“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” We often hear this term uttered round the time of Good Friday…or when we students are studying for a big test…or when we forget about a large research paper until the week it’s due. But what does it mean? Imagine the scene…Jesus has just spent several hours enduring the most excruciating (which this word actually stems from the Latin “Excruciatus,” meaning “to crucify”) physical torture to be composed by man. Through beatings, humiliation, flogging (which many died from itself), to being forced to carry an immensely heavy piece of wood almost a half of a mile through the city streets, then finally being nailed to it, having pieces of metal plunged through His hands and feet in such a way that he would feel every ounce of pain, coming in an out of consciousness because of shock from the pain, blood loss, and dehydration. He was displayed (lifted up) naked, on the side of a busy road in front of people watching, and people coming in and out of the city for commerce. He was humiliated, reviled, and murdered in a way no one can ever imagine.
He took all of sin, darkness, destruction, and the full penalty of God’s wrath upon Himself. Many have argued that this phrase was a response to this action by the Father, that He turned His face from Jesus because He in His holiness could not bear to look upon His Son. However, I believe this statement of Jesus had a much greater and more powerful intention. 1) The Father could never abandon the Son, they are one, they cannot separate. To say the Father forsook the Son is modalism, separating two person’s of the trinity into two separate beings. 2) Jesus took upon Himself the full and entire wrath of God in this moment, so it is more accurate to assert that all of the Father’s attention was being given to the Son at that moment bestowing upon Him all of His wrath and anger for sin. 3) All of those who were watching this scene at the place of the Skull were familiar with scripture, they knew it, they memorized it, they learned it, they sang it, they lived it. Jesus knew that all of those who were watching had their eyes and ears fixed on Him. Every time He spoke, a hush fell upon the crowd followed by remarks from the peanut gallery of the Pharisees. A prominent theme of God’s people was the remind from YHWH to “Remember.” He’s always reminding them to “Remember…” Jesus spoke these words to shift their mind from the temporal to the scriptural. He spoke these words to place upon Himself the overlay of Psalm 22..so that they would Rememeber Psalm 22, the picture of the cross 1,000 years before. THIS is the power of His words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was a call to those standing there that they had forgotten their God, they were killing the very Messiah they had been waiting for for so many years. But with the paradox…He MUST die…in order to BE the Savior, Redeemer, Propitiation, Salvation, Christ/Messiah, and LORD. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. The message of Psalm 22 is the power revealed from the cross.
So in conclusion, the Father did not “turn His back on Jesus on the cross,” but His focus and wrath was fixated upon Him. Read these words from Psalm 22 paralleled with selections from the crucifixion scene reflected in the different gospel accounts of the crucifixion. We find the power of the cross in all of scripture, and through this passage of scripture we can see a deep message of hope and promise of life because of the death of Christ on the cross to overcome sin, suffering, shame, and death.