Bible Question:

When Jesus was on the cross He said, “Father why have you forsaken me? ” What is he exactly saying? I know this is when he became sin for us but I can't really understand it. Did the Father turn His back or what?

Bible Answer:

Both Matthew 27:45 and Mark 15:33 tells us that as Jesus was hanging on the cross darkness covered the land. Then Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as asking, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

. . . Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34 (NASB)

What did Jesus mean? That is our question. The answer to this question will be divided into two parts: “Who is Jesus?” and then why did Jesus ask, “Why have you forsaken me?” But we must first understand who Jesus is.

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Who Was Jesus?

The cults often like to show the following verse to a Christian to prove that Jesus was a man,

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5  (NASB)

Many Christians have struggled with this verse because they know that Jesus was God. The verse seems to teach that Jesus was only a man, but we know Jesus was both man and God. Listen to Romans 1:1-4,

Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 1:1-4 (NASB)

Notice the passage says Jesus was “born according to the flesh.” That is, He became a man with flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14). This passage also says that Jesus was the “Son of God.” This expression simply means Jesus was God. John 10:31-36 states . . .

The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” Jesus answered them, ” . . . do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God‘?  John 10:31-36 (NASB)

Jesus had to be both man and God. Jesus would not have died a physical death unless He was a man with flesh and blood. He could not have lived a perfect, sinless life unless He was God (Hebrews 4:15). He was the perfect, holy Lamb of God who physically died in order to forgive our sins.

Why Did Jesus Say This?

When Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was clearly implying that He felt separated from God the Father. The Greek word for “forsaksen” is enkataleipo which means to “to leave, to abandon, or to leave behind.” In what sense did God the Father leave Christ? We believe Jesus was referring to separation from the Father. Isaiah 59:2 communicates to us an important fact about God,

. . . your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you . . . Isaiah 59:2 (NASB)

If we combine Isaiah 59:2 with 1 Peter 2:24 which states that Christ bore our sins in His body, we have a picture of what happened on the cross.

. . .and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)

All the sins of the world were placed on Christ. Our sinless Christ became sin. He took our sins upon Himself.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)

1 Peter 3:18 states that the just died for the unjust. The righteous died for the unrighteous.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. . .  1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)

Jesus personally took our punishment or vicariously atoned for our sins in the darkness of that Friday afternoon on the cross. When that happened, God the Father turned away from Christ. The full impact of this abandonment was realized by the man, Jesus Christ, resulting in anguished cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Conclusion:

There is a great Old Testament example of what happened to our sins and in a figurative way to Christ on the cross. It is found in Leviticus 16:5-28. It is about a scapegoat,

Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. “And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.  Leviticus 16:21-22 (NASB)

Is this what happened to Christ? I believe this scapegoat was a type of Jesus. Not only were the sins of the world placed on Jesus, but Jesus, with our sins, was separated from God. God the Father in some sense distanced Himself from the God-man Jesus Christ.

Suggested Links:

Searching For God
Why did God let His son suffer and die?
Do I have to believe that Jesus is God to be saved?
Must we confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth to be saved?
Were the sins of the world placed on Jesus or in Him at death?
What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins?
Is salvation by grace through faith alone?