Today’s reading is found in Matthew 27:46, “My God why have you forsaken me?” This cry has puzzled many. Jesus is actually quoting the opening line of Psalm 22 and using it to express His deep agony on the cross. He was suffering the penalty for our sin, in our place. Every sermon I have ever heard on this cry of Jesus has usually gone something like this, “This is a hard thing to understand but God did forsake Jesus. He turned His back on Him because He cannot look at sin and sin separates us from God.” It almost makes sense, except that God says in Hebrews 13:5 that He would never forsake us. God did not leave Jesus on the cross, but when the sins of the world came upon Him it felt like God had forsaken Him. Sin does separate us from God. It blinds us, makes it hard to see God and brings confusion, but God does not forsake us when we sin
When God’s people were being punished in exile they complained and said, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me,” God replied, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. I have tattooed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:14-15).
When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden. They went and hid. God came searching for them. He did not forsake them. Their sin drove them from God as it still does to us today. Our sin does not cause God to forsake us or turn His back on us. When God said He would never leave us or forsake us, did He really mean to say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you ONLY if you are good?” or “I will never leave you as long as you do what I say?” That does not have much power, as a matter of fact, I can say that and I am not God! “If you are good to me I will be good to you.” This does not mean much to anyone, but if He is saying, “I will NEVER leave you, no matter what you do, I won’t ever leave you. I will always be there” Now that is something powerful. Now that is something very different. That is something I could never say. I might be able to put up with rejection for a while but at some point I am going to reject that person. At some point I am going to give up and forsake that person.
God DID NOT leave Jesus on the cross. In 2 Corinthians 5:19 we read, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” God the Father DID NOT forsake Jesus on the cross. As all the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, the guilt of sin was placed on Him as well. It was this guilt that was placed on Him that made Him feel like God left Him. But God did not leave Him in His darkest hour, just like He would never leave us in our darkest hour. It may feel like it but He is always with us. God did not ‘turn His back” or “look the other way.” God did not separate Himself from Jesus on the cross. It is just that it felt that way. To Jesus it felt like He was alone and that God was far from Him. This is what sin does. It messes with your mind. Sin makes you think crazy thoughts. Sin makes you act like a fool.
It would have been nice if God gave us an answer. Like, if He just spoke out of heaven and said something to Jesus, but He did not. Yet in Psalm 22 we do have God’s answer. Just like David felt that God had forsaken him in Psalm 22, Jesus felt like God had forsaken Him, but in fact God did not forsake Him. The gospels don’t record an answer to Jesus question, but Psalm 22 does. In response to the first verse where the psalmist cries out the prophetic words, “Why have you forsaken me?” there is an answer found in verse 24. Here is the answer to the question of Jesus, the question of the psalmist and the question of every person who has ever felt abandoned by the Father: “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.” God did not hide His face from Jesus, nor did He turn His back on Him, when He needed Him most.
What makes God so very different is this whole idea of Him never forsaking us, no matter what! If God forsook Jesus on the cross because He became sin, what will God do when you and I sin? He would have to turn His face away from our sin, and from us, but that is not how our heavenly Father is, nor what He does. This does not mean you won’t ever get punished for you sins. You will. This does not mean if you forsake God and live a life of sin you will not go to Hell. You WILL. This means that He will never forsake you! You can forsake Him if you choose. But He will never forsake you once you have opened your heart to receive His Holy Spirit. If you have not opened your heart you are already separated from Him. But God is reaching out to you today, open your heart. Let Him in and He will never leave you or forsake you.