Why Did Jesus Cry Out that God Had Forsaken Him?
At the climax of Jesus’ suffering on the cross, Jesus cries out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) It’s a jarring moment in the narrative. To forsake is to abandon. Did Jesus really believe that God had abandoned him? Was Jesus right about this? If he was right, what does that say about God? If he was wrong, what does that say about his connection with the father (about his standing within the trinity)?
Jesus had committed himself to doing the Father’s will, even though he anticipated it would involve a cup of great suffering (Mt 26:39). Paul tells us that, on the cross, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). This means that, on Calvary, the all-holy God was totally saturated in our sin! Not only that, but Paul also teaches that, on the cross, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). One who is cursed is estranged from God, which is why, when Jesus took on with our cursed state, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Jesus experienced the separation from God that we deserved, while experiencing abandonment on an infinitely more profound level than we could ever experience. And this means that, on Calvary, God, whose very nature is the perfect, loving union of Father, Son and Spirit, experienced the profound disruption of our God-forsakenness.
Yes, Jesus was abandoned, but the abandonment was a momentary horror that Jesus offered himself into. Furthermore, it was a rupture that overthrew Satan (1 John 3:8), and established our salvation (Hebrews 9:27-28). It was, to summarize, the greatest possible act of love.