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Was Jesus Really Forsaken On the Cross?

            While on the cross, Jesus said multiple phrases that are recorded for us in scripture.  Here we want to consider the saying on the cross that is most often asked about.  In Matthew 27:46 it Is recorded that Jesus said, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachtani.”  As this verse points out, this means “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”  Let us consider the question that is often asked from this text, “Was Jesus really forsaken on the cross?” 

 

Common Argument Made That He Was

 

            One of the most common views of this verse is that Jesus really was forsaken on the cross.  The argument is made from 2 Corinthians 5:21 which reads, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (LSB).  The argument made is that Jesus became sin on our behalf that we might be forgiven.  Those who argue this also argue that since God does not hear sinners (John 9:31). 

 

Arguments He Was Not

 

            What 2 Corinthians 5:21 is Saying – The key point of this verse is often shifted from where it should be to another point to “prove” an argument.  In this context Paul is dealing with our future.  In the first 11 verses he is discussing the coming judgment and how they will give an account for how they have lived.  He then shifts in verse 12 through the end of the text to discuss how one should live in light of the future.  There he points out how they were controlled by the love of Christ (v.14) because He died for us (v.15).  As Paul is wrapping this section up, he concludes it by pointing out that he is an ambassador for Christ (v.20a) and how his audience should be reconciled to Christ (v.20b).  That is when he points out that this righteousness is because “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” in verse 21.  His point: the One who had no sin bore the price of our sin so we could become the righteousness of God.  Sin bears a curse (Galatians 3:10, 13a) and Christ bore the curse for us (Galatians 3:13b). 

 

            Jesus Said God Would be With Him – In John 8:28-29 Jesus points out that when the Son of Man is lifted up that the Father would not leave Him alone.  He makes a similar point in John 16:32 as well.  What this means is that Jesus could not be forsaken on the cross by the Father since the Father would not leave Him alone. 

 

Reason to Say This

 

            Jewish Custom – One reason Jesus could have said this on the cross is it is also the first verse of Psalm 22.  This Psalm is a Psalm that starts out with a dark picture painted but ends with the Messiah’s victory.  It was a Jewish custom to quote the first verse of a Psalm to represent the whole.  It could be that is why Jesus is saying this.

Possible Book-End Quotes From This Psalm -  Psalm 22 ends with the phrase “that He has done it.” Another possible translation of this phrase could be “It is Finished.”  If this sounds familiar that is because it was Jesus’ last saying on the cross (John 19:30).  Such being the case, it could be that Jesus quoted from both the beginning and the end of the Psalm to show His ultimate victory even though things seemed dark now. 

            Psalm of Deliverance – It could also be that Jesus is not alluding to the Psalm for the ultimate victory but the deliverance in it.  Jesus knew He would be victorious, but he must first suffer.  That in mind, He could be quoting the first verse of the Psalm asking to be delivered. 

 

 

Conclusion

 

            Jesus was not forsaken on the cross despite popular belief.   While the ultimate motivation for saying this is unknown, the Jewish custom of quoting one part of a passage for the whole seems to be why.   Jesus could be either crying out for the deliverance in the Psalm or pointing to His ultimate victory.  Either way, we know that Jesus was not forsaken and that is not why he said this. 

 

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