My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? (Psalms 22:1)
It would be best that we tread lightly with these comments because we approach the holiest ground of any passage of sacred scripture. Here is the tree of Calvary prodigiously portrayed by the pen of David nearly one thousand years before the actual event. The mystery of scripture’s inspiration is opened before us with stunning accuracy as the death of the cross is foretold.
The first sentence of the 22nd Psalm is too high and holy for human comprehension. As Jesus hung on the cross bearing the sins of the world, He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Martin Luther read these words and was completely perplexed. He wrote, “How can this be, God forsaking God?” This question was not speculative hyperbole. This was truly God the Father turning His back on God the Son, the only begotten darling of the Father. He was forsaken as a vile criminal with no offer of compassionate support. Why would God do this? How could He do it?
The “why” is explained throughout the entire canon of scripture. Sin lives on nearly every page of your Bible. We are infected with it from head to toe. It saturates our minds and fills even the smallest crevice of our bodies. It is impossible to speak of humans unless you also consider the corruption of our nature and our abhorrence of God. Scripture says all have gone the way of sin—there is none righteous. We are so consumed that we are spoken of as spiritually dead. The “why” of God’s forsaking Christ becomes clear when we realize the stench, the sewerage, the disgusting filthiness of our vile nature—every repugnant vulgar sin was placed on Christ as He hung on Calvary. The “why” is because God in His holiness, in His perfect righteousness is incapable of looking on sin.
As Jesus hung on the cross, the Father did indeed turn His back on Him because Christ became everything that God is not. Fellowship with the Son must be cut off because in those hours of suffering He was doused in the corruption of the sins of the world. He was paying a ransom to God by suffering the pangs of Hell for His people. The “why” is the theology of the atonement. He suffered to bring us to God, and the only way He could do it was by separation from the Father. He could not become sin for us and at the same time remain in fellowship with the Father. The reduction of truth here to our level of understanding is that He was shut off from the Father so that we would not have to be. The marvelous truth that shines through for us is the love of the Father and the Son that caused both to break eternal harmony to rescue the wholly undeserving. The “why” of Christ’s rejection is profound, yet the whole history of redemption provides the explanation.
The other question is much more difficult. In fact, I cannot explain it. “How” did the Father do it? How can the invisible, immutable Holy God condescend to the fabric of the creature and then have all sin placed on Him? None of this is comprehensible to the mortal mind. It happened and we know it did, but we are left to gaze upon it and marvel at its reality while at the same time only thanking God that in His infinite wisdom He knew it was the only way our redemption could be accomplished. We marvel but we cannot explain.
This Psalm is mostly a mystery. I do not know how God did it, but thank God He did!
Pastor V. Mark Smith