Did God Turn His Back on Jesus?
Please comment on Mark 15:34. Did God turn His back on Jesus because Jesus carried mankind’s sin?
Mark 15:34 says, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Did God literally forsake Jesus when he died on the cross? This is a question that I have struggled with over the years. Just from examining the text itself, it appears that Jesus thought that God was forsaking Him. Was this what happened?
First, the statement that Jesus makes comes from one of the Psalms, Psalm 22 to be exact. This is an exact quotation of the first verse. Perhaps Jesus was merely quoting from a Psalm for comfort. However, this Psalm is definitely messianic in nature. It refers to the future suffering of the coming Messiah. There are some VERY stark predictions in the Psalm that don’t seem to apply to any other situation other than what we find in regard to the death of Jesus. So that makes this Psalm itself apply to Jesus as the Messiah. So it doesn’t really help answer our question to say that Jesus was quoting from the Psalms because the Psalm that He was quoting from is basically a prophesy of what He would say and what would happen to Him. So we still have the problem of trying to figure out what the first part meant.
Second, it could be the case that this is referring simply to Jesus subjective state while he was on the cross. In other words, while he was there, it FELT as if God had forsaken Him. Certainly it would be the case that any person in that situation would feel abandoned and rejected. However, it would have been out of character for Jesus to say that he felt that God had forsaken Him IF in fact, God had NOT forsaken Him. There was no other man who walked the face of the earth who had the type of faith that Jesus had. There was never any doubt in His faith in the Father. There was never any question in Jesus mind that the Father was going to take care of Him. Jesus had already stated that the Father was going to resurrect Him from the dead. Why would he say such a thing as this and then on the cross declare subjectively that the Father had forsaken Him?
My personal conviction and one which I believe is consistent with the Biblical teaching regarding the phrase is that the Father did turn His back on Jesus but for a moment. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Literally, the statement is “For he hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin.” The translators have supplied the “to be” in the verse because they thought it would clear the statement up. However, I believe that the statement is fine without this clarification. Jesus was the perfect Son of God. He was both God and man. He lived a sinless life. It was through the fact that he was perfect and lived a perfect life that he could die on the cross and offer the perfect sacrifice for sin. But in order for sin to be cleansed away, it has to come in contact with a cleansing agent. Just as when we wash our laundry the soap must come in contact with the dirt to take the dirt away. Jesus blood had to come into contact with sin so it could wash sin away. This is what the expression means that both Isaiah (53:4,5) and Peter (1 Peter 2:24) state–that he bore our sins on the cross. The sins of the world were laid upon His shoulders and through His righteousness He was able to overcome those sins. God, however, cannot look upon sin. He cannot behold sin because it is nauseous to Him. God can’t have anything to do with sin and be God. So in that moment when Jesus bore the sins of the world, God (the Father) turned His back and could not look at the sin that Jesus bore. However, in the next moment, those sins had been cleansed by Jesus blood and God once more could look in favor upon His Son. While I certainly don’t know many things about how the blood of Christ cleansed the sins of mankind, we know a few things and it appears to me that this is what Jesus meant by the statement that He made.