Why did Jesus cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” quoting Psalm 22:1 (Matt 27:46)? How would God forsake Jesus? In a limited sense, God forsook the sinless Christ Jesus by allowing Jesus to endure the condemnation of sin in death. One may think of this separation in distance (cf. Jas 4:4). In this way, the separation between the Father and the Son was caused by the sins of humanity between God and man. Jesus experienced the death on the cross that He did not deserve. “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6b ESV).
Some have thought that Jesus’s words for God forsaking Him implied that Jesus went to Hell. However, Jesus told the thief on the cross that He would be with Him in paradise that day (Luke 23:43). The idea that Jesus went to Hell is inferred from an old mistranslation of Acts 2:27 (cf. 1 Pet 3:18–20). The Greek word Hades refers to the place of the dead. However, the Greek “forsaken” in Jesus’s words in Matthew 27:46 is the same as in Peter’s description of God not leaving Jesus in Hades in Acts 2:27. In other words, God the Father forsook Jesus in death. However, this fact leaves other questions unanswered.
Why God Forsook Jesus on the Cross
Jesus expressed, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!” on the cross just before his death. God left Jesus because Jesus bore humanity’s sin to die and conquer sin. God allowed Jesus to die and Jesus chose to die; although, He never sinned (2 Cor 5:21). God left Jesus in the way that God separates from each person who sins. No one can escape the presence of God’s Spirit (Ps 139:7–12). This does not mean that Jesus was somehow no longer God in the flesh. A hostile mind, harden heart, and evil actions separate people from eternal life with God (Eph 4:18; Col 1:21).
In this sense, Jesus who knew no sin was made sin to become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus became the righteousness of God not by becoming righteous because Jesus was already righteous. Likewise, Jesus did become sin so that He was no longer sinless, but Jesus endured the consequences of sin that is death. The word for righteousness contains the lengthened Greek stem and root word for justification (Rom 3:21–26). Jesus became the righteousness of God in making others right with God, which is justification. Jesus’s death justified all those who believe in Jesus the Christ (Rom 3:26).
Jesus overcame the separation of sin with God and thereby accomplished a new union between God with humanity. This reunion is reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18–21). Jesus was quoting Psalm 22:1 concerning God leaving Him. God the Father forsaking the Son represents the separation that sin caused. Sin alienates sinners from God hence the need for reconciliation (Isa 59:2; Eph 4:18; Col 1:21). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and thus all earn death (Isa 53:6; Rom 3:23; 5:12; 6:23). That death is the condemnation of sin (Rom 5:16, 18). Furthermore, physical death is a separation of the spirit and body, and spiritual death is the separation of man from God (cf. Jas 2:26). This is eternal destruction away from the presence of God (2 Thess 1:7–9).
How Atonement Caused Reconciliation
God will require the lifeblood of each person because sin is contrary to God’s image (Gen 9:4–6; Rom 3:19–20). All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Furthermore, God gave blood for atonement, the appeasement of justice (Lev 17:11–14). Jesus was sinless and He did not profane the image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3). Therefore, His blood is able to appease the law and the just wrath for breaking that God’s law by His willingness to lay down His life.
Jesus took the punishment that was not due to him to overcome the death that is due to all people (Rom 5:12, 16, 18). Jesus bridged or bypassed death unto life again. Death could not hold Jesus because He is sinless (Acts 2:24). Jesus conquered spiritual and bodily death (1 Cor 15:53–57). Therefore, Jesus rose bodily and so will the just rise like Him on the last day (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20–23, 53; Phil 3:20–21; 1 John 3:1–2; cf. Dan 12:2; John 5:28–29).
Jesus’s blood brought atonement, forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation with God. Paul revealed,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:6–11 ESV)
Salvation in Jesus’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection
The first important of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:1–4). This is the gospel that saves those who hold to the message. The apostle Paul revealed the death, burial, and resurrection in the life of a believer. Paul reported,
having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (Col 2:12–13).
This is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation enacted in the faith of each believer. Baptism partakes of the reality of salvation signified in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Paul observed,
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Rom 6:3–6)
True faith is obedient faith (Rom 1:5; 2:6–11; 16:26). God will only save those who obey the gospel (2 Thess 1:7–9; 1 Pet 4:17).