Does the Bible really imply that the Father could not look at Jesus on the cross because he was carrying all of our sins? After all Jesus cried out the Hebrew words, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Translated from the Hebrew these words mean, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, God has been looking at humanity’s sins from the time of Adam and Eve. If God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient then how could he not have seen his Son carrying our sins on the cross? If we understand the context of these words, we will see that the Father never lifted his eyes off his Son.
Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Yet while dying, Jesus, in his humanness, felt very forsaken by the Father. Was it true? No, Jesus’ statement was an emotional response of what he felt at the moment. Then why did Matthew and Mark record this emotion? Besides being prophesied in Psalms 22:1, the answer lies in the Epistle of Hebrews 4:15, which tells us that we have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who was touched with the same feelings of our infirmities. Have we never felt like God has forsaken us? We know that our Savior has already experienced that feeling of being forsaken because of being made to be sin for us.
A second reason that God did not forsake Jesus while on the cross is understood in the sacrifices. A priest took special care in handling the sacrificial animal, because of its worth in terms of its life being given for the sin of a person or people. A Messianic Jewish friend, Adrian Ze’ev Bernal, PhD, shared with me that a priest would not have turned his back on the sacrificial animal during the ceremony. Therefore, would the Father turn his back on the Messiah, the ultimate sacrifice?
These words spoken by Jesus are taken from Psalms 22:1, which is a prophecy of the crucifixion of the Messiah. The Psalm gives us the imagery of the crucifixion scene. Yet in verse 24, the answer to the question is stated. “For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.” (NKJV) Now we know from Scripture how the Father would have responded.
As mentioned in the Old Testament scriptures, covenants were important. One such covenant was the Royal Grant which was a gift from the Suzerain. Ratification of a Royal Grant Covenant happened when the sovereign party would walk alone between the pieces of the sacrifice. We see God performing this act in the Covenant between Him and Abraham (Genesis 15:12-18) when He passed between the sacrifices as a smoking furnace and a burning lamp after the sun had gone down. How silly would it be to presume that God was absent from his role as Suzerain with the most important Covenant that Heaven and Earth would witness! In fact, the Father passed through at this point because of the darkness that miraculously came over the land evidenced by the earthquake and the Temple veil being rent in two. In Luke 23:46, Jesus confirms this with his final cry, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (NKJV)
Some may argue that according to Jn. 9:31 God does not hear sinners, and according to Isaiah 59:1-2 our iniquities separate us from God and our sins have caused God to hide his face from us and not to hear us. True, for the one who commits sin. However, Jesus who was sinless, took on our sin, which is not the same as committing sin or taking on the nature of Satan as some would propose. Since God made Christ to be sin for us, so we might be made the righteousness of God, then how could the Father not look on his own work and call it good?
By looking at the context of Scripture, the emotional response of Christ would be a reflection of our own inner turmoil we face because of our sins, and that Jesus took on sin for us for a redemptive purpose. Understanding Hebrew culture of the Old Testament era, the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice was carried out with skill and care by the priest who represented the Father, and the foreshadow of the Royal Grant Covenant was carried out by YHWH who personally was an active part of the Covenant with Abraham. However, the most important point is that David had prophesied the words of Christ and the Father’s response centuries before.
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2014. All rights reserved.