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?
Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as making the statement,
. . . Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (NASB) Mark 15:34
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.
Who Is 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. (NASB) 1 Timothy 2:5
Many Christians have struggled with this verse because they know that Jesus was God. What we must remember is that Jesus was both man and God. Listen to Romans 1:1,
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, (NASB) Romans 1:1-4
Notice the passage says Jesus was “born according to the flesh.” Each of us who is alive today has a mother and is made of human flesh and blood. This passage also says that Jesus was the “Son of God.” This expression simply means Jesus was God. Listen to John 10:31-36.
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‘? (NASB) John 10:31-36
Jesus HAD to be both man and God. Jesus would not have died a physical death unless He was a man. He couldn’t have lived a perfect, sinless life unless He was God. He was the perfect lamb of God who by a perfect life and death has taken away our sin. He had to be God to be perfect – God cannot sin (Heb. 4:15).
The Solid Roots study entitled “Jesus Our Savior” discusses this last point in depth. I would encourage you to read and study the lesson.
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 EGKATALEIPO which means to “leave, abandon, or leave behind.” So why and how could God the Father leave Christ? Our first question is, “Can God leave God?” The answer is no. God cannot leave Himself. Jesus did not mean that God had abandoned or deserted God. (We know that Jesus is God.)
We believe Jesus was referring to His sense of 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 . . . (NASB) Isaiah 59:2
At the momemt the sin of the world was placed on Christ (Isa 53:5), God turned away from Christ. The full impact of this abandonment was realized in astonishing disbelief by Jesus because He was also a man. Because Jesus was the God-man, the impact of the break in the close fellowship with the Father was an anguishing heart break. As God, Jesus’ heart broke, and as man He must have been bewildered.
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. (NASB) Leviticus 15:21-22
Is this what happened to Christ? I believe this scapegoat was a symbol of Jesus. Not only were the sins of the world placed on Jesus, but Jesus with our sins was separated from God – God in some sense distanced Himself from the God-man Jesus Christ.