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Did God Forsake Jesus on the Cross?

Some Christians have been taught that Jesus was forsaken by God on the cross as our sins were imputed to Him. Thus, God could no longer look upon Him and turned His face away, forsaking Jesus. We find this belief repeated in modern hymns like, “How Great the Father’s Love for Us” by Stuart Townend with lyrics that say,  “The Father turns His face away”. It is also taught by televangelist like Joseph Prince who wrote on his blog,  “On the cross of Calvary, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” so that you and I will never be forsaken by God. A divine exchange took place. Jesus took our sins and gave up the presence of God, while we took Jesus’ righteousness and received the presence of God that Jesus had..” (Emphasis added)

The belief that Jesus was forsaken by God seems to be popular, however it is not Biblical. Nor it is not found in the Church Fathers,  so it is not historical and was not handed down by the Apostles. The doctrine is heretical in many ways which we will soon show. But first for background on this false doctrine I found that John Calvin is the likely original source:

It is said that he descended into hell. This means that he had been afflicted by God, and felt the dread and severity of divine judgment, in order to intercede with God’s wrath and make satisfaction to his justice  in our name, thus paying our debts and lifting our penalties, not for his own iniquity (which never existed) but for ours…..Yet it is not to be understood that the Father was ever angry toward him. For how could he be angry toward his beloved Son, “in whom he was well pleased”? Or how could he appease the Father by his intercession, if the Father regarded him as an enemy? But it is in this sense that he is said to have borne the weight of divine severity, since he was “stricken and afflicted” by God’s hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God, so as to be compelled to cry out in deep anguish: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” –  John Calvin, (Catechism of Geneva 1538, chapter 20. 4; published in Hesselink, Calvin’s First Catechism, pg. 24)

Christ then praying in a loud voice, and with tears, is heard in that he feared, not so as to be exempted from death, but so as not to be swallowed up of it like a sinner, though standing as our representative. And certainly no abyss can be imagined more dreadful than to feel that you are abandoned and forsaken of God, and not heard when you invoke him, just as if he had conspired your destruction. To such a degree was Christ dejected, that in the depth of his agony he was forced to exclaim, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”</em> …it is evident that the expression was wrung from the anguish of his inmost soul. (Inst. 2.16.11)

Calvin’s comments are direct blasphemy against God. For one, he attempted to make God the cause of Jesus’ agony and death as he says that by God’s hand Jesus was afflicted, however in Luke 22:53 Jesus says that man and evil are the authors of what is about to happen to Him:

When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Emphasis added)

John Calvin’s own words prove that God did not forsake Jesus on the cross or was appeased by taking wrath out upon Him:

For how could he be angry toward his beloved Son, “in whom he was well pleased”? Or how could he appease the Father by his intercession, if the Father regarded him as an enemy”

So according to John Calvin, God basically exhausted His wrath towards us onto Jesus, I suppose only pretending to be angry. Thus,  it was in some way staged, because HOW COULD Jesus appease God if God regarded Him as the enemy? What kind of God would need to punish the innocent in place of the wicked to forgive? The Bible tells us to forgive, just as God forgives. Does this mean we need to expel our anger in order to forgive others?  God is made to seem very prideful and hateful as He rages against His son, in whom He is the most pleased with, but yet He still basically attacks Him and turns His love for Him off for a moment as He looks away, leaving Jesus to feel abandoned by His father. This doctrine is wrong on so many levels as it divides the trinity, it makes God out to be a brat and a abusive father and it goes against every teaching of Jesus that we must forgive in love, in order to be forgiven.

Leaving all that behind, let’s get to the verses that are used to claim that God forsook Jesus.  Matthew 27:46 is cited as proof text just as John Calvin quoted:

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?

Matthew 27:46 is a direct quote of Psalm 22:1:

1 (21:1) For the end, concerning the morning aid, a Psalm of David. O God, my God, attend to me: why hast thou forsaken me? the account of my transgressions is far from my salvation.

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Prophecy. If we continue reading Psalm 22 we see at verse 24 that God did not forsake the Messiah:

24 (21:24) For he has not despised nor been angry at the supplication of the poor; nor turned away his face from me; but when I cried to him, he heard me. (Emphasis added)

There we have it, God never turned His face away from Jesus. He was never angry, He was never wrathful towards Jesus either. Thus, the doctrine that Jesus was forsaken by God while imputed with our sins is proven false.

If we compare Matthew 27 and Psalm 22 in full we see a different perspective of what is happening at the crucifixion that matches Jesus’ words in Luke 22 quoted at the beginning of this article:

Psalm 22:Matthew 27:
1 (21:1) For the end, concerning the morning aid, a Psalm of David. O God, my God, attend to me: why hast thou forsaken me? the account of my transgressions is far from my salvation.
2 (21:2) O my God, I will cry to thee by day, but thou wilt not hear: and by night, and [it shall] not [be accounted] for folly to me.
3 (21:3) But thou, the praise of Israel, dwellest in a sanctuary.
4 (21:4) Our fathers hoped in thee; they hoped, and thou didst deliver them.
5 (21:5) They cried to thee, and were saved: they hoped in thee, and were not ashamed.
6 (21:6) But I am a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and scorn of the people.
7 (21:7) All that saw me mocked me: they spoke with [their] lips, they shook the head, [saying],
8 (21:8) He hoped in the Lord: let him deliver him, let him save him, because he takes pleasure in him.
9 (21:9) For thou art he that drew me out of the womb; my hope from my mother’s breasts.
10 (21:10) I was cast on thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 (21:11) Stand not aloof from me; for affliction is near; for there is no helper.
12 (21:12) Many bullocks have compassed me: fat bulls have beset me round.
13 (21:13) They have opened their mouth against me, as a ravening and roaring lion.
14 (21:14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are loosened: my heart in the midst of my belly is become like melting wax.
15 (21:15) My strength is dried up, like a potsherd; and my tongue is glued to my throat; and thou hast brought me down to the dust of death.
16 (21:16) For many dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked doers has beset me round: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 (21:17) They counted all my bones; and they observed and looked upon me.
18 (21:18) They parted my garments [among] themselves, and cast lots upon my raiment.
19 (21:19) But thou, O Lord, remove not my help afar off: be ready for mine aid.
20 (21:20) Deliver my soul from the sword; my only-begotten one from the power of the dog.
21 (21:21) Save me from the lion’s mouth; and [regard] my lowliness from the horns of the unicorns.
22 (21:22) I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise to thee.
23 (21:23) Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye seed of Jacob, glorify him: let all the seed of Israel fear him.
24 (21:24) For he has not despised nor been angry at the supplication of the poor; nor turned away his face from me; but when I cried to him, he heard me.
25 (21:25) My praise is of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 (21:26) The poor shall eat and be satisfied; and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their heart shall live for ever.
27 (21:27) All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.
28 (21:28) For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and he is the governor of the nations.
29 (21:29) All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and worshipped: all that go down to the earth shall fall down before him: my soul also lives to him.
30 (21:30) And my seed shall serve him: the generation that is coming shall be reported to the Lord.
31 (21:31) And they shall report his righteousness to the people that shall be born, whom the Lord has made.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band [of soldiers].
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put [it] upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify [him].
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted [thereof], he would not drink.
35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
36 And sitting down they watched him there;
37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest [it] in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking [him], with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
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?
47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard [that], said, This [man] calleth for Elias.
48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled [it] with vinegar, and put [it] on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

As both passages read through we see that we are the cause of Jesus’ abuse and suffering. Our evil, our sin, our disbelief did this to Him, not God punishing Him with wrath and turning from Him.  Even though in his humanity Jesus felt alone and even separated from God in some way, He was never alone or without His divinity or the presence of His father. God was with Him the whole time.  Psalm 22:4 5 shows what the Bibles tells us over and over again, that God is faithful and does not leave those who love and serve Him.

As we move on to Psalm 22:7-8 and Matthew 27:40-43, we see again that it is humans that are testing Jesus and in turn God. In their pride, jealousy and hatred of Jesus, they are attempting to prove that He is not the Messiah and that God will abandon Him and not help Him. Again, this does not show that God turned His face away from Jesus, but the opposite.

As both passages continue we see in Psalm 22:27 onward the prophecy that Jesus’ death will be remembered and this will cause people to come to belief in God. There will be people who come after Jesus who will teach of Him, His death and resurrection and all the divine wonders that took place during this time. So yes, while God knows what man kind will do and that we would put the Messiah to death, God did not author Jesus’ death to take His wrath out on His son.

This is what people miss…death was defeated. This is the historic view of the crucifixion called Christus Victor along with what is called the ransom theory. Death is our biggest enemy. It was brought on by Satan and the fall. Death is equated with sin in the Bible,  because sin is what causes our death. Jesus did take on our sin. He took on death and freed us. He felt all the temptation we feel, but He never let Satan tempt Him away from God. God was never wrathful or angry at Jesus. This is paganism. We humans tend to be easily tempted just as Adam and Eve were. but if we are strong and follow Jesus and keep our faith,  death has no hold on us anymore. And this is the truth of the crucifixion, not that God forsook Jesus, but that God is faithful and loves us so much despite our sins, despite our disbelief, despite our mockery, that He gave His son to take on death and save us basically from ourselves. And if we believe, we follow, we change, we will be saved from death as well.

along with 1 Corinthians 5:21

In the Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, there is a Messianic Prophecy concerning the Messiah’s death, but that God is faithful to Him the whole time:

12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. 13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. 14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; 15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. 16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.” (RSVA)

For more on the crucifixion from a historical perspective see the  Early Church Fathers Quotes by Topic on the Atonement

And other related post:

Penal Substitution and Isaiah 53

Did God require Sacrifice?

 

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