I have been wrestling with a passage of Scripture ever since i began to really care about my walk with Christ. This passage of Scripture baffles me and i cannot make sense of it. It goes beyond what my mind can comprehend. So far, what i have read about this passage can hint to the meaning but it is complete conjecture. It is one of those things about God being three, yet being one. While He is the only God, there are three different representations of Himself. That alone goes beyond my feeble mind.
The passage of Scripture comes from the 27th chapter of Matthew. Jesus is hanging on the cross breathing his last few breaths. It reads, ” Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
That last part is the one that drives me up a wall because i cant figure it out! I feel like I am Martin Luther when he studied the works of Paul. Luther said, “I lay-hold of Paul and beat him until he gave up the answers.” I have read this text over and over. I have read commentary on this verse. I have read other thoughts and listened to preachers. Most of which say the EXACT same thing. They say that at that moment, God could not bare to look on Jesus because the weight of the sins of the world for all time (past, present, and future) were upon him. I DO NOT disagree with the fact that Jesus went to incredible depths to save me. I do not deny that he gave up his reign in heaven to come to earth, that he humbled himself and became nothing. I do not deny that at all.
However, I have to disagree with the statement that God turned his back on Christ. I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying. I believe that Jesus is God. He is one with the Father. They are one! To say that God turns his back on Himself is a ridiculous notion to me. But then again, the book of Acts makes it pretty dang clear that God killed Jesus. Now he didn’t actually hang him on the cross. Pilate, the Roman guards, and the Jewish people are responsible for the “actual” death. It was my sin that held him there while the wrath of God was poured out. Acts 4:27-28 says, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place (can’t argue with predestination… its in the text. We all believe in it to an extent).
Here is somewhat my ultimatum. If you claim that God turned his back on Christ on the cross because he cannot look on sin, that has to be your attitude across the board. So would you say that when you sin, God is not looking upon you in that moment? God has made his home in the heart of the believer. Does he check out for 10 minutes until you have had your fill? Does he shoot the deuce until you ask for forgiveness? I think one of the things that has kept me from sinning at times is knowing that God is watching! How scary is that? Anyway… i say all that to say this; if that is your claim to this verse… how can that not be your mindset across the board?
I am not saying there wasn’t an element of separation. But i don’t think it was any different from the moment Jesus stepped out of heaven. He was separated from God physically for about 33 years. Looking at the life of Christ… he never lost his sovereign rule. Control over death is not given to humans. Likewise, humans do not have control over nature either. Time and time again Jesus was raising dead people, walking on water, and telling storms to chill out. That sovereign rule never departed from Christ. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, ” For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” That means, as men cursed at Jesus, spit and hit him, it was Christ that gave them the brain capacity and tongue to form words. That means that as their muscles tightened and they struck him in the face and worked up the saliva to spit at him, Jesus gave them that ability. I’ve gone cross-eyed… i don’t know where i am. (Sorry some of that was a little off topic).
When Jesus spoke those words, He was quoting from Psalm 22. A Psalm of David when he was running for his life. I kind of relate with David because he is pretty spiritually bipolar. One second he says he cant get enough of God and the next his is like GOD WHERE ARE YOU?! When i say “Amazing grace….” I don’t have to say “How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now i see.” Everyone knows that… even unchurched people have heard amazing grace. Likewise, in this time period if Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” there mind thinks of this Psalm of David (which it is a mystery to me why they thought he was calling Elijah) which talks about David being afraid because He doesn’t know where God is BUT he is not saying he is not with Him. In fact, He knows he is with him. I would be willing to bet David never felt as distant from God than in this moment… but i bet God was never closer. In the same way, while the weight of sin was crushing Jesus, that might have been a moment where Jesus felt far off from his Father… but i would be willing to bet that His Father was never closer than in the moment where he needed Him most.