(Post originally published Dec 2007)
It's an idea that seems to be gaining traction, or maybe I have just become more aware of it, i.e. the idea that Father did not forsake Jesus on the cross.
A quick google search turned up a couple of arguments against the idea that God forsook Jesus on the cross here and here. One article is more convincing than the other, but I have a question for "anti-forsakers".
When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", would the Sinless One not have sinned unless that were true?
Think with me. Suppose Jesus knew that God had not forsaken him. To know that and then quote that verse would be dishonouring to God and a lie. A sin.
On the other hand, suppose Jesus was under so much torment that he felt as if God had left him. If God had truly not forsaken him, wouldn't crying out asking why God had forsaken him reveal a lack of faith and hence a sin?
But didn't God raise Jesus from the grave?
Now it is true that God did not ultimately forsake Christ (Acts 2:31), but that is not the point of Jesus' cry, nor of the Psalm his cry came from. The Psalmist was crying out asking why God had forsaken him and using the circumstances of his life (which parallel Jesus' suffering on the cross) as proof that God was not there for him. His reasoning was this: I cried out to you, but you have not saved me from what I am going through, therefore you have forsaken me. Now, God does not forsake his own, but allows circumstances and answers prayer in ways and with a timing that causes our weak faith to believe he has forsaken us.
Jesus, however, was saying something deeper. He had cried out to God to be relieved from the burden of the cross, but had submitted to God's will. In other words, he knew that God would not save him from the suffering of the cross - God would forsake him to something that he did not deserve to suffer as if he deserved to suffer it. Jesus understood that this was not a case of God allowing something in his life for the sake of discipline or for growth or for his good in any way. Jesus understood God's motive in his suffering on the cross to be punishment as if he were us! His cry, therefore, was not a tell-me-the-reason-cry-for-understanding, it was a cry of emotional agony after all the circumstances paralleled in the Psalm 22 had occured and God's forsaking was realised. Jesus truly was forsaken by God so that now we do not need to fear being forsaken by God. To deny that is to deny our salvation.
Not the end.
But that was not the end. Even in the midst of being forsaken, Jesus committed himself to God in faith. In Psalm 22 the Psalmist had worked through to the understanding that God had not forsaken him, despite the circumstances, and that his answer was already appearing. Jesus knew that even though he had been forsaken, that God was the only one to turn to and that even though God had abandoned him to the cross, God would raise him up from the grave.
Did the Father forsake Jesus on the cross? Yes. And I thank him for it.