When Jesus was suffering on the cross for the sins of man and receiving the full wrath of God, he uttered the most tragic lines in the history of Christianity:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Mark 15:34
This is a question that only Jesus Christ had the right to ask God the Father. These words of Jesus meant that there was a true and legitimate separation between God the Son and God the Father. A truth that can be very difficult to grasp despite the clarity from the Scriptures. All throughout Church history, the death of Christ was not spared from being confronted by false teachings. There have been some heresies that plagued the church and one of them is the belief that Jesus is neither man nor divine.
Belief in this false teaching would imply that the death of Christ cannot pay the penalty of sin, defeat the power of sin and weaken the presence of sin. Christ’s death on the cross is central to the Christian faith because if there was no death, then there is no resurrection. If the death and sacrifice of Christ is not divine then our faith is futile just as what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:16-18.
1 Corinthians 15:16-18
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
Thankfully, the death and resurrection of Christ is real. But if one would believe and uphold the death of Christ on the cross, it is inevitable to also embrace the truth that God the Father had forsaken Jesus Christ. Now the question we must answer is:
How can a good and loving God forsake His one and only Son?
The Love of God
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit experienced perfect and absolute unity in the eternity past (that is, the portion of eternity before the creation of the world and everything in it). This is a truth that no man can fully explain but every man can partially understand. Before the existence of everything and everyone, the Godhead remained together until the death of Jesus on the Cross. Just as the death of Jesus marked the division of the years before Christ and “in the year of our Lord”, it also marked a time in history where the most unimaginable event happened: God the Father forsook His only Son, Jesus Christ.
The most common and biblical answer to this question is: Because of God’s perfect love. God loved the world so much that He was willing to send His own Son to die on the cross for the sins of mankind (John 3:16). The Apostle Paul wrote about it as well:
“ …nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Apostle Paul knew how deep God’s love is. It was so deep that Paul said that you can enumerate all the things that can potentially separate us from God’s love only to realize that none of them can truly separate us from the love God. But the same love is what separated Jesus from God. The love that motivated Jesus to bear our sins was the same love that allowed the separation between Him and His Father.
Sadly, many false teachers have attempted to distort this wonderful truth in different ways that make it sound like people can put their faith in Christ and still maintain their relationship with sin. A reason why it is important to look into the other biblical reason why God forsook Jesus Christ.
The Holiness of God
The holiness of God is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. It teaches that there is no one like God (Exodus 8:10) and that no one in all creation can ever be compared to Him (Psalm 89:6). One of the greatest expressions of God’s Holiness is His hatred towards sin. God’s justice demands a sacrifice for the sins that have been and will be committed by man. A demand that only Jesus could meet.
When Jesus was crucified, He satisfied God’s demand for justice by bearing the divine wrath towards sins. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus is fully man and fully God and is therefore, perfectly sinless and blameless. A criteria that makes him the only rightful sacrifice for the sins of mankind despite his absolute moral perfection. Since the sinfulness of man was attributed to Christ as He hung on the cross, the holiness of God is what caused HIm to forsake His own beloved Son.
The Acceptance of Man
Ever since the fall, God has been unveiling his redemptive plan to His own people until it was fully realized in Christ. This redemptive plan has a steep cost and it is the blood of Jesus Christ just as the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 1:18-20:
“18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot …”
The sacrifice of Jesus is what made mankind’s acceptance possible. Since all have been radically corrupted by sin, all need a radical sacrifice to cleanse everyone from their sins and make them holy to be accepted by God. For God to just accept sinners without paying the price and meeting His holy standard, is injustice and inconsistent with His divine nature. This acceptance is what motivated God to forsake Jesus on the Cross. He knew that in order for sinful people to come to His Kingdom permanently, He must forsake His own son temporarily.
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