Did God Forsake or Desert Jesus?

16 Aug
Forsaken me

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Some believe toward the end of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus began to buckle under the wrath of God. They conclude that his humanity cried out, as he felt so utterly alone, believing that even his Father had abandoned him. Others conclude that the Father did actually abandon Jesus, his Son, as the full weight of humanity’s sin was placed upon him on the cross. They say, “Separation from the Father must have been the worst part of the Cross for Jesus who had never before experienced anything but intimate fellowship with his Father.”[1]

In another place it is concluded,

“The cry of Jesus has been variously interpreted, but it seems clear that God had judicially forsaken Jesus on the cross in contrast to the fact that He had strengthened Him in the garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus was bearing the sins of the whole world, and even God the Father had to turn away as Jesus bore the curse and identified Himself with the sins of the whole world. When Jesus actually died, He commended Himself back into the Father’s hands.”[2]

Nevertheless, neither of these interpretations is the position I take here.

First of all, we need to remember that, as Jesus hung on the cross, from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (cir. 3 PM) there was darkness all over the land (Luke 23:44). Given the time of year, we cannot account for such an event in the realm of nature. It wasn’t an eclipse, since the moon was full and on the opposite end of heaven than the sun. So, the darkness could only have occurred as a miracle from God, and it was stronger than the sun, because the light of the sun was hid from view.

It seems significant that once the darkness came upon the earth that it lasted only three hours. There is nothing to account for its coming nor, once it was established, to suddenly leave at the ninth hour, except for the fact that Jesus prayed, and God always hears Jesus’ prayers (John 11:42). Nothing is recorded of anything that may have been said or done during these three hours of darkness, but during the first three hours, from the third hour to the sixth (9 AM to 12 PM), everyone seemed to be mocking Jesus, yet he didn’t rebuke anyone. Everyone seemed to be saying God had forsaken Jesus, but during the darkness over all the land, the people seem to have been silent.

At the ninth hour Jesus broke the silence with the words everyone, including those crucified with him, had been concluding: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:33-34)?[3] These words begin the twenty-second Psalm. Jesus was praying at the final hour of prayer for the day, the ninth hour. Suddenly, just as it arrived, the darkness began to lift and the light of the sun began to shine once more. In effect, Jesus’ prayer pointed out to all who were there that God had not forsaken his Son (cf. 2Corinthians 5:19; 1Timothy 2:13), but, rather, God had heard Jesus’ prayer, even from the cursed tree upon which he hung (Luke 23:44; cf. Deuteronomy 21:23). The scene was so dramatic that some who stood by the cross tried to avert attention away from what Jesus had said. They deliberately misquoted him saying he called for Elijah and told the others to wait to see if Elijah would come to rescue him (Mark 14:35-36).

Moreover, Jesus knew God would answer his prayer, because he had always done so (John 11:42), and it would be quite unlike Jesus to lack confidence in his Father. Love never fails (1Corinthians 13:8), so it is ludicrous to believe the Father would ever fail his Son or that the Son would ever lack faith in his Father.


[1] See The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable

[2] John F. Walvoord, Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come; pp. 234-35.

[3] Earlier Jesus’ enemies also quoted the twenty-second Psalm to say God had forsaken him: “He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (Psalms 22:8); compare Matthew 27:43 “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.”

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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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