Famous Last Words: Abandon

My God, My God Why have you forsaken Me?  (Matthew 27:46)

Anyone who’s ever attended a church service on Good Friday or read the Gospel of Matthew would recognize these anguished words from our Lord as He hung on the cross. But while they may be familiar, they aren’t so easily understood.

For most of my adult life, I’ve heard many excellent preachers explain this passage as a cry of desperation  at the moment God the Father turned His back on His dying Son as He was bearing the sin of the entire world. Most go on to say that since 2 Corinthians 5:21 says Jesus became sin for us, God had to look away because He’s too holy to gaze upon sin.

But the more I think about that explanation, the harder it is for me to comprehend how the Father could ever be separated from His Son… ever.  Without going into complex theology, simple logic seems to argue otherwise.

First, if God cannot look on sin, then does that mean that while Jesus was on the cross, He wasn’t God?  Is He not “in very nature” God?  (Phil. 2:6) And isn’t it a prerequisite for Him to be God in order to overcome sin in the first place?  If at some time, Christ wasn’t God, then there’s a bigger problem to solve. Like, when did this alteration in His foundational nature take place? And, what are the ramifications to our understanding of Malachi 3:6 which unequivocally declares that the Almighty never changes?

There’s another dilemma the traditional understanding of this verse presents:  If God the Father is too holy to look on sin, would that not also mean He can’t be in the presence of any sort of wrongdoing? Then, does that mean that He turns His back on brothels, crack houses and corporate swindlers? Does God also flee from those who lie, cheat and steal?

The answer is, obviously, no. (Eph. 2:12-13) (see also Job 1:6-12 where God allows Satan directly into His throne room!) There are also many instances in the Gospels where Jesus entertains the company of sinners, prostitutes and crooks. And in Matthew 4, we’re told that the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan where He endured the enemy’s presence for some length of time.  (Matt. 4:1-11)

Doesn’t the scripture paint a picture of the Father as a God Who calls sinners to Him rather than running away! So if God can be with us even in the presence of our sinful choices, why cannot He also be in the presence of the sin of all mankind at the moment Christ bore it on the cross?

I don’t want to disagree with great Bible scholars, but maybe there was something else going on that pulled the anguished lament from our Lord. Maybe, at this moment, when it required all the power of the Godhead to bear the entirety of of humanity’s sin, the full anguish of the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain taxed Christ’s humanity to the breaking point as well.

Anyone who’s felt guilt, sorrow or been lost in the confusion of sin knows that emotion can overwhelm us and cause us to feel things that aren’t based in reality. What if in the last moments of His passion, Jesus felt the same thing? Could His emotions have been so clouded by suffering and spiritual darkness that He could only cry out to His Father who, at that moment, no doubt seemed so very far away? I personally believe that…

Christ wasn’t abandoned by the Father, but instead, He abandoned Himself TO the Father.

In spite of His inability to sense the Father’s presence through this unimaginable anguish, He still trusted enough to lay His life into the Almighty’s hands. (more on Luke 23:46 later) Viewed in this way, Jesus’ words which were rooted in deep torment teach a profound lesson… They graphically remind us that trusting God is possible even when we can’t feel anything but agony and sorrow.

So, no matter what kind of pain or loss you feel, strive to model Christ’s attitude in His most desperate hour.  Trust your Heavenly Father… and know you are never deserted by Him! The  ultimate gift of His Son proves that He loves you.  So, abandon yourself to Him knowing confidently  He will never abandon you!

 Be strong and courageous …  for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

19 thoughts on “Famous Last Words: Abandon

  1. Karen you just shared one very good reason why it is imperative that we learn the truth, the word of God and understand that word from a biblical perspective and not man’s ideas. How absurd to think the Father turned His back on Him because of His burden of sin. If that were true I would not be saved because it would mean the Father couldn’t look at me…and love me.

    1. Exactly! God doesn’t run from sin. He is so holy, perfect and powerful that it cannot stand in HIS presence, not the other way around! Thanks Jeannie!

  2. Excellent post, Karen! I like your explanation here: ” Could His emotions have been so clouded by suffering and spiritual darkness that He could only cry out to His Father who, at that moment, no doubt seemed so very far away? I personally believe that…”

  3. Wow, Karen, you certainly have given me a lot to think about here. I love that you don’t just accept what other pastors and theologians have come up with and are willing to ask hard questions. That is so critical to our faith. In the book Chasing God by Angie Smith she also looks at this passage and notes that this is also the only place in scripture where Jesus calls out to or prays to God and does not refer to him as “Father.” That was pretty weighty for me. Thank you for sharing this. Glad to one of your neighbors at CBCE today.

    1. I think what the book said adds weight to my belief that Jesus was in such agony and pain that His humanity indeed felt forsaken, though the reality is that the Trinity is inseparable, and that the cross and redemption took the joint effort of the Godhead to execute. I’m glad you could stop by to read too! Blessings!

  4. I love that this statement made by Jesus on the cross was actually the first line of Psalm 22 where David the Psalmist actually prophesies about the exact emotions of Christ on the cross at that moment. He describes the feeling of the joints coming apart, the feelings of shame and embarrassment the feelings of emotional pain and physical pain and mental anguish. In the psalm David even prophesies that they are gambling over his clothing. (Which the Roman soldiers were doing at his feet. ) I love to that anyone standing nearby hearing him say these words would’ve known this psalm and realized that he was fulfilling prophecy. I believe that the total sense of abandonment was what Jesus was actually feeling at that moment but that he was encouraging himself in the Lord! Because although in his human flesh he was experiencing pain we could probably not even imagine–on all levels–he was also referencing the song knowing that the way that it ends is eventually everyone would praise his name and that by going through this the all men would be saved.
    I love it that so many times when we come to the Lord we start out with our complaints frustrations and feelings of abandonment but that by the time we finish our conversation with him we are rejoicing and praising him. He allows us the opportunity to tell him how we really feel and sometimes we really feel abandoned even when he is not abandoning us. So many years I have read and heard teachings that make it seem as if we need to stop being emotional! But when we read the words of Jesus we realize that God made our deep emotions and that often he honors them. Our emotions must come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But our raw emotion can often be the most precious gift we can give God. Ironically enough, when we do this we move past pain into Hope.
    Sitting here I just had another thought! God gave David a gift to soothe emotions of those around him that heard his music. We can remember that Saul was soothed by David’s music when he was being tormented by demonic spirits. To this day we are all soothed in our emotions and our spirits by David’s music. I think it’s kind of special that Jesus soothes himself by remembering the song that he knew by heart from Psalm 22. And David, considered a man after gods own heart, who was dear to God! David gets the opportunity to sing to Jesus on the cross through this reference! That just kind of blows my mind! David was always incredibly authentic and honest with God about his true emotions but he always brings himself back around to the truth of who he knows God to be! That God will not forsake him that God will always be with him.

    1. I agree. Jesus is definitely quoting Psalm 22. I have read much about how the pharisees would have known this to be a Messianic Psalm and that they would have known that he was identifying Himself as the Christ in this desperate cry.
      and about what you said about our emotions, it’s a little ironic that we try to hide our real feelings from the Lord, when scripture plainly tells us that he already knows “the thoughts and attitudes of our heart” I think the person we are really trying to hide from is ourselves! But if we can have the courage to say what we really feel out loud to ourselves, then that’s the first step to moving toward the hope that you mentioned! I think these painful words from Christ on the cross give us permission to do exactly that.
      And yes, I love your thoughts about David as well. Thanks for your thoughts Dawna!

  5. We are a peculiar people, for sure. We believe in a God that we cannot see, and can only worship by faith, yet there are many physical evidences that He exists. I can only rejoice in His grace upon all mankind and choosing us, who believe, to be partakers of the eternal glory that He so rightfully reserved for Himself till the fall of Adam. By one man sin entered the world and by another, complete atonement from all sin, ( ROM. 5:12-19 ).

    When we search out the Scriptures, ( II TIM. 2:15 ), though Christ is revealed in every book of the Holy Scriptures, ( John 5:39 ), we begin to clearly see the God we worship, the God that saves us, and the God that became flesh. We know God, the Father, is in heaven, ( MATT. 16:17 ). We must not lose sight of the knowledge that God the Father is a Spirit, ( JOHN 4:24 ). That selfsame Spirit sent His only begotten Son, from before time ever was, ( PROV. 8:30 ), to be the very, spotless, sinless sacrifice needed for the complete atonement of all sin.

    So we see God the Father being in God the Son, Jehovah, ( EX. 6:3 ), the right hand of the Father, by and through Him all things were made, ( ISA. 42:5,6,7,13,&21; JOHN 1:1-18, and to include PROV. 8 ). The Son being the only begotten of God, truly, still was the only begotten in the flesh, revealing any and all mysteries of God to His entire creation, ( COL. 1:15-20; 1:26,27; COL. 2:2,3,&9 ). I will not go into it now, but Jehovah in the Hebrew translates to Jesus in the Greek.

    Hereby the, ABANDON, of Jesus from the Father is now coming to the fruition of the revelation of this mystery that some still hold. We know God is a Spirit, and that Spirit is Holy, and Spirit is the Holy Word, ( JOHN 1:1 ), the Holy Spirit, which was made flesh, and because the flesh was conceived by the Holy Spirit, ( MATT. 1:20 ), it was not conceived in sin, by man, but by a sinless, and Holy God. That flesh was without blemish, ( I PETER 1:19 ), the perfect sacrifice for the complete atonement for sin, ( ROM. 5:20 ). Now the atonement of sin by the death of Jesus on the Cross never diminishes the fact that He is the Christ, the Word made flesh.

    What we now have is the flesh of God asking why the Father had forsaken Him. Well, He did, but the unblemished blood of the spotless lamb Who hung on that tree had to be shed for a sacrifice for the remission of sins. Whereby He was able to raise Christ from the dead to return to the glory He had from the begining, with the Father, ( JOHN 17:5 ). This where we learn what ‘ FAITH ‘ is all about, Jehovah never experienced life without the Father till the time was set for Christ to die. How much love God has for us and His creation. Even our Father stayed with His Son till the very last minute.

    But we come to the point that we need to be where we need to be as believers. It is the resurrection of our bodies to be with the Lord, and to be like Him as He is. In the gospels He reveals the Holy Spirit, plainly, and, yet still there is controversy. Let me quote, ‘ It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the WORDS that I speak to you, they are Spirit, and they are Life, ( JOHN 6:63; PSALMS 119:50 ). The Holy Spirit is the very Word of the Father abiding in us, ( JOHN 15:7; even in the preceeding chapter, 14:6,9,10,17,18&23 ).

    With certainty, the Father left Christ, but only for time allocated by Him so the flesh could resign itself to the throws of death. Our Lord didn’t leave Christ for long because He then entered into Christ to descend to the depths of the earth to receive those who had been waiting in the bosom of Abraham.

    And I apologize for the length, but my love for the Lord comes from Him living in me. For that there is no apology. May God bless you.

    1. Thanks for reading through and adding your thoughts! I welcome your thought-out commentary! I’m glad that He is alive and living in all of his children who come to Him by faith and through the cross!

  6. I enjoyed the disortation and agree. The one fact that I do know is this, Christ is the very image of the invisible God, all things were made by Him that are in heaven and in earth; by Him and for Him: He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and through the blood of His cross, by Him, reconciled all things unto Himself whether they be in heaven or earth, COL. 1:15-20

    With this knowledge and understand of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ. In Him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily, COL. 2:2,9.

    From these few Scriptures I discern that God is holy, and a spirit, (Holy Spirit). That bselfsame Spirit is in the Father, ( PROV. 8:30 ). And we now have the Christ, the very flesh that our One, and only Almighty God and Father of all creation, proclaiming the very name of the One and only Eternal God, Jesus, because there is no other name in heaven and in earth for mankind to be saved. It is the very same Spirit Christ that raised Him from the dead. And what is that spirit? Check out JOHN 4:24; JOHN 6:63.

    Therefore let us continue to study to show ourselves approved knowing that God is sinless, His Son’s flesh was sinless because He was noit conceived in sin by man, and the blood that He shed on the cross was without blemish. He was the perfect sacrifice for God to dwell in.

    Yes, with all that, I agree, the flesh separated itself from God, total separation, but after death our Lord raised, HIMSELF, the flesh, from the dead and returned to heaven to the Father, by the Holy Spirit, to again be glorified with the glory He had before He freely took on flesh.

  7. Sometimes, we agonize so much over doctrine and Biblical interpretation that we miss the point of the whole thing, and the point to me about this sentence — regardless of why Christ uttered it — is that He experienced something all of us feel at some point in our lives: that God has abandoned us, left us alone, walked away from us, and is too busy to pay attention to our needs right now.

    When we mention this to some people, the immediate reaction is to be scolded: “You SHOULDN’T feel that way about God! It’s BAD!” which does nothing to change the truth of our feelings, nor does it move us past them.

    There is comfort in knowing that Christ, our Brother, our Lord, our Savior, felt the exact same thing we do, and He can therefore understand our cry when we give it. He, unlike well-meaning but extremely insecure Christians, does not castigate nor admonish us, but holds us closer.

    1. Exactly… His experience on the cross was one more example of Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Thanks Carolyn!!

  8. Thank you Father God for the cross. I thank you for the word of your servant. I thank you for your mysteries and revelation. We are to seek your word and meditate on them. We are to walk in your word not looking to the left or the right. I thank You Father God that we can ask you questions and like a loving Father You will answer us in due time. I give you praise. We give you praise. In the Mighty Name of Jesus. Amen. And so it is.

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