On Sunday we discussed one of the last sayings of Jesus, where he cries out in a loud voice:
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
And this is a verse with a lot of tensions and complexities. Many scholars don’t like the idea of the Father abandoning the Son. This also raises consternation and concern about the Father’s character for me too. So scholars offer two solutions. One, that Jesus isn’t actually being abandoned by God, he is just feeling like he is. But that just seems like semantics to me, and goes against what seems obvious: that Jesus is experiencing being abandoned by God, because he is being abandoned by God.
Other scholars point out that Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 (which he is). And taking the Psalm as a whole, it ends with vindication. That the suffering victim is eventually vindicated, justified, and that God overcomes the wrongful suffering. So they say Jesus is actually saying that he will trust in God to overcome this wrong. They (rightly) point out that speaking on a cross is incredibly painful and difficult. So Jesus couldn’t have quoted the whole Psalm (I agree), so he quotes one verse to bring the whole Psalm into view.
Again though I just think this goes against the plain reading. If Jesus could only quote one verse because of pain, and wanted to talk about God vindicating him, he could have quoted the last verses of Psalm 22. But he doesn’t, he quotes a verse about being abandoned.
So even though I might not like the idea of the Father abandoning or forsaking his Son, I think we are left with the plain reading of Scripture.
But there is one obvious fact that needs to be stated, that actually changes the whole perspective of this verse. It is stated from Jesus’ perspective. We don’t hear the Father’s perspective. So Jesus is being forsaken by the Father, and then we assume, that the Father is above pouring out wrath on Jesus in an emotionless dispassionate state.
People struggle with this verse because it makes it seem like Jesus is nice, whereas, the Father is stern, uncaring, judge, who abandons his son when he needs it most. But this is all based on an assumption, that the Father is unmoved by what his Son is going through. And this assumption is wrong, and what I not only challenged but worked through in more detail (download the sermon for more).
Jurgen Moltmann writes,
“In forsaking the Son, the Father also surrenders himself, though not in the same way. For Jesus suffers dying in forsakenness, but not death itself; for men can no longer suffer death, because suffering presupposes life. But the Father who abandons him and delivers him up suffers the death of the Son in the infinite grief of love…The son suffers dying, the Father suffers the death of the Son”.
And here is his key thought: “The grief of the Father here is just as important as the death of the Son.”
And this is what we need to get, that the Father and Son are both affected and separated because of our sin. It isn’t a singular choice on the Father’s side to abandon his son. It is a choice within the Trinity to experience the separation of sin so that we could be welcomed into fellowship with God. The Father doesn’t kill his Son, to forgive us. The Father experiences an abyss of separation from his beloved Son, so that we could become incorporated into the family of God. Sin ruptures, that’s what it does. And it does this at the heart of the Trinity. So yes, Jesus experienced being forsaken by the Father, and the Father experienced the death of the Son.
This led us to some simple but personal conclusions.
First, that we need to be in reverent thanks of what the Father, Son, and Spirit went through to include us in their life. The Son died, so we could live. And this affected all the Trinity, and for that we need to be grateful. We need to be reverently worshipful of the depth of what God went through for each and everyone of us.
Second, we talked about that sin is serious. That sin brought separation to the heart of God, and we need to own that. We did that. We killed the Son (read the Book of Acts). We need to recognize the seriousness of sin, and confess, repent, and rid ourselves of sin. If sin did this to God, we need to work at ridding ourselves of it.
So we ended with a challenge, to sit in thanks to God, and repent for sin. When we see the depth of what God went through, I think that is the right response: reverence and repentance.
Martin Luther said, “God forsaking God, who can understand it?” I know for sure we don’t all understand it because of one sermon (I certainly don’t), but I hope we got a little closer and most of all, a little more reverent and repentant.
Big Idea: Jesus was abandoned by the Father for us; and the Father experienced the abandonment of the Son for us.
- Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
- “God forsaking God. Who can understand it?” – Martin Luther
- Jesus’ death is a moment of cosmic significance, and the cosmos recognize it by darkening
- This passage is not about us, but what Jesus is experiencing.
- We need to be honest with text – Jesus is being forsaken
- Jesus is stating what is true from his perspective
- Just as Jesus was forsaken, so too was the Father forsaken from the Son
- If our sin separates Jesus from the Father; it separates the Father from the Son.
- The grief of the Father here is just as important as the death of the Son. Moltmann
- We cannot understand the depth of our sin, unless we understand that both Jesus and the Father are suffering in this moment on the cross.
- The Son is losing the Father, but the Father is losing the Son.
- Our sin doesn’t just affect Jesus, but affects God as a whole.
- We should have holy and reverent awe for God.
- We should repent and cast off sin.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Had you ever struggled with the idea of the Father forsaking the Son before? Had you ever thought of what the Father went through when Jesus died? What do you think it was like for him? How does it make you appreciate God? How does it change or deepen how you see sin?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Read the story today with your kids. Talk to them about the verse we read, about how Jesus was separated from his Dad because of our sin. About how hard it was, but that he did that for us. So that we can be loved, and welcomed in. Give them a chance to confess anything to Jesus in thankfulness for what he did.
Challenge for the Week: To sit and contemplate what Jesus went through, confess any sin, and reverently worship him this week