Was Jesus Forsaken by God on the Cross?

3647674018_d1aa8dac84_bOne of Jesus's last words on the cross is a mysterious phrase. As darkness sets over Jesus he cries out, "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?" It is interesting to note that even the most liberal and critical New Testament scholars believed that Jesus said "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why? Because it seems like Jesus has finally cracked. His whole arrest, trial, flogging, and crucifixion Jesus says absolutely nothing in Mark's Gospel. "Like the sheep before its shearers, he is silent and does not open his mouth." But here in v. 34 Jesus finally breaks, crying out that he has been forsaken by God, believing that God had abandoned him, right? Well there is more going on here then meets the eye.

What Jesus cries out is the first line of Psalm 22. Jesus is quoting a Bible verse. You see, there were no chapters and verses in the bible originally. Those were added much latter. In Jesus' day, the way you referred to a passage was often by quoting the first line. This is what Jesus is doing here. So to understand what Jesus means by this cry we must turn to look at Psalm 22. Read through these few selected verses from Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1–2, ESV)

“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”” (Psalm 22:6–8, ESV)

“For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:16–18, ESV)

The Psalm seems so clearly to point to Jesus that it is astonishing. On the cross Jesus was experiencing incredible physical suffering but also spiritual suffering as he was bearing God's righteous wrath for the sins of God's people.

Although Jesus quotes Psalm 22 in reference to his horrific, unjust death, I believe that Jesus is also quoting this Psalm in hope of his deliverance. Jesus was forsaken by God, but he had confidence that he would be delivered. When we look at Psalm 22 as a whole it makes much more since. Jesus quoting this Psalm indicates the extreme pain he was enduring, but he was also proclaiming his own deliverance.

In Psalm 22:19 the tone of the psalm changes from lament to hopeful deliverance:

"But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!"

Jesus was forsaken by God, but he had confidence that he would be delivered. When we look at Psalm 22 as a whole it makes much more since. Jesus quoting this Psalm indicates the extreme pain he was enduring, but he was also proclaiming his own deliverance.

Jesus quoting this Psalm causes the crowd to believe that Jesus is calling for the prophet Elijah to deliver him, so the crowd gives Jesus some sour wine to quench his thirst to see if he will hold on for a bit longer. This is not an act of compassion, but an act of hate. I think the crowd is wanting Jesus to hold on because I think they want Jesus to break. He had been being mocked and ridiculed and they want Jesus to feel the isolation of being abandoned by God.

What the crowd didn't know, is that Jesus would actually be delivered, not by Elijah, but by God himself. His deliverance would not be immediate, but delayed by 3 days when Jesus rises from the grave!

When we look at Jesus' words on the cross as Jesus quoting Psalm 22 we get much greater insight into what Jesus was thinking in the final hours of his life. Jesus did not believe he was abandoned by God, but knew that God would deliver him on the third day as he would rise again!