Did God Forsake Jesus on the Cross?

 

 “For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.” 

(Psalm16:10; NAS)

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

God gave me a revelation when I was in what appeared to be the greatest physical affliction, torment, and misery I imagined possible for one human being.  I did not realize that an even hotter furnace was about to be fired up, with me inside!  Just around the corner of life God would allow circumstances to test the reality of my newfound revelation.  It would be a real eye opener.  Isn’t that just the way He works?  First He gives us magnificent insight into the truth of His word, and then He requires us to live it out (often painfully!). 

 

 

In 1993 I was a healthy, muscular, energetic and highly motivated man.  Now, almost a decade and 12 surgeries later, my body is riddled with the throbbing ache of widespread osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and a host of other medical conditions.  I am confined indoors most of the time, and often feel as though life has dropped me off here, and is quickly passing me by.  Pain is not something I feel now and then, it is my daily moment-by-moment existence.

 

I am certain there will be even hotter furnaces I must endure in the future.  Like the three Hebrew children that Nebuchadnezzar threw into a fiery furnace, I trust and serve my Father in heaven regardless.  That is, whether the Lord delivers me from the enemies’ persecution, or whether He decides it is best for me to endure the pain, I will trust my King, understanding He always knows what is best for His children.  I know He is able to heal and deliver me from the daily agony of pain and suffering; however, whether he does or doesn’t heal, I will honor and love him faithfully:

 

 

I am certain that God has done the same for you as He did for me and for the three Hebrew children.  There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:9-11; Galatians 2:6).  Of course most of the body of Christ who will never experience the kind of torturous physical pain that Job and I have.  These may even feel a sense of guilt because their life has been relatively easy in comparison. 

 

Those who have witnessed but not experienced the type of crushing ordeal that I write about can sympathize deeply with those who have.  Often these maintain an attitude of praise and gratitude to their heavenly Father that their faith has not been tested to the same degree (1 Peter 4:12-13).

 

For my precious wife, the pain I suffer is more difficult to face.  Though she doesn’t suffer the physical torment, the agony of her soul is tremendous.  She must helplessly watch the one dearest to her heart deteriorate in spite of her pleading to God for my healing.  She must wrestle with emotions and feelings of guilt for being healthy while I can do little but groan.  I cannot imagine her suffering.

 

God tests each one of us as individuals, doing what is best for us, and never testing us beyond what we are able.  With each testing, the kind, tender and loving Father provides a way of escape.  Not an escape from the painful circumstances, but a way of escape.  Jesus is the way, and he gives us comfort and access to the Father’s throne grace.  This is the divine influence that calms and cheers our hearts (1 Cor. 10:13).

 

Whether your test comes in the form of a disabling disease, a crippling accident, the death of a loved one, a painful divorce, a teenage child gone astray, etc., the net result is a human experience filled with emotional, mental, physical and spiritual trauma.  The end product of our faith being tried and weathered through testing by God is basically the same.  He uses sorrow and suffering as the resource to carry out His desired finished creation…children of the Most High who are whole and complete in His son Jesus (James 1:2-4).

 

Pain is pain, whether it comes in the form of physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual pressure (or all of the aforementioned!).  When we suffer, our loving Father in heaven is closest, even though we cannot feel His presence, and though at times we think He has forsaken us.  It is important to remember that these are the times when our commitment to trust and obey Him is critical to our continued growth in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 2:9-18).

 

How can I make these assertions?  The answer to this question can only be found in the hearts and lives of those who have been broken, crushed, and crucified with Christ (1 Cor. 1:18-21).  These are the ones who truly understand the ways of the Almighty (Deuteronomy 8:1-6; Psalms 119:66-67).  Man’s ways, unlike those determined by God, are self-gratifying and reflect a behavior that avoids pain and loss (2 Chronicles 6:28-31; Job 21:14-16; 24:12-13). His ways are best, though usually perceived as unpleasant (Psalms 81:10-14; 119:37; Proverbs 14:12-14).  In other words, God’s ways are not “fun.”

 

 

 

Each individual person responds to distress, hardship and misery in a different manner.  When affliction comes, it varies in degree of intensity, and how each believer handles his or her difficulty is relative to their background, age, health, personality, mental capabilities, emotional stability or instability, past experience, knowledge of how to apply the truth contained in the scriptures, their past encounters with a particular church or so-called Christian ‘denomination’ (or undenominational), parental influence (good or bad), and so on.  

 

In most churches today ministers and pastors have a tendency to ignore and even distain the differences in the individual members of their congregation.  For example, if they preach a sermon on how to handle suffering, they might make broad, sweeping, blanket statements about suffering.  To reinforce their position, they quote pet verses of scripture.  It is as though they possess a mysterious formula to eliminate one’s affliction, “You must simply believe God’s word, and there will be victory!”

 

In fact, sadly the Bible is even used as a book from God to scold or make unreasonable demands for “faith” to those tormented by adversity.  The prosperity preachers contemptuously and arrogantly mock the Christian who patiently waits and watches, enduring the pain and adversity.

 

I watched one well-known name-it-and-claim it-minister on television.  His pockets lined with millions of dollars given by his misdirected followers.  During his broadcast, he poked fun at any Christian who professes the doctrine of sorrow and suffering, “I’m so sick and tired of these folks who say, ‘I’m just suffering for the sake of the cross, and trust that the Lord will help me to endure.’”

 

“Nonsense!” he continues, “God doesn’t want you to lie there and suffer!  He is good, and wants to bless you!  He wants to see you healed and financially blessed!” 

 

Ministers who tread on the misery of God’s children in this manner are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They are like the false prophets of old who spoke words to indulge others and sooth their selfish ears with a counterfeit gospel.

 

 

 

Jesus taught and exemplified the doctrine of suffering.  All who follow after him will have to deny themselves, and take up their cross.  To trivialize or deny the distress of walking in the Master’s footprints is dangerous, and will lead you to a fall.  Christians who entertain themselves with such self-serving teaching are like those in the parable whose hearts are rocky soil.

 

Mark 4:15-17 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.  Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  (NIV)

 

The parable of the rocky soil emphasizes the need to be prepared for trouble.  Those foolish hearts that are unequipped will lack the foresight necessary to carry them through the hard times.  They will most likely blame God and become bitter and cynical. 

 

 

 Job’s  Afflictions

 

 

Job understood suffering, and much can be learned from the words he recorded as his body was covered with painful sores.  Job’s loss was more than physical pain; everything and everyone he cherished had been taken from him. 

 

Scholars have been unable to establish the amount of time that elapsed during Job’s fiery ordeal.  From the context of the Book of Job, it appears his tribulation was of considerable length.  Unlike us, he did not enjoy the benefit of modern medical technology.  There were no hospitals, clinics, medical doctors, antibiotics, pain medicine and other things we take for granted today. 

 

Job couldn’t check himself into the nearest urgent care facility and present his HMO card to the receptionist.  There was no ambulance to transport him to the hospital as he was groaning in agony; his skin was covered with dark, pussy sores.  He couldn’t even buy salves or other skin care products at his local Wal-Mart store.  All he could do was endure the daily stabbing pain of raw boils pressing against the sensitive nerves in the subcutaneous layers of tissue covering his entire body. 

 

Job also had a physical condition that caused his skin to turn black, hanging like thin paper from his bony skeleton.  He had some type of bacterial or viral infection that caused him to burn with an incessant fever.  Eventually his skin became so infected that it actually rotted.  Soon maggots filled it, eating away the dead tissue like that of a corpse.  His breath had become foul and rancid, and offensive even to his own wife (Job 2:7; 7:5; 19:20; 30:30). 

 

The nighttime for Job was filled with sleepless dread as he anticipated the long, dark hours alone in his endless sufferings.  As sticky, bloody puss oozed from his sores and boils, perhaps only the dogs, that came instinctively to the foul odor of his rotting flesh, would comfort him by licking his crusty wounds.  We know this was the case with a man named Lazarus (Luke 16:21).  After many sleepless nights Job became delirious, his mind plagued by nightmares, adding psychological trauma to his widespread myofascial pain (Job 7:2-5).

 

By day, perhaps Job sat in the ashes of a fire that he had made to warm himself from the chilly cold of the night air.  Each day would involve a weak and feeble attempt to find some more fuel for that next night’s fire, since his house and property had been destroyed. 

 

It is possible that his so-called “comforters” brought him water and portions of food to eat, but this is only speculation.  Even this would cost him the price of their endless criticism and derision of him, for which they would later hear a harsh rebuke from the Almighty (Job 42:7-8).

 

Job was a righteous man, and he hated evil.  His physical suffering was not the result of living a sinful life, or turning from God.  Satan came before the Almighty seeking someone to devour, and God confronted him with a challenge.  That challenge was his servant Job, and as the narrative begins, these are Yahweh’s words to Satan concerning Job.

 

 

Any God-fearing Christian would love to hear these words spoken by their Creator about them, but how many people would want to endure the kind of suffering that Job did?  Endless days and nights of relentless pain is not what we expect from our God.  In fact, in America and other free nations, we pray that God will take away all of our pain and distress.  But Job understood that a true believer must expect adversity as well as good things from God.

 

 

Can you imagine losing your home, your children, and every earthly belonging, and then being stricken from head to toe with painful boils?  To add insult to his injury, Job’s wife chastised him for holding fast to his integrity.  I’m quite certain Job felt like it would be better to die than to live in this condition, but to have his own wife tell him he should, “Curse God” and then die seems unbelievable.

 

How would you reply if you were in similar circumstances?  I have experienced just a small taste of what Job suffered, and I was not as gallant with my words.  Unlike Job I sinned with my lips, and was angry with God for allowing me to be afflicted with one calamity or disease after another.  It took almost five years for me to stop the continual sinning with my lips, and accept the adversity that God had so lovingly given for my chastisement.  Those whom the Lord loves, He chastises.

 

 

It took a lot to bring me to the point of calling on the Lord in my distress…many years of sleepless nights, one medical condition or disease after another, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, emotional highs and lows of a body weakened and tortured with endless pain, hundreds of doctors appointments and tests, thousands of dollars in medical expenses, the loss of my career and ability to work, loneliness, confusion, anxiety, fear upon fear, concerns for the future, and so much more. 

 

Thankfully all that I have suffered I did not suffer alone.  My wife did not despise me as Job’s wife did.  Rather, her encouraging words, empathy, sympathy, thoughtfulness, compassion, love and tireless care renewed my hope and faith in God.

 

How I thank God that I have the words of Job inscribed for me to read and remind me of this precious truth, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”  I now realize that pain and suffering are humble reminders to lean upon my Friend and Father for strength and help in time of need.

 

In the beginning of my ordeal, I spoke as a great many foolish Christian do.  I still believed that I had the “right” to claim divine healing by faith (according to the scriptures).  Like most believers I felt I was ‘entitled’ to divine healing.

 

Chronic illness and pain caused me to realize that for years I had interpreted scripture verses about healing out of context.  It is easy to do, especially if you are not well studied in the scriptures.  Moreover, divine healing sounds so much more appealing than sickness, sorrow, pain and suffering.  After all, who wants to believe that a benevolent God would allow such a thing?

 

You can quote all the Bible verses that mention healing, and I can quote them too.  You can also say, “But God healed me, I know He did!”  Yes, perhaps He did heal you, and perhaps He did not.  Perhaps the human body designed by God healed itself without miraculous intervention.  Sometimes we over-spiritualize what is normal and natural because we want to feel that “God” did it all.

 

God IS intimately involved with your life.  At times He DOES heal people miraculously.  What is disturbing, particularly in the charismatic churches, is the emphasis on healing.  Many Bible teachers espouse the doctrine that physical healing is synonymous with salvation.  They confidently and repeatedly quote the last part of Isaiah 53:5, “And by His stripes we are healed!”

 

To further bolster the divine privilege of miraculous healing, N.T. scriptures are also quoted out of context.  For example, I have often heard pastors quote portions Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

 

This is not a Bible study on divine healing.  I am not trying to refute the fact that God can and sometimes does heal.  I am dispelling the misconception that miraculous healing is what every born-again Christian should expect.  I foolishly believed and taught this same teaching for 25 years until the day came that there was no divine intervention, there was no healing miracle.  It was not my lack of faith, nor a shortage of prayer…it was reality.

 

I believe that God has healed me in times past.  But with each season, there are different purposes for the way that God deals with His servants.  As we mature, God uses pain and affliction to purge us of the dross of pride, anger, arrogance, self-reliance and self-exaltation (READ Ecclesiastes 3:1-14).  The end of each matter is that we fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

 

If the scriptures are properly interpreted in context, using the historical setting in which they were written as a base, a person would be hard pressed to explain why God heals some of His children and allows others to suffer and die. 

 

For example, consider the millions of Christians in third world countries who suffer generations of famine, disease, persecution, imprisonment, and torture.  Is it their “lack of faith” that they are not healed?  Quite the contrary!  God’s word says that these are the ones who are rich in faith!

 

 

 

I have only come to one conclusion, and that is this: God does whatever He pleases, and it is best to cooperate with Him in His communication with you.  I know He can and does heal today; nevertheless in most cases He does not intervene or interfere with the normal healing mechanisms He designed within the human body.

 

Through the times of deepest despair that have past, and still await me, I can say like Job, “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me.”  (Job 19:25-27; NAS)

 

 

 

PART I - “When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.”
 
Job 9:11 NIV

 

 

 

 

“When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.”  These were Job’s words in the hottest aspect of his trial by fire.  Where was the faithful God whom he had served devotedly?  Job called, but the Almighty was silent.

 

Have you ever felt like Job did?  You are sorely tested, and the more you cry out to God, the more ‘out-of-reach’ He seems.  Then the doubting begins, especially if the fire blazes with intensity, and then smolders for a number of months, or even years.  Eventually the relentless and seemingly unending dredge makes you feel as though you are the object of God’s anger or wrath. 

 

Then, in your weariness and fatigue, you become disillusioned with God, and with your identity before Him, and with your faith, and with the Christian church.  Things that would normally appear clear and defined now seem muddled and confused, and you begin to lose all hope.  I know what I am saying, because I have experienced this kind of torment on many occasions.  I may face it again in the future.

 

 

What happens when, without warning, your children are taken away from you by the injustice of a flawed court system?  Later you discover an unscrupulous attorney has persuaded an unjust judge to award custody to your former spouse, a man or woman who has a history of abusing your children.  How do you act in response?  Has the Lord let you down?  Why doesn’t He hear your prayers?  Why does He allow this evil to continue?  Doesn’t He care?  Where is He?

 

To make matters worse, the stress then causes your health to be affected, and your body becomes riddled with pain and invaded by disease.  The strain of your situation and the mounting legal bills begin to take a toll on your finances.  Your marriage is strained to its limits.  Next you are forced to live month to month, never, in reality, confident that you will have a monthly income.  A person never knows how they will respond in a situation like this until they’re actually in it.

 

A high percentage of Christians who “claim” to have faith don’t.  True faith works only through love.  Without possessing the compassion and empathy forged only in God’s furnace, a person’s declaration of faith is a noisy gong, or a clanging symbol.  These are the untested, the proud, and the arrogant.  Yes, they are God’s children, but as yet they are still the brats of the family. 

 

 

 

At some point in life, all true believers will be purged and refined.  Their loving Father will eliminate the dross that prevents them from bonding with the pure gold found only in the character of His son Jesus.  Suffering produces the listening ear for the hurting heart, instead of the “miserable comforters” Job speaks of.

 

 

When you are in a ‘Job’ type trial, in reality, there is no human comfort that can penetrate the depths of your soul or satisfy your spirit’s longings.  There is no human wisdom that can clear the confusion in your mind.  Even God seems far-off when your human existence is a lesson in minute-by-minute, 24/7 agony. 

 

This is what Job felt as his misery wore on into weeks, then perhaps months, or even years.  At times, the One who had always been there when Job called in righteousness was now seemingly nowhere to be found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever noticed these verses in the Book of Job?  Be honest.  I didn’t notice them until AFTER I had been in the furnace of affliction for many years.  In fact, the entire discourse of Job was somewhat disconcerting to me before I was afflicted. 

 

 

Now I understand that the human being is mortal, and can only take so much pressure, so much torture, so much crushing, so much pain and suffering, so much sleeplessness, so much more, until he or she breaks, feeling completely alone…forsaken.

 

This is how Jesus felt as he hung on a tree, scourged and mocked, his bloodied and battered human frame screaming out with every movement, as shredded nerve endings torn by leather whips begged for an end to the agony.  The jagged edges of hundreds of splinters dug deep into his writhing body as he writhed and gasped for each breath upon the roughly hewn, bloodstained wood to which he was fastened by crude, dull and rusty pegs.

 

PART II - “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Psalms 22:1

 

Job is not the only man who felt God had forsaken him.  King David spoke of his own despair as his enemies surrounded him.  He felt God had left him alone to die at their hands.   However, as you read Psalms 22:1-24, you find that Yahweh did not abandon David, but was nearer to him than ever during the crisis.

 

The proof that David was not forsaken is found in Ps. 22:24, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” 

 

David’s circumstances caused him to feel hopeless and despondent.   Day and night he cried, but he heard no answer (22:2).  Nevertheless, as he looked back at the faithfulness of the Almighty, though the situation seemed dire, he would trust in his God (22:3-5).

 

Jesus’ crucifixion, and his utterance of the Psalmists’ words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” cause us to realize King David’s words were a prophecy of the death of the Messiah.  We can be certain of this because it is stated so in Acts 2:22-36, and because of the specifics mentioned in Psalms chapter 22 itself.

 

For example, in Psalms 22:18 we read of how the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Ps.22:18)  The same event is mentioned in the gospels, as in Luke 23:34:  

 

 

Another example of the prophetic utterance of the Psalmist is found in Ps. 22:7-8.  Here the people jeer and cast insults at David that compare to those cast at our Lord Jesus, ‘All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, “Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.” (Ps. 22:7-8)

 

The same insults were cast at Jesus as he suffered in agony upon the rugged, rough-hewn wood.  Pegged to the tree by the cruel Roman nails, the people stood and mocked him,

 

 

Just as David was “chosen” by God to rule as King over Israel, God the Father chose Jesus to rule as king over the earth.  However, Jesus would have to suffer first, and learn obedience by the things that he suffered before God would exalt him.

 

Hebrews 5:7-9 says that God heard Jesus’ prayers because of his “reverent submission.”  Why then would Jesus utter the same words as King David, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  This will be discussed in PART III. 

 

Now take the time to read Psalms 22:1-24 carefully, and think of each verse as being applicable to Jesus instead of to David. 

Psalm 22:1-24

1.         My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

2.         O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.

3.         Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4.         In Thee our fathers trusted; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.

5.         To Thee they cried out, and were delivered; in Thee they trusted, and were not disappointed.

6.         But I am a worm, and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised by the people.

7.         All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,

8.         "Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."

9.         Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts.

10.     Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb.

11.     Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

12.     Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.

13.     They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

14.     I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within me.

15.     My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.

16.     For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.

17.     I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;

18.     They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

19.     But Thou, O LORD, be not far off; O Thou my help, hasten to my assistance.

20.     Deliver my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog.

21.     Save me from the lion's mouth; and from the horns of the wild oxen Thou dost answer me.

22.     I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee.

23.     You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.

24.      For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.  (NAS)

 

We can rest assured of one thing.  If Yahweh did not abandon David in his time of affliction, most certainly He would never forsake His only begotten son. 

 

I have heard many a preacher state, “As Christ hung upon the tree, and became sin for us, the Father had to turn His back on His only begotten son, for He cannot look upon the darkness of sin.”  Have you ever heard a sermon preached in this manner?  There is not even one scripture to substantiate such a statement.  This is another one of the “traditions” of the Christian church that must be scrutinized, reproved and corrected by the written and inspired word of God. 

 

 

 

There is another Psalm written by David that is prophetic of Jesus’ death on the tree.  In it we find more proof that God did not abandon Jesus at ANY time, especially his death and suffering on Calvary.

 

 

Is this psalm speaking of Jesus?  The New Testament affirms that it is, particularly the portion speaking his bones remaining unbroken at the crucifixion.  Most importantly however is the statement, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,” and again, “…and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”

 

 

Do you see it now?  God did not forsake Jesus on the cross.  Instead, the Father was “near” to him, and would never allow His beloved Jesus to be condemned, especially by ungodly men and the devil.

PART III – Did the Father Forsake Jesus?

The needle-sharp thorns had scraped against the capillaries, nerve endings, and shallow muscles of his scalp, scouring his bony skull as the soldiers pressed the crown upon Jesus’ head.  His thick hair provided no protection from the jagged barbs that now were gouging his temporal tendons; rather, the matted strands insured that this crude instrument of torture would remain upon his head until he drew his last breath.

 

The crowds of people jeered and mocked as the leaders of the Jews whipped them into a demonic frenzy, “Crucify, crucify!”  Inflamed by their words of hate and jealousy, the multitudes seethed with distain for this man whom Pilate had marked as, ‘King of the Jews.’

 

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”  In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.  “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!  He’s the King of Israel!  Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  (Matt 27:39-43; NIV)

 

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.”  And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink.  But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.”  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” And having said this, He breathed His last, and yielded up His spirit.  (NAS; Matt 27:45-50 with Luke 23:46 grafted in for continuity) 

 

As we read the narrative above, two things become evident.  First, as Jesus felt a guilt that he had never experienced, and that made him feel separated from the loving presence of his Father God.  Can you imagine what this was like for him? 

 

During his entire adult life, Jesus had an intimate and vibrant relationship with God as his Father.  His Father had spoken to him audibly, and had instructed his mind and heart continually.  Suddenly, without warning, and while suffering the agony and fatigue of crucifixion, Jesus could no longer feel that wonderful heavenly Presence.  No wonder he felt forsaken!

 

Why would God the Father allow His beloved son Jesus to feel the abandonment?  It was for our sake, that through faith in him, we might experience the righteousness of God.  It was also the ultimate test of his willingness to obey God, regardless of his feelings and circumstances.

 

 

The Greek scriptures give a much better understanding of what 2 Cor. 5:21 means, and what agony Jesus must have suffered at the moment he cried out, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Below is an expanded and amplified version of 2 Cor. 5:21:

 

 

While we often focus on how Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins, in reality what he legally paid for through his willing sacrifice was the guilt for sin.  After all, Jesus himself could not gain or receive the, “accomplishment (in reality) of an offense in relation to God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 see above)  This was foreign to him, and he never accomplished such an act. 

 

Thus his experience upon the tree at Calvary was as a ransom price, offered by his Father God for the sin of mankind, with particular emphasis on the guilt, as opposed to each individual act of sin.

 

In other words, Jesus did not die for our every act of personal sin, for that would be impossible.  How could he die for a transgression that was yet to happen at a future time?  Rather, his one-time offering of himself was an act of obedience, and the means by which His Father would acquit those who trust in and rely upon him. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The righteous requirements of God to be released from the penalty of individual sin (guilt, shame & condemnation) were (not necessarily in this order):

 

1)      Faith in Him and a diligence to seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)

2)      Trust and reliance upon the ransom already purchased at Calvary with the precious blood of His only begotten son Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

3)      Repentance with an acknowledgment of the wrong with a commitment to change one’s thoughts and actions (Acts 26:20; 2 Cor. 7:9-11).

4)      An open and heartfelt confession of the iniquity committed (Romans 10:8-10; 1 John 1:6-10).

5)      Reconciliation with any other person (s) who were adversely affected by one’s transgression (Matthew 5:21-24).

 

The second, and most important thing we learn from Jesus’ experience on the cross is his utter reliance upon, and commitment to trust in God.  Though he felt utterly forsaken, with his last breath of life Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”  What an example for us.  When we feel utterly abandon and forsaken by God, we too should commit our spirit into His loving hands.

 

CONCLUSION

Further scriptures to reflect upon…Selah.

Psalm 16:8-11

1.         I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

2.         Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.

3.         For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.

4.         Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.  (NAS)

Acts 2:22-36

22.     "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know--

23.     this Man  delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

24.     "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

25.     "For David says of Him, 'I was always beholding the Lord in my presence; for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.

26.     'Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope;

27.     Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.

28.     'Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.'

29.     "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

30.     "And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne,

31.     he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

32.     "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

33.     "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

34.     "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand,

35.     Until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet."'

36.     "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-- this Jesus whom you crucified."  (NAS)

Psalm 31:1-24

1.         In Thee, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Thy righteousness deliver me.

2.         Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly; be Thou to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me.

3.         For Thou art my rock and my fortress; for Thy name's sake Thou wilt lead me and guide me.

4.         Thou wilt pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me; for Thou art my strength.

5.         Into Thy hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.

6.         I hate those who regard vain idols; but I trust in the LORD.

7.         I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindness, because Thou hast seen my affliction; Thou hast known the troubles of my soul,

8.         And Thou hast not given me over into the hand of the enemy; Thou hast set my feet in a large place.

9.         Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.

10.     For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; My strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.

11.     Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.

12.     I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind, I am like a broken vessel.

13.     For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.

14.     But as for me, I trust in Thee, O LORD, I say, "Thou art my God."

15.     My times are in Thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.

16.     Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant; save me in Thy lovingkindness.

17.     Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon Thee; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol.

18.     Let the lying lips be dumb, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.

19.     How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge in Thee, before the sons of men!

20.     Thou dost hide them in the secret place of Thy presence from the conspiracies of man; Thou dost keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.

21.     Blessed be the LORD, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.

22.     As for me, I said in my alarm, "I am cut off from before Thine eyes"; nevertheless Thou didst hear the voice of my supplications when I cried to Thee.

23.     O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful, and fully recompenses the proud doer.

24.     Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD. (NAS)

Psalm 142:1-7

1.         I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.

2.         I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.

3.         When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.

4.         Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.

5.         I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."

6.         Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.

7.         Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.  (NIV)



 

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