I was stimulated by a conversation on facebook that I wanted to blog about. It began with this post: “A question for passion week: Was Jesus truly forsaken on the cross? Some pastors I’ve heard said that this forsakenness was equivalent to hell.”
I’ve always assumed the answer was yes. I’ve preached that sentiment in passing several times even in the past few months. That assumption was tested this morning. I was reading thoughtful reasons why the answer was no. The best arguments for saying Jesus was not forsaken were:
(1) In Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes, it ends in vindication and so the answer to the Psalmist’s question is no. In 22.24 it says, “He did not hide His face from him but listened when he cried to Him for help.” Once you understand that you must read Psalm 22 in context and that Jesus assumes that context, you should conclude that Jesus was not forsaken.
(2) Saying that there was a break in the Trinity or that the Son “separated” from the Father is bad systematic theology because God cannot be divided. Speculating that the Spirit left him is just that, speculation.
Here’s my take as of now:
There was no “break” or division in the Trinity ontologically. But the Father did condemn the Son. Jesus was a propitiation bearing God’s wrath. There was the darkness of judgment for from around noon to 3pm as he hung on the cross. He died. So I want to assert, “Yes, in the sense that Jesus was condemned by the Father for the 3 hours in darkness, he was “forsaken.”
In taking the Psalm’s full context and verse 24 in particular, I agree we must conclude that the cry of dereliction did not express an actual abandonment if you mean by that ultimate actual abandonment.
The difference between David and Jesus is that Jesus was condemned in darkness and he was actually killed by his persecutors. The question is whether this infinitely significant difference is in any sense a forsaking or hiding-of-face. I think it is in some sense as asserted above.
The similarity between Jesus and David is that ultimately the Father “has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help” as evidenced not only in Jesus’s resurrection but in the committing of his spirit to the Father and his declaration that it was finished.
Either way, all in the discussion agreed Jesus did bear God’s judgment for our sins in our place. And for that we should stand in awe every day, especially this Good Friday. Remember that on this day 33AD, Jesus substituted himself for us and took our penalty for our sins. Therefore we are free from sin and free from the burden of having to fulfill perfect righteousness in our own lives. Rejoice! Feel the relief this day brings. Praise to Jesus Christ in heaven who is coming again!
Happy Good Friday everyone!