Our text is Psalm 22:1: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? (ESV)
And also Matthew 27:45-46: 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV)
Jesus knew what it was like to be abandoned. In the upper room, Peter and all the disciples declared, Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you (Matthew 26:35). But in Gethsemane, all the disciples deserted [Jesus] and fled; later that night, in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter disowned his Lord, saying, I don’t know the man! (Matthew 26:56, 72, 74). Jesus knew what it was like to be abandoned, even by his closest friends.
But Jesus also knew what it was like to be loved by His Father. When Jesus was baptized, He heard His Father’s voice saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased (Matthew 3:17). A few years later, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus again heard his Father’s voice saying, This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased (Matthew 17:5). Now, the love of a husband and wife is sometimes marred by anger and impatience. But for all of eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have known a truly perfect love. We cannot experience complete harmony with other people, let alone with ourselves. But the Triune God has experienced perfect harmony for all eternity! And so Jesus knows what it is like to be loved by His Father.
But on the cross, Jesus discovered what it was like to be abandoned by His Father. On the cross Jesus cried out in a loud voice, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46). Can you imagine a sadder image than this? The God-forsaken Son of God. Deserted by His friends. Crucified by an hostile crowd. And now, the greatest injury of all, abandoned by the Father who loved Him from before the beginning of time. The Father, who once spoke This is my beloved Son, now is silent. The Son, who before had heard His Father’s words of praise, now is alone. In all the history of the world, there has never been a silence as deep as the Father’s silence on Good Friday. There has never been a person as alone as the Son on the cross. The Son suffered not just from the nails which were driven into His hands and feet; the Son suffered not just from the sins which He bore in our place; the Son also suffered from being abandoned by His Father.
Why did the Father abandon His Son? Was the Father being cruel to His Son? Did the Father suddenly hate the Son? The Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit, have always existed in perfect harmony. Are we to believe that this perfect harmony was shattered on the cross? That the Father, who had loved the Son with a perfect love from all eternity, suddenly despised His Son as something to be thrown away, abandoned? No, our God is not a fickle God, who changes His mind as easily as the wind changes direction. Over forty times, the Scriptures tell us that God’s love endures forever. And so it was the Father’s eternal love that inspired His momentary abandonment of the Son. The Father was not being fickle, but faithful. He was not expressing hatred, but love. The Father so loved the world that He abandoned the Son on the cross.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?–when Jesus spoke these words on the cross, He was repeating words which were written hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (v. 1). Here we have a clue as to what it means for the Father to abandon the Son. While the Son was on the cross, the Father’s love was as strong as ever. The perfect harmony which had existed between the Father and the Son from all eternity was still intact. But in spite of Father’s perfect love for the Son, the Father refused to help the Son. In spite of the Father’s perfect harmony with the Son, the Father refused to save the Son from the cross. The Father refused to listen to the Son’s groaning. The Father abandoned the Son by refusing to help, to save, even to listen to the Son dying on the cross. And so, according to His human nature, the Son of God experienced what it is like to be cut off from the Father because of sin: Jesus, God’s Son, experienced the utter and complete abandonment which we deserve because of our sins
Why did the Father abandoned the Son? For you. The Father abandoned the Son for you. The Father abandoned the Son so that you would never be abandoned, forsaken. The Father refused to help the Son so that you would continually be helped by His grace and mercy. The Father refused to save the Son from death so that you would be saved for eternal life. The Father refused to listen to the Son’s groaning so that He might ever hear your prayers and listen to the Son’s intercessions on your behalf. The Father abandoned the Son so that we could enjoy freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from the devil. The Father allowed the Son to pay the wages of sin by dying on the cross. Because Jesus died for us, we can receive the gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). If Jesus had not paid the wages of sin for us, we could not have received the gift of eternal life. And so we give thanks to the Father, who…has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12-14).
For all of eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have lived and will live in perfect love and harmony. Even on the cross, that love and harmony was not broken. But on the cross, the Son of God, according to His human nature, experienced the Father’s silence, the Father’s refusal to help, to save, to listen. The Son was abandoned, but not because the Father no longer loved Him. The Son was abandoned because the Father loved us so much He was willing to sacrifice His only-begotten Son.
Like Peter and the other disciples, we are good at abandoning Jesus. We abandon Jesus every time we give in to temptation. Search your heart and you will find a multitude of ways in which you have abandoned Him. But now, let us turn from our sins and look into the Father’s heart and we will find a love that covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Let us say to your heavenly Father: “Father, you abandoned your Son on the cross out of love for me. But I have abandoned your Son out of the selfish desires of my heart. Forgive me. Help me to turn from the sin in my life. Do not abandon me!” And then give thanks to the Father who abandoned His Son in order to forgive you! Give thanks to the Father who abandoned His Son so that you may never be abandoned. Give thanks to the Father who refused to help His Son so that you may continually be helped by His grace and mercy. Give thanks to the Father who refused to listen to His Son’s groaning so that He may ever hear your prayers. Give thanks to the Father who refused to save His Son from death so that you may be saved for eternal life. Amen.