Why have you forsaken me?

How much does God love us? The Apostle Paul tells us that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for fallen human beings.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
On this special day of Good Friday we make time to remember Jesus Christ dying on the cross. We give thanks to God that “Christ loved us and gave up His life for us.” (Ephesians 5:2).
We sometimes try to imagine what it was like for Jesus to die for our sins. The shame of the death of a common criminal. The physical pain. The experiences of rejection. The guilt of sin. And then death, separation from God who is the source of all life. God loves us so much!
But what was the role of God the Father at Calvary? Jesus gave Himself up – but we must not forget that the Father also had to give Him up and hand Him over. “God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” “Because of our sins Christ was handed over to die.” (Romans 8:32, 4:25)
We find this word which means “hand over” and “give over” and “give up” more than a hundred times in the New Testament. We read that the Jewish leaders handed Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. But this same word can also sometimes mean “betrayed.” In Gethsemane Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinful men. Here is the man who is betraying me.” (Matthew 26:21-22, 45-46). Judas hands over Jesus – and the Father hands over the Son to die in just the same way.
Jesus was rejected by His own people as a blasphemer. He was condemned by the Romans as a dangerous rebel. He was deserted by His closest friends. But more important than all these rejections, on the cross God the Son felt the full reality of being abandoned by God the Father. Mark’s Gospel chapter 15 verse 34 records Jesus’s cry of dereliction from the cross. “My God, my God, why did You abandon me?” (Mark 15:34) Why have you forsaken me?
Here is an experience of complete rejection. These were not just feelings of apparent desertion, but the reality of total abandonment. The Son had come to reveal God as the heavenly Father. Jesus had shocked traditional Judaism by daring to teach His disciples to address God as Abba, Daddy. But on the cross for the first time in His life Jesus cannot pray “My Father” but only “My God”. Why have you deserted me? Why have you forsaken me? Why have you abandoned me? Why have you handed me over? Given me up? Betrayed me? WHY have you forsaken me? How those words would have pierced the Father heart of God!
These words as Jesus was on the point of death give us a glimpse into eternal realities. As Jesus was suffering on the cross something very profound was happening deep within God Himself. Martin Luther put it this way. “Christ saw Himself as lost, as forsaken by God, felt in His conscience that He was cursed by God, suffered the torments of the damned who feel God’s eternal wrath, shrink from it and flee.”
In his book “The Crucified God” the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann explains the cross this way. “It was a deep division in God Himself, insofar as God abandoned God and contradicted Himself. The Son suffers in His love being forsaken by the Father as He dies. The Father suffers in His love the grief of the death of the Son.”
So the cross of Christ was just as hard, just as painful, just as heart-breaking for the loving Father as it was for the obedient Son. Any father would suffer handing his son over to such agony and desolation. God the Father was not an aloof spectator at Calvary. The Father was looking on with grief and tears that the world could only be reconciled and redeemed at the inestimable cost of alienation from His only beloved Son.
Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me!
My debt he pays and my death He dies, that I might live!
The sacrifice of the omnipotent Father is as great as the sacrifice of the helpless Son. God’s deity is divided! The Holy Trinity, God eternally three-in-One, is split apart by OUR sin as Christ the Son shares our rebellion and experiences our separation from God the Father!
“Christ was without sin, but God made Him to BE sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
We rejected God! God never rejected us. Proud, selfish and self-centred human beings have abandoned God! Ignored his laws. Refused him the worship of which He is worthy. All we deserve is to be rejected by God. But in place of rejecting us – God the Father rejects his one and only Son. The Son who was one with the Father from eternity, before space and time were created. The Son who from the very moment of his human birth lived in unbroken fellowship with God. The Son who was always the delight of God’s heart. There was absolutely nothing in the Son to cause the Father to turn His back on Him. Yet there on the cross that is what happens. The Son of God is hung up to die, forsaken, abandoned, rejected.
Again Moltmann helps us to understand. “The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God His Father. Jesus humbles Himself and takes upon Himself the eternal death of the Godless and the Godforsaken, so that the Godless and the Godforsaken can experience communion with Him.”
“My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” “Why have you abandoned me?” THAT is how much it cost God to bring us back from hell! THAT is how much God loves you and me! Give thanks as we remember just how much it cost Jesus to die for us. Bow down and worship – for this is your God.

This entry was posted in Easter.

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