Before we look at the question of why God forsook Jesus on the Cross of Calvary, let us be reminded of the events of the crucifixion, and the cry of Jesus to His Father, from that cross.
Matthew 27:32-53 (ESV):
“As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
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, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“ So cried out Jesus to His Father from the cross of Calvary, before he gave up His Spirit to His Father, and died, for us.
What happened to Jesus and caused Him to be forsaken by God His Father, is explained in Galatians 3:13 were we read:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone having been hanged on a tree”).”
Here Paul was citing Deuteronomy 21:22-23 which says:
“And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and if he is put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree. But you shall surely bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God), so that your land may not be defiled, which Jehovah your God gives you for an inheritance.”
According to and in compliance with Scripture, as Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was crucified on that Cross of Calvary, He became a curse, He became as Deuteronomy says, “accursed of God”. Yes, Jesus was fully man and fully God, but when these nails were driven into Him at Calvary and He was hoisted up, He became a curse on whose shoulders were borne the sins of mankind; past, present and future.
Now God is Holy, Pure, Righteous and Truth. In His presence there is no sin, nor can there be. For God, there is no darkness in His sight. As the light from His Glory shines out, it overcomes all darkness. Darkness can only remain in the shadows of God’s light, which is always out of the view of God. Wherever God is, wherever God looks, there is Light, Holiness, Purity, Righteousness and Truth.
Thus, as Jesus was nailed onto that Calvary Cross and became a curse for us, God could no longer look upon Jesus. God could not look upon our sins, God could not look upon any accursed thing, and so God turned His eyes away, and Jesus was left alone to die. And die Jesus did, with all the sins of all mankind as His burden; your sins dear reader, along with mine.
As we continue reading from Mark 15:42-45 (MKJV) we find that Jesus died quickly, to the apparent surprise of Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, and in this, Jesus fulfilled many prophetic verses from the Old Testament:
“And it, becoming evening already, since it was the Preparation, that is, the day before Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, who also waited for the Kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
And Pilate wondered if He were already dead. And calling the centurion, he asked him whether He had died already.
And when he knew it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.”
Why did Jesus die quickly? The only way to know for certain is to ask Him when we meet Him in heaven, though I doubt we will find that question of any importance by then. Nevertheless, as we look at the recorded life of Jesus in the Bible, we can see that this man, also fully God, was without sin. He was a servant leader, which he demonstrated and exemplified in His time on earth; He was full of compassion, as exemplified in His healings, words and actions; He was full of love, and there was no malice in Him. Jesus was not prone to violence or anger, and His outburst against the temple traders in the Temple of His Father, recorded in John 2:12-22 was a righteous anger at those who disrespected God the Father.
Human experience shows that to withstand and tolerate pain there are two factors which can help, one external, one internal. If one is being encouraged by others, one can tolerate more pain – but no one was encouraging Jesus as He hung on the cross. If one is angry in full of anger and rage, one can tolerate more pain; but the Bible records Jesus was full of compassion for those around Him and not anger or rage, as He hung on the cross.
For all His life on earth, Jesus has walked in the presence of, and communication with, His Father in Heaven. Even before He was filled with the Holy Spirit and at the age of 12, Jesus was “found in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and questioning them, and all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:41-50). To be separated from His Father on the Cross was an unprecedented experience in the life of Jesus. Abandonment is an experience which changes and scars lives and here was Jesus, in unimaginable pain on a cross, experiencing not only abandonment from His Father, but also His God.
Finally, in His pain and abandonment, Jesus was weighed down with all the sins of mankind, past, present and future. In His propitiatory sacrifice for us, he took upon Himself all our sins and paid the price we could never pay, and died for us.
It is good that He did not linger in pain and suffering on that Cross, a pain and suffering far beyond our imagination.
Amen and Amen and Amen.