“MY GOD, MY GOD WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME”
In another blog, we looked at this question: When Jesus cried out on the cross “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me, ”WAS there a separation in the Godhead? To properly answer that question, we looked in detail at the following essentials of the Christianity faith:
1. The nature of God
2. The person of Christ 3. The doctrine of The Trinity. In that other BLOG, we stated that having a good understanding of the essentials of the Christian faith is crucial in determining was there a separation in the Godhead. We also stated that having a good understanding about the nature and character of the Tri-une God. is the quintessential essential. Whenever we attempt to interpret a scripture or listen to an interpretation by a bible expositor, we should make sure that the interpretation does not contradict the essentials of the Christian faith. If the interpretation contradicts the essentials, we should immediately reject that interpretation. Therefore, the essentials are like a protective shield around us and inside that protective shield we will: 1. use biblical exegeses (interpretation of scripture based on a careful, objective analysis) as opposed to biblical eisegesis (interpretation of scripture based on a subjective, non-analytical reading). 2. find that our views will stay within the pale or orthodoxy. 3. be able to instantaneously rule out an interpretation that violates the essentials of the Christian faith. 4. be able to instantaneously rule out what a scripture doesn’t mean even if we don’t immediately understand what a scripture means. 5. be able to keep out heretical views Let us now look into some possible answers to the question of what Jesus meant when He cried out on the cross “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me”. Did God literally and actually forsake His son? 1. From Barnes Notes: My God, my God, etc. is one denoting intense suffering. It has been difficult to understand in what sense Jesus was forsaken by God. However, it is certain that: a. God approved his work. b. Jesus was innocent. c. He had done nothing to forfeit the favor of God d. As his own Son: holy, harmless, undefiled, and In none of these senses could God have forsaken Jesus but the expression was probably used in reference to the following circumstances: 1) His great bodily sufferings on the cross greatly aggravated by: His previous scourging and the want of sympathy from the reviling of his enemies on the cross. A person suffering these things might address God as if he was forsaken, or given up to extreme anguish. 2) In Luke 22:53, Christ said that this was “the power of darkness,” the time when his enemies, including the Jews and Satan, were suffered to do their utmost. 3) In Gen. 3:15, the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman, which is commonly understood to mean that though the Messiah should finally crush and destroy the power of Satan, yet he should himself suffer through the power of the devil. In Luke 4:1, when he was tempted, it was said that the tempter “departed from him for a season.” Maybe he was permitted to return at the time of Jesus’ death to increase Jesus’ sufferings. 4) There might have been withheld from the Savior those strong religious consolations; those clear views of the justice and goodness of God, which would have blunted his pains, and soothed his agonies. 5) Yet, we have reason to think that there was still something more than all this that produced this exclamation. Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus used such a remarkable expression. These are additional verses that relates to the extreme sufferings that Jesus experienced as the GodMan: a) Per Isa 53:4,5 – “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; etc… b) Per Gal. 3:13 – he was made a sin-offering, c) Per 2 Cor 5:21 – he died in our place, etc… Let us look at the parallel verses of “My God why, etc.” located in Psalm 22 A. Verse 22:1 -My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, etc. 1) My God, my God. These are the very words uttered by the Savior when on the cross (Matt, xxvii. 46); and He evidently used them as best adapted of all the words that could have been chosen to express the extremity of his sorrow. The fact that he employed them may he referred to as some evidence that the psalm was designed to refer to Him. 2) These words come from the midst of suffering—from one enduring intense agony—as if a new form of sorrow suddenly came upon him which he was unable to endure. That new form of suffering was the feeling that now he was forsaken by the last friend of the wretched,-- God himself. 3) All other forms of suffering he could bear. All others he had borne. But this crushes him; overpowers him; is beyond all that the soul can sustain, — It is to be observed, however, that the sufferer himself still has confidence in God because He addresses Him as His God, though He seems to have forsaken him, 4) “My God; My God”. - This refers to those dreadful moments on the cross when, forsaken bymen, he seemed also to be forsaken of God himself. God did not interpose to rescue him, but left him to bear those dreadful agonies alone. He bore the burden of the world’s atonement by himself. He was overwhelmed with grief, and crushed with pain; for the sins of the world, as well as the agonies of the cross, had come upon him. But there was evidently more than this; what more we are unable fully to understand! There was a higher sense in which he was forsaken of God; there is evidently some sense in which it was true that the dying Savior was given up to darkness—to mental trouble, to despair, as if He who is the last hope of the suffering and the dying— the Father of mercies — had withdrawn from him. B. Verse 22:24 –For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. Neither hath he hid his face from him; But when he cried unto him, he heard. (1) For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted -
this expresses the belief that his prayer had been heard. The fact that he had been thus heard is here assigned to be the ground or reason for the exhortation in the previous verse, addressed to all the pious. The Lord had heard his prayer, and this was a reason why others should also confide in the Lord, and feel assured that he would likewise hear their prayers. (2) Neither hath he hid his face from him. That is, permanently, constantly, finally, completely.’ He has not wholly abandoned me, but though he seemed to forsake me, it was for a time only; and his friendship has not been ultimately and forever withdrawn. It was indeed the foundation of all the petitions in this psalm that the Lord had hid his face from the sufferer (ver. 1); but, from this verse, it seems that it was only for a time. That which he passed through was a temporary darkness, succeeded by the clear manifestations of the Divine favour. The Lord heard his prayer; the Lord showed that he had not utterly forsaken him. But when he cried, unto him, he heard. Showing that now he had the evidence and the assurance that his prayer had been heard. (3) As applicable to the Redeemer on the cross, it means that though the darkness seemed to continue till death, yet it was not an utter forsaking.
His prayer was heard; his work was accepted; the great object for which he came into the world would be accomplished; he himself would rise triumphantly from his sufferings; and the cause which he came to establish, and for which he died, would finally prevail in the world. This is from Hank Hanegraaff: (1) As Archibald Hodge clearly points out in his work on the Atonement, the doctrine of the cross is the central truth of the Christian message. Our conception of the Atonement necessarily affects our conceptions of all other basic doctrines — everything from the person of Christ and the moral attributes of God to the place of faith and “hence the entire character of our religious experience.” (2) And, although the Lord has graciously revealed to us certain things about the Atonement in His word, there is still a great deal regarding the details of Christ’s work that is not explained. As H.D. McDonald writes in Jesus: Human and Divine: Metaphor after metaphor is used to give some understanding of what Christ wrought in the cross. The feeling comes to us that there is more in the cross than can ever be put into words. (3) a. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” – Mathew 27:36a. Here, at what may well be the height of agony for the Lord Jesus, we would do well to proceed with great care. The ground on which we walk, so to speak, as we examine these words of the Savior is indeed holy. It is most likely that no man will ever fathom what was truly involved in this cry and, in analyzing it, we need to be very careful about undue speculation and theorizing, or we will soon find ourselves beyond the truth of Scripture. b. It is of great importance to note that this passage is not didactic (intended for instruction) but narrative; that is, this verse in Matthew is not specific teaching about Christ’s atoning work but is rather a record of what transpired before the eyes of witnesses. Caution is needed because, although we have a record of what Christ said, what He meant by these words is open to question. c. There are some that indicate that these words of Christ meant that He who was God the Son was severed from God the Father and, as a result of that separation, ceased to be God and became a mere man.
d. It is evident that even at His death, Christ was the Lamb “unblemished and spotless” (I Peter 1:18, 19), the Just One (I Peter 3:18), and the very Lord of Glory Himself crucified for the sins of men (I Corinthians 2:8). In fact, Paul declares that it was indeed God who purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28), thus clearly undermining the teaching that Christ was less than God when He offered Himself as a ransom for many. e. If, indeed, there was no change in the nature of the Son (and, therefore, no dissolution of the union in nature shared by the Son and the Father), in what way are Christ’s words of desolation true? How is it that He cries out from the cross that He is “forsaken”? f. Theologian Francis Turrettin offered these words that underscore Christ’s union with God the Father while touching on His “forsakeness”: With a voice of deepest sadness, He complained that he was forsaken by God the Father, though not by a dissolution of the union, nor by withdrawing a participation of holiness, nor by withholding his supporting power, yet by withholding from Him the beatific (bringing or expressing the perfect happiness and inner peace supposed to be enjoyed by the soul in heaven) vision, by suspending the sense and fruition of full felicity (happiness or contentment). Turrettin is saying that Jesus’ fellowship with the Father changed and, for that moment, He no longer enjoyed the full, joyful fellowship that He had enjoyed for eternity past. As previously shown, Christ became the legal substitute for sinners, receiving in His own person the punishment that was due them. As the wrath and judgment of God were unleashed on the Son, the Father could not share the fellowship with Him that they had so long enjoyed. The Son was treated as if He were a sinner, because he was standing in our place. This, however, does not necessitate a change in His nature or that He was essentially severed from God: g. T.J. Crawford explains: In order to give its just meaning to His language, we can hardly suppose less than that, amidst His other
sufferings, the sensible joys and consolations of His Father’s fellowship and countenance were withheld from Him. Nor is it any very difficult matter to conceive that even in the case of the beloved Son of God some such spiritual privation may have been endured. For it is not beyond the bounds of human experience that the favor and love of God should actually be possessed, while no support and encouragement are being derived from them. Although it be an unquestionable truth that “the Lord will never leave nor forsake His people,” and that “nothing can ever separate them from His love,” yet there are times in the history of His most devoted servants, in which we find them bitterly deploring that the light of His gracious countenance is hidden from the May we not say, then, that this was the main source of the Savior’s lamentation on the cross? It certainly appears to be the kind of affliction in which His words most naturally and obviously suggest. h. Therefore, there is no need for asserting that Christ’s nature changed, or that His ontological union with the Father was severed on the basis of His words from the cross. As many Christians can attest, even those times when they are not fully experiencing the blessings of fellowship with the Father, the truth of their relationship with Him remains constant; such was the case with Christ.I. Now, let it be made clear that this hardly implies that the Lord Jesus’ suffering was bodily only. In bearing the penalty of our sins He suffered in body and spirit. Obviously, such suffering had impact on Him as a total being. But, there is no basis for insisting that such suffering altered His very nature. Conclusion: In trying to understand scriptures like the one before us (My God, my God why have thou forsaken me) uttered by Jesus on the cross, we must not contradict the quintessential essentials (the Character, Nature and attributes of God the Father and God the Son) of the Christian faith. We should take heed to the following statements by these scholars: A: Archibald Hodge - Here, at what may well be the height of agony for the Lord Jesus, we would do well to proceed with great care. The ground on which we walk, so to speak, as we examine these words of the Savior is indeed holy. It is most likely that no man will ever fathom what was truly involved in this cry and, in analyzing it, we need to be very careful about undue speculation and theorizing, or we will soon find ourselves beyond the truth of Scripture. B: Francis Turrettin - offered these words that underscore Christ’s union with God the Father while touching on His “forsakeness”: With a voice of deepest sadness, He complained that he was forsaken by God the Father, though not by a dissolution of the union, nor by withdrawing a participation of holiness, nor by withholding his supporting power, yet by withholding from Him the beatific (bringing or expressing the perfect happiness and inner peace supposed to be enjoyed by the soul in heaven) vision, by suspending the sense and fruition of full felicity (happiness or contentment). C. T.J. Crawford - Therefore, there is no need for asserting that Christ’s nature changed, or that His ontological union with the Father was severed on the basis of His words from the cross. As many Christians can attest, even those times when they are not fully experiencing the blessings of fellowship with the Father, the truth of their relationship with Him remains constant; such was the case with Christ. D. Albert Barnes - “My God; My God”. This refers to those dreadful moments on the cross when, forsaken by men, he seemed also to be forsaken of God himself. God did not interpose to rescue him, but left him to bear those dreadful agonies alone. He bore the burden of the world’s atonement by himself. He was overwhelmed with grief, and crushed with pain; for the sins of the world, as well as the agonies of the cross, had come upon him. But there was evidently more than this; what more we are unable fully to understand! There was a higher sense in which he was forsaken of God; there is evidently some sense in which it was true that the dying Savior was given up to darkness—to mental trouble, to despair, as if He who is the last hope of the suffering and the dying—the Father of mercies — had withdrawn from him. As we see, God the Father could not in a literal wooden sense forsake or be (severed) from God the Son. If God did forsake His Son, it would contradict the essential teachings of the Christian faith. Also the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the nature of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit would seem to come crashing down.
The following are some of the work used by Hank Hanegraaff:
Anderson, Norman. The Mystery of the Incarnation. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1978.
Barnes, Albert. The Atonement. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, n.d.
Bruce, Alexander B. The Humiliation of Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1955.
Buswell, J. Oliver. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1976.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. “Soteriology,” Biblioteca Sacra, 104 (1947)
Chemnitz, Martin, translated by J.A.O. Preus. The Two Natures of Christ. St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1971).
Crawford, Thomas J. The Doctrine of Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954.
Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1976.
Garrie, A.E. “The Desolation of the Cross,” The Expositor VII, 3(1907).
Gill, John. A Body of Divinity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1971.
Grounds, Vernon C. “The Atonement.” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960.Guillebaud, H.E. Why the Cross? London, England: InterVarsity Fellowship, 1950.
Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1981.
Hammond, T.C., edited and revised by David Wright. In Understanding Be Men. Downers Grove,. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1968.
Hodge, Archibald A. The Atonement. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press, n.d.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology (3 vols.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977.
Hughes, Philip E. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (NIC). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962.
Lenski, R.C.H. The Interpretation of Matthew. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg, 1961.
The Interpretation of First and Second Corinthians. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg, 1963.
Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1970.
McDonald, H.C. Jesus: Human and Divine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1968.
Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1965.
Muenscher, Joseph. “On the Descent of Christ into Hell,” Bibliotheca Sacra 16 (1859),
Packer, James I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1973.
Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931.
Turrettin, Frances, translated by James Wilson. The Atonement of Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1978.
Wilson, William. “Our Lord’s Cry on the Cross,” Expository Times, 31 (1920),