God abandons Jesus on the cross.
This is a pretty common thought in western Christianity. It goes hand in hand with the Penal substutionary atonement theory (PSA) held by most western Christian denominations. The theory states that on the cross the Father poured His wrath on Jesus, taking the place of sinful humanity, to satisfy his justice. The theory is Jesus got what humans deserved. This is not only a “new” belief in the 2000 year old christian tradition (roughly only 500 years old) but is the opposite of the way Jesus revealed the Father to be in the Gospels. Interestingly, the entire Eastern Orthodox Church actually rejects this theory and considers it heresy.
The aspect I want to cover in this article is the false belief that Jesus was forsaken and abandoned by God on the cross. Digging right in lets remember first that in Christian orthodoxy God is trinity. Traditionally called Father, Son and Spirit. That is, “the Divine” is a relationship. The relationship has always been and always will be. You can’t have one without the other because the relationship is One. So Jesus, the One that scriptures say literally holds all things together (Colossians 1:16), could hardly separate even for a moment from the Relationship or He would cease being God and ultimately not be holding all things together and then we have no more universe because that is a part of the “all” in all of the things He holds together.
Also the Apostle Paul gives us insight on what God was doing at this time.
“On the cross God was (personaly present) IN Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them….”
2 Corinthians 5:19
Here we can see not only did God not forsake Jesus but he was in his very being reconciling the entire cosmos to himself.
-Well then, you may ask, why then did Jesus cry out “my God my God why have you forsaken me?”
The thought is that Jesus was taking on the sin of the world upon himself at this time. He became sin, who knew no sin, a criminal although innocent. What does that even mean? Supernatural superstition and speculation aside, what this means is that Jesus took on the violence of the systems of the world (religion and empire) onto himself and accepted their false accusations against him to expose them as idols and defeated them by way of forgiveness (“father forgive them”). In other words Jesus took humanity’s sin and recycled it into forgiveness. In this act and being fully human, who wouldn’t feel alone and abandoned? Jesus experienced the fullnes of what all humans feel. Doubt and abandonment is a part of it. The humanness of Jesus on the cross should not be understated.
-Also, I think, Jesus was actually quoting a very popular poem at the time that many would have recognized. Let’s check it out…
MY GOD, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
-Recognize the first line? It’s what the gospel writers proclaimed Jesus cried out on the cross. Sounds depressing right? Like someone is asking God why God left. But that’s not the end of the popular song. Let’s keep reading through the Psalm…
“Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.”
-Sounds a little hopeful to me. It even goes on to shadow a scene that looks a lot like the crucifixion. Foreshadowing maybe?
“But You, O Lord , BE NOT FAR ; O You my help, hasten to my assistance. YOU DELIVER my soul from the sword and Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen YOU ANSWER ME…”
– A little hope? Oh It gets better!
“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 for help, HE HEARD.”
-AND TO FINISH…
“ALL THE ends of the EARTH WILL remember and TURN TO THE LORD , And ALL the FAMILIES of the nations WILL WORSHIP before You. For the kingdom is the Lord ‘ s And HE RULES OVER ALL NATIONS. ALL THE EARTH WILL WORSHIP, ALL those who go down to the dust WILL BOW BEFORE HIM!”
Do you see what is going on? In the 1st century culture of Jesus’ time, when the first line of a scripture was quoted by a Rabbi, the rest of the text would have been implied. It seems the writer of the text had Jesus singing a song of victory. A time of restoration of the whole earth. Any practicing Jews around at the time would have known this too.
So you see Jesus was never forsaken by God on the cross. God never poured out his wrath and anger for us on Jesus. On the contrary, out of His great Love for us, God was inside of Him the whole time, never leaving or forsaking Him, reconciling ALL of humanity to himself. We see this in the forgiveness given to those who murdered him. Through His doubt and feelings of abandonment and fear, God was in Him working through Him just as I believe the Divine is with us at all times. In this sense, doubting and fear are a divine quality and when we do those things, we are actually participating in the same divine acts as God. So, through our doubts and fears, we can hold onto hope and believe that we are never forsaken or abandoned.