If anyone besides Jesus had asked this question we might have dismissed them as being in distress or confusion. “They only felt forsaken.” “It wasn’t as though they were really forsaken by God.” But it changes everything when it is Jesus asking the question. He is God along with the Father. In John 1:1 it says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God and without him there was nothing made that was actually made.” The Father and Son and the Holy Spirit all share the same divine nature of Godhood in the same way that we share manhood with others of our species. But sharing manhood doesn’t make us into the same person as the one who shares humanity with me. All through Jesus life on earth his steps were in harmony with the Father, to the degree he often said, “I didn’t come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” He declared his food was to do what the Father wanted him to do. He said, “I and the Father are one.” He noted that “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Father spoke from heaven about Jesus on two occasions, first at his baptism and then when he was transfigured before Peter, James and John. He said, “This is my dearly loved son in whom I am well pleased.” On the mountain he added “Listen to Him”
While Jesus lived on earth he talked with the Father regularly. Sometimes the prayers are all night long. Just before appointing the twelve to be apostles he had one of those all night praying sessions. At other times it seemed like Jesus was carrying on a conversation with the Father and other people were intruding in the conversation. During that last week before He was crucified John records the longest recorded prayer from Jesus in John 17. He prayed about his work for God, the twelve and their need for protection from the Father and for all who would become Christ followers through the preaching and teaching of the gospel story. In the final parts of that prayer he noted that he longed for those who followed him to be one on the earth and to come to be with him in heaven. There was no surprise for Jesus as he moved steadily toward the cross. He had been telling the disciples for some time that he was going to Jerusalem and there he would be arrested, beaten and crucified. On the night before he was arrested he shared the Passover meal with the twelve, sent Judas out to carry out his gruesome task of selling him out as a traitor and then leading the mob to arrest him. He took the remaining eleven with him to the Mount of Olives. He left the eight men and took Peter, James and John with him a little further. He asked them to watch and pray with him that they would not enter into temptation. They quickly fell asleep. He went a little further and fell on his face to pray one of the most agonizing prayers of all time. “Father, if it is possible, allow this cup to pass from me. Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine.” He prayed with such earnestness that sweat fell from him like great drops of blood. He stumbled back to where the closest people to him were waiting. He found them asleep. He asked, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?” They were ashamed but when he pushed himself back down that path to again fall on his face in prayer to the Father, he returned again to find them sleeping. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. A third time they were asked to watch and pray so they wouldn’t enter into temptation. He poured out his heart and soul to the Father again. If it’s possible, but your will be done, not mine. Again he found them asleep. He said, “Sleep on” but immediately told them to get up for the mob was coming for him. Judas appeared at the front of the crowd and marched straight to Jesus to betray him with a kiss.
He was carried from one mock trial to another until the high priest declared, “What more do we need? He made himself out to be God.” These religious Jews tiptoed around the law to lead him to Pilate the Roman governor for another trial. They were careful not to break any laws so they wouldn’t become defiled. It is amazing that men can rationalize the greatest crime of all time while being careful not to break some minor rule to bring defilement. Pilate quickly recognized it was jealousy that brought them here, not some crime Jesus had committed. He tried to find a way to release him. But they accused him of not being Caesar’s friend if he didn’t put Jesus to death since he claimed to be the king of the Jews. Pilate delivered him to be scourged by the soldiers and prepared for crucifixion. With a cross beam across his shoulders he was marched to Calvary. Two terroristic thieves were crucified along with him. All kinds of crazy things were going on while Jesus was hanging on the cross by nails in his hands and feet. Soldiers gambled for his garments. Women cried in sympathy. Religious leaders taunted the man on the cross. But Jesus, in agony, suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually as the sins of the whole world were placed carefully on him, prayed. He first asked the Father not to hold this sin against those who were crying out for his blood. He said they didn’t know what they were doing. He said, “I thirst” to no one in particular it seems. He offered the penitent thief a new life saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Either just before the darkness fell over the land or during that period of darkness he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In order for him to die as the sinner he had to die without the help, support and comfort from God the Father or the Holy Spirit. When the darkness passed he took care of the future for his mother assigning John to take care of her. He cried “It is finished” to let all of heaven and earth know he had fulfilled his mission. He commended his spirit to the Father and gave up his life for three days and nights.
It is fairly common for people to feel they have been forsaken by God. Every time we don’t’ get the answer we asked for we feel like crying out “Why have you forsaken me?” But our cries are superficial. God is always there. He never leaves or forsakes us. Often in the worst situations He is not only watching but working out the problems in such a way to bring about growth and blessings to us. I’ve often felt ashamed of the times I felt betrayed or forsaken by God, when the crisis is over and I can see where God was working the whole time. What would it be like to be pushed into the sinners life and death to face eternity without God? I pray we will never know the answer to that question. Our problem is more likely to be why have we forsaken God than the other way around. Take the time to turn to the Book of Romans, chapter 8 beginning with verse 26 through the rest of the chapter and see God’s promises of His presence with us at all times. We can fully trust him to do all that he said.