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Was Jesus Forsaken on the Cross  ?


John 8:28-29  
“So Jesus said ... He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.’ ”
Matthew 27:46  
“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ?’ ”

Some people have contended that Jesus was stating a theological fact that the Father had forsaken Him while He was on the Cross.

However, this passage is a quotation from Psalm 22.  Jesus was not just reciting this passage.  He was praying it, and doing so for our benefit.

Jesus was fully human.  He fully experienced the pain of death and the feeling of separation. 

Please consider the following:

John 11:41-43  
“And Jesus raised his eyes and said,  ‘Father, I thank you for hearing me.   I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.’ … ‘Lazarus, come out !’ ”

Two things can be seen from this passage.  First, the Father always hears the Son.  Second, Jesus prays out loud for the benefit of His hearers.  Therefore, when he prayed Psalm 22, out loud, from the cross he brings to His followers’ mind’s the triumphal meaning that is revealed at the end of that Psalm.  Jesus knew that His listeners would have been reminded of the rest of that prayer.

Psalm 22: 2, 22-25
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? …
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.
… For God has not spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
but heard me when I cried out.”

Jesus was giving us a message of hope when we follow him to the cross.  Luke 9:23-24.
Even though believers in God may feel abandoned when they suffer, in reality God the Father is closer than ever.  What earthly father would not desire to be near his son when he is suffering.  Certainly an earthly father is not more loving than God the Father.
If we say that Jesus was “forsaken” in an absolute sense, that would make the Father a schizophrenic God,  One who tells Jesus to do something and then when Jesus obeys, the Father forsakes Him.  Cf. Garden of Gethsemane Matthew 26:39.

In support of the first opinion someone might quote:

Galatians 3: 10-13  
“For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.’ … Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,” ”

St. Paul was referring to how Jesus accepted the suffering that was due to our guilt.

Deuteronomy 27:26  
“ ‘Cursed be he who fails to fulfill any of the provisions of this law!’ And all the people shall answer, ‘Amen!’ ”

Jesus was paying our debt for sin.   Jesus died on the cross to restore holiness in Mankind not to just fulfill some legalistic rule.  Certainly, the Father was not just getting His blood’s worth of revenge. 

It was the pagan  “gods”  who punished just for the sake of revenge.  Sin by its very nature always brings destruction and suffering into the world.  By accepting the suffering due to our guilt Jesus enables our hearts to be opened up to having a true faith , so that it will even be open to accepting the suffering of the cross.  Jesus was doing much more than just fulfilling some legalistic requirement, He was enabling us to become truly loving and holy by His grace which works within us.  Even when God inflicts punishment He does so with more love than any human being could imagine. 

Luke 22:37 
“For I [Jesus]  tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked.’ ”

Even though He was counted among the wicked surely He was not wicked since He was without sin.



Jesus was never more glorious to the Father than when Our Savior hung on the Cross.

John 12:23  
“Jesus answered them,   ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ ”

John 17:1  
“When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said,  ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you’ ”

Isaiah 53:4   
“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.”

“While we thought of him as stricken …”  seems to imply that He was not really forsaken.  As does the following prophecy.

Psalm 31:23  
“Once I said in my anguish,  ‘I am shut out from your sight.’   Yet you heard my plea, when I cried out to you.”


John 14:8-11  
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?   …  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.   Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me … ”

John 8:28-29  
“So Jesus said (to them),  ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.   The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.’

So, it is appropriate to ask, “What was the Father’s plan, His Will, for Jesus ?   And when did Jesus do that ?”

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed,
Matthew 26:39  
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

John 10:17-18, 30 
“This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.   No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.  This command I have received from my Father … The Father and I are one.”

John 15:9-10
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you …
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”


Therefore, Jesus was never more lovable then when he was on the Cross.  It was then that Jesus was doing what was pleasing to the Father, giving His life in love for the Father and His will.  And as  John 8:28-29   points out, God the Father could not have left Him alone at this or any other time.

John 16: 32- 33  
“Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.  But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.   I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.”

This passage refers to when Jesus will be abandoned by most of the Apostles at the Cross, yet, Jesus informs us that the Father is, and will be, with Him at that time.  Further, He says that this is to give us peace.  He is implying that we will be treated by our Heavenly Father in our time of trial the same way the Father treated Him.  We will not be abandoned or forsaken, it will only appear to be that way.  See the end of the Psalm above.  Christians are called to see the fullness of reality not by natural means but by supernatural faith, hope and love.


Image at Top is from : Book of Hours, Paris, 1470 AD


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Original April 1999
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Pope Benedict XVI :

“I want to reflect with you on the cry of Jesus from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ... Even though the Father appears to be absent, in a mysterious way his loving gaze is focussed upon the Son’s loving sacrifice on the Cross. It is important to realize that Jesus’ cry of anguish is not an expression of despair: on the contrary, this opening verse of Psalm twenty-two conveys the entire content of the psalm, it expresses the confidence of the people of Israel that despite all the adversity they are experiencing, God remains present among them, he hears and answers his people’s cry. This prayer of the dying Jesus teaches us to pray with confidence for all ... who are suffering, that they too may know the love of God who never abandons them. ”
(General Audience
 Wednesday, 8 February 2012 )


Was Jesus Christ Literally Made Sin on the Cross? Did He Suffer the Horrors of Damnation?
Luther and Calvin vs. the Church Fathers
See Early Church Fathers on this subject by Dave Armstrong. 2