Why Did Jesus Say On The Cross That God Had Forsaken Him?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Have you ever wondered why Jesus cried out on the cross, why God has forsaken Him?  What did that mean?

Did the Father Forsake Jesus?

We read of the account where Jesus cried out to the Father about being forsaken just before He died in Matthew 27:45-50 “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’  And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink.  But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.” 

Why Did Jesus Say On The Cross That God Had Forsaken Him

There is an interesting combination of Jesus crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  For one thing, this is the only time that He doesn’t refer to God as His Father.  Is that because He was bearing the sins of the world, having become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21)?  I am not so sure because Jesus does refer to God twice, which in the Jewish vernacular is repeating a name and since we know that repeating someone’s name is a sign of intimacy in the Jewish culture, there are still indications of an intimate, personal relationship there between Jesus and God the Father.   Also of interest is the fact that in the first part of the sentence Jesus uses the Hebrew name for God (Eli) and then Aramaic in the remainder of the sentence “lema sabachthani.”

The Fulfillment of Psalm 22

When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  it was the fulfillment of Psalm 22:1 which also says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  All of Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm that prophesied the events of the crucifixion like the fact that He was “scorned by mankind and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6), He was mocked, (Psalm 22:7), He was surrounded by evil doers who had pierced His hands and His feet (Psalm 22:16), the soldiers cast lots over His clothing (Psalm 22:18), and many other striking similarities to what occurred at Calvary.  There is no doubt that David wrote this psalm about Jesus, the coming Messiah.  How he knew exactly what it would be like for Christ is not known although we know that the writings of David were inspired so perhaps God gave him revelation about this coming event.

God is Light, Absence of God is Darkness

Jesus crucifixion started about 9:00 A.M. but at noon and then all the way to 3:00 P.M., there was a darkness that covered the land.  Since we know that God is light and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5) when the darkness came, it would seem to indicate an absence of God since an absence of light could be seen as an absence of the presence of God.  Even in John’s Gospel he wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5) and Jesus, being God is “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9) so where there is light, there is the presence of God but when there is no light, it is natural to assume the absence of God results in darkness.  Even for those who have or will yet reject Jesus as their Savior, they will be cast into outer darkness at the judgment (Matt 8:12; 25:30) so was the three hours of darkness the withdrawing of God the Father during Jesus’ crucifixion?  Jesus was, at that time, bearing the sins of the world and sin is symbolic of being in darkness (Matt 4:16).  Part of Jesus’ agony was probably the separation from the Father.  Here, for the very first time in all eternity, Jesus was separated from the Father.  You know how you feel when you are separated from your loved ones for a long time but this was nothing in comparison to how Jesus must have felt.

Separation from God

For those who all their lives have rejected Jesus and die in that state, they will forever be separated from God because our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and unless we trust in Christ we cannot be reconciled back to God just as Paul wrote “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18) so part of the possible separation of God the Father from Jesus might have been due to Jesus bearing the sins of the world and since God is completely holy, He cannot even look upon sin as Habakkuk writes “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab 1:13). This seems to make sense of Jesus’ crying out with a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt 27:46)?

Conclusion

Are you still separated from God by your sins?  For those who have never repented, which means that they have not yet turned away from and forsaken their sins, and then trusted in Christ, they are still at this moment separated from a holy God with no chance of reconciliation after death (Heb 9:27).  They need a Mediator and that of course is Jesus “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  If you have never been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, then you too will face darkness someday and not just three hours of it but for all time because God will forsake you for you have forsaken His only means by which you might be saved (Acts 16:30-31) and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified for your sins.

Take a look at some more word of Jesus: Words of Jesus

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

David July 1, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Dear brother Wellman,
First, thank you for your ministry and for your website.
Second, through my many years as an evangelical Christian I have heard and read many a stirring sermon on the idea that Jesus’ bearing our sins required that God the Father turn His back on God the Son and “forsake” Christ. However – those many stirring sermons not withstanding – the idea of the eternal Father forsaking the eternal Son creates a problem for those who believe in the Trinity. For the Son to be forsaken by the Father would mean that for that time the Trinity did not exist or did not communicate. Unless one subscribes to Docetism, I don’t think a forsaken God-the-Son maintains the eternal Trinitarian idea of God (no matter how stirring the sermons about this are). You might find “Forsaken” by Thomas H. McCall (on Amazon) to be of interest.
Again, I thank you for your ministry and pray that God will bless you richly.

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Jack Wellman July 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Thank you sir for this recommendation and truly it is worth checking out for much of this subject is still cloaked, at least to me and others, in mystery and I am still eager to learn more about God and this sounds like a great opportunity to do just that. Thank you David for your gracious words. I don’t think Jesus ever ceased to exist since He is God and thus, the Trinity would not have ceased to exist. If my wife and my daughter were separate by great distances as she was in Europe recently, we didn’t cease to exist as the Wellman Family, (poor analogy) but hopefully you see my point sir.

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Docreits July 2, 2015 at 11:34 am

Interesting topic Pastor Jack. It is a mystery. We struggle with our limited abilities to comprehend the enormity of what Jesus became on the Cross. I certainly can’t understand its full implication.

I do understand that by becoming literal sin of all mankind, past, present and future, it boggles the mind. The situation also begs the question of whether Jesus could have born this burden if not God? I think not. Therefore no conflict with the Trinity.

Beyond that though, he was man, bearing the burden of a tortured body and human spirit. My belief is that it was His humanity, becoming sin, His Godhead allowing this, which alienated Him from the Father.

It was His humanity which cried out in anguish, as the Father condemned His body to death as the price for our sin.

There is no conflict here. For Christ remained God, while bearing our sin in His human body. What a price was paid.

DocReits

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Jack Wellman July 2, 2015 at 11:43 am

Well said Doc and an very good explanation and I totally concur…the Trinity, as God in Three Persons, could never cease to exist for as Acts 2:24 states “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” I think the pain of suffering was agony enough but perhaps the greatest part was of being temporarily separated from the Father…for the first time in all eternity and for the last time for all time. Yes, much mystery in this and I could never fully explain it anyway.

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Douglas Belardi July 3, 2015 at 5:53 am

Only the human nature of Jesus (created at His conception) was separated from God and forsaken by God on Golgotha as He bore the Elect’s sins and He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
His divine and eternal nature never was forsaken
The Trinity has and never will experience any interruption in Their perfect unity
Indeed If an interruption had taken place creation would have ceased to be:
Colossians 1:15-17
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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Jack Wellman July 3, 2015 at 9:04 am

Great explanations Mr. Belardi. Thank you sir. Spot on just like Doc’s statement was sir. Thank you so much.

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G jenkins July 4, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Jesus crying out the verse of psalm 22, does not limit himself to just a single verse…. With his command of scripture, his cry invokes the entirety of the psalm. Why does the Gospel quote only a part? Either because any Jew would know the rest, or certainly, Jesus knew the rest. In the throes of agony, could he say more? Need He say more for us to read the rest. Jesus, though feeling the human emotion of abandonment surly knew through faith that “for God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly…”
Jesus knew that he was not abandoned, and though He bore our Sin, He was obedient and knew that the Father would be faithful.

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Carmen N July 5, 2015 at 7:46 am

Hi Pastor Jack,

As usual, I enjoyed your article. You never pretend to know it all and are willing to learn. How refreshing!

Thanks also for taking the time to answer back the comments placed on your page. Is difficult when I have questions, and the other party is mute on the subject. When I don’t receive an answer, I feel as though my questions are not important or not worth the effort and time or that I do not exist. This is my problem and not the author’s.

Please pray for me. I am tired of trying to be a “real” Christian. And I keep going down the slippery slope of unbelief and self-doubt. Lately my double mindedness have grown like a dark cloud on a stormy day. I continuously stumble, feeling unstable in all my ways.

Hopefully still your sister in Christ,
Carmen N

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Jack Wellman July 5, 2015 at 4:22 pm

I will pray for you Carmen. So good to hear from you again. We are all going to fall from time to time but the good news is we can never out-sin the cross. Don’t lose home for God never forsakes you nor does He ever leave you. Trust Him (John 10:28-29, John 6:37, 39).

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Barbara hagan July 5, 2015 at 11:17 am

Dear Pastor Jack,

This doesn’t really answer the question for me. As Christians we believe that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity – the ONE true God. Jesus IS God, so how could he be separated from the Father at the time of the crucifixion? As I inderstand it, there can be no separation, unless Jesus is not God.

Please answer.

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Jack Wellman July 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Thank you Mrs. Hagan. What would be your answer to why Jesus made this statement. What did He mean by it. I never said that they were separated but only forsaken and only for a time. What do you think my friend?

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Barbara hagan July 5, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Dear Pastor Jack,

Actually, you did say they were separated: “Part of Jesus’ agony was probably the separation from the Father. Here, for the very first time in all eternity, Jesus was separated from the Father. ”

As to what I think He meant, I don’t know and I always wondered. That’s why your article caught my eye. I’m searching for answers because sometimes I am afflicted with doubt.

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/why-did-jesus-say-on-the-cross-that-god-had-forsaken-him/#ixzz3f4tQY4ZC

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Jack Wellman July 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Sorry, I missed that…I believe I can be separated from my family by thousands of miles but we never cease to exist as a family so even if God the Father was not in Jesus’ presence, which is the way I should have put it, they were still within relationship with one another. Does that make sense? Please let me know what you are afflicted with by doubt. Is there something that I can help you with my sister in Christ? Do you mean you have doubts about your salvation? I too have seasons of doubt but I don’t stay in them for long. Is there doubt about the security you have in your relationship with Christ? Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it. There is much I do not understand about God.

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Barbara hagan July 5, 2015 at 11:45 pm

And I thank you for your kindness, too.

Yes you have clarified it somewhat. I suppose we all have seasons of doubt, which is a good way to describe it. I think my doubt has more to do with whether Christ is the only way to salvation. I have so much compassion in my heart for those who do not know Christ, yet who have what seems to be a deep faith in God as they understand Him. Can a a Father expect all His children to love Him in the same way?

Ralph Phillips July 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Carmen, do you truly believe Jesus died and rose again and lives to be your savior today? Did you ask Him to save you and come into your life believing He hears your prayer? If so, I want to say I have been you in my walk and each time I feel that way I ask myself if I really believe in Jesus as God. And able to save. And I always say I would die for that belief. So why doubt? Its me being worthy is what I doubt, not Jesus. So I have learned no one is worthy. So I stand on Romans 10:9-11 Remember a Christian can fall on board but never over board. Pray and confess ever day and trust Him and His word, now grow in Christ. By knowing His word. Peace and Love to you.

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Jack Wellman July 8, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Beautifully stated sir…love your comment that “a Christian can fall on board but never over board.” Well said. So truthful.

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Harry July 19, 2015 at 11:53 am

First of all we need to understand the correct part of this event.we need to look at hebrew version of psalm 22 where david said eli eli lama albachtani rather than sabchthani,which means forsaken whereas sabchthani here refers to spared ? God didnt left jesus,if u read carefully tht time jews used to slaughter their animals and till tht time jesus who is the lamb of god asked god tht why have u spared me ?why father is taking the time ? Also note one thing we did wrong and sinned yet our father didnt left us so why would father forsake jesus who is totally innocent.the reason why there was darkness is because tht time the glory of jesus was magnified rather thn light of sun needed,as sun moon and stars are made for jesus,kindly tke thing in mind when jesus said those words the jews replied heis calling elijah,if jesus meant forsaken the n they wud hve said tht now he learnt lesson,he was claiming messiah but they replied oposite.hence jesus meant spared not forsaken

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Jack Wellman July 6, 2015 at 8:24 am

Thank you Mrs/Ms Hagan.

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