, why does it appear that you have forsaken me? The question is asking why He has been forsaken. Everyone looking at Jesus upon the cross would have come to the same conclusion: this man is accursed by God. That’s why the Jews wanted Him to be crucified. So, the question is: why did it have to happen this way? Why did this righteous, sinless Lamb of God, need to die accursed on a tree? Jesus was accursed by the plan of God in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Not because the Christ deserved it but because we do as the penalty for our sin, transgression, and iniquity.
The psalm also speaks of the mockery of the people towards Christ. As He hung on the tree, being made a curse for us, the people derided Him.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads. (Psalm 22:7)
This was directly fulfilled.
And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads. (Matthew 27:39)
More details of Psalm 22 are fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ,
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet--
I can count all my bones--
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:16-18)
The direct fulfillment is made explicit.
And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots. (Matthew 27:35)
In Jesus’s day, Gentiles were often referred to as dogs by the Jews (for example, see Matthew 15:22-28). Jesus quoted from Psalm 22:1 as He was surrounded by Roman executioners (“dogs”). They were a company of evildoers who literally pierced His hands and His feet. They fulfilled the Scriptures by dividing His garments among themselves.
Jesus quoted Psalm 22 intentionally. He was pointing to the deeper reality beneath the surface. Jesus wasn’t dying like other criminals for His own crimes. He was not just saying that the first verse applied to Him. Jesus was declaring to all that He was being despised, rejected, afflicted, and cast down for a purpose. Not by the sword of man, or ravenous dogs, or the mouths of lions, or by a herd of wild oxen (Psalm 22:19-21).
But by God Himself.
Jesus Made Sin:
The word impute means “to credit to one’s account.” This word is important. We all need to pay close attention.
The Scriptures declare,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He stepped out of eternity and into time. Taking a second nature, humanity. Jesus, being fully God and fully man, lived an earthly life. Free of sin. Sin did not dwell in His flesh as it dwells in ours.
He was perfect. Sinless. He did not know sin. He only knew the Father and His perfect will for Him.
The Scripture says that He who knew no sin (Jesus) was made to be sin. How can this be? God the Father imputed sin to Jesus’s account. The Father reckoned sin to Jesus’s spotless account. Why?
This is a huge answer that all of Scripture points to. For the sake of simplification, let’s look at two main points.
Condemning Sin in the Flesh
1) Jesus came to condemn sin in the flesh. God is good, just, and righteous. Thus, the problem of our sin must be dealt with. Either we will pay the punishment for our own sin or God Himself will have to. There is no third option.
Jesus, the God-Man, is the only One qualified in His own merit to be the substitute for Man. As He who knew no sin was made to be sin, the hammer of the Almighty God fell upon the Son. Crushing the Son. Thereby condemning sin in the flesh.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3)
Becoming the Righteousness of God
2) So that we might become the righteousness of God. The Father imputed or “credited sin to His account.” For those who are found in Christ by faith, believing in the Son of God and His perfect work on their behalf, God imputes (or credits) righteousness to our account.
No one can earn right standing with God. It’s not possible. Because no one is good and no one does what is right (Romans 3:10-12). No one can escape condemnation by themselves. The condemnation that our sin has brought upon us is inescapable without a perfect Savior. Jesus is that Savior.
God imputed our sin to Christ and it was condemned in His flesh. Meaning He paid the price for it. Endured the wrath of God on behalf of sin. So that we, by faith, who are “in Christ” could have His righteousness credited to our account. Therefore, all who are found in Christ stand before God justified. Not on our merit but on the merit of another. There is no longer any condemnation for all who are in Him.
By the grace of God, through faith, God has made it possible for us to receive Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness as a gift.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, bold added)
Justice Must Be SatisfiedSome have twisted the Scriptures to avoid God’s justice being satisfied in Christ. They may say things like:
- “My god would never…” or
- “God is love so how could He ever punish anyone for an eternity in hell?” or
- “This is a form of cosmic child abuse,” etc.
Yet, the Scriptures declare this to be true. Anyone who reads the Bible honestly in its context cannot escape this truth.
God is holy, righteous, and just. He cannot nor will He allow the guilty to go unpunished. God will not just simply look past sin and not punish it. He cannot take sin and ball it up and throw it into the sea. Justice must be served. It will be served because God always does that which is right.
This is what the Scriptures point to. This wonderful, terrific, and amazing truth that God satisfied His justice. He did it through the God-Man, Jesus the Christ. He punished sin in Christ so that all who believe would not perish but have everlasting life!
This is a demonstration that God is both just and the justifier of sinful men, those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
For more on this, see our articles:
The Foreordained PlanIt must be clear that this was never plan B, or C, or D, or E. It was always plan A. From before the foundation of the world. That God would send His Son to condemn sin in the flesh. Making a way for people to be reconciled to God through Jesus, the Son.
God Himself was the very first to declare the gospel.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heal.” (Genesis 3:15)
Peter understood the plan of God and proclaimed it on Pentecost.
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)
The Apostle to the Gentiles also understood and proclaimed this truth.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:3-4a)
Likewise, the Apostle John taught from this foundation.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
While some interpret these passages differently and choose to divide over them, these passages are meant to be unifying. God planned from the very beginning to send His Son and satisfy His justice in Him. Jesus came as a willing servant. Christ offered His life willingly as a ransom for many in accordance with this foreordained plan. Jesus did it for the joy that was set before Him, enduring the cross and despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2).
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
At the appointed time. According to the foreordained plan of God. He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Although the Son Himself knew no sin. He was made sin. Made a curse under the law. So that all could be set free from the curse of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
This Jesus is no longer dead. Christ has been raised up by His Father. Highly exalted by His Father. Seated at His Father’s right hand. Made both Lord and Savior by His Father. Glorified by His Father.
For more on the fullness of time, see our article: Why Did Jesus Come When He Did?
Forsaken by God
What does it really mean to be forsaken by God? The Scriptures declare,
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13).
To really grasp this text I suggest that you read all of Galatians. But don’t stop there. Turn back the pages to Deuteronomy 27 and 28.
Jesus is the one who, in His own merit, earned all the blessings of God. He did not break the law of God even once. He who knew no sin, when He became sin (2 Corinthians 5:23), was treated as a sinner.
He was cut off from all of God’s goodness, love, grace, mercy, and kindness. Knowing only (for that time on the cross) the wrath, justice, anger, and severity of God.
As Jesus was made sin, He truly was judged by God as a sinner. Sin was condemned in His flesh.
Yet, because He Himself was sinless, He did not remain condemned forever. He was raised from the dead. Given the authority now to judge the world in righteousness.
For more on the cursing, see our articles:
God is LoveGod is love.
He demonstrates it in this,
That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
This is not how the world understands love. This is much greater. The Bible is consistent in its teaching about God’s love.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)
In Jesus’s first coming, the world was not condemned for its sin. Instead, God condemned sin the the flesh of Christ. The promise of everlasting life, redemption from sin, and peace with a holy and righteous God is only given to those who are found in Christ on the Day of Judgment.
Christ is coming again to judge the world in righteousness. Are you ready? Are you hidden safely in the refuge of Christ?