At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last (Mark 15:33-37).
The bystanders didn’t understand Jesus’ words and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. If you remember the story, Elijah ascended into heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:11), and some of the Jews thought he would come back to earth to rescue them from trouble (Malachi 4:5). One of the customs at the annual Passover meal was to set an extra place for Elijah in anticipation of his return.
Was this a cry of anger? Or loneliness? Was Jesus delusional at this point in the journey and not thinking straight. This passage is one of the most difficult to understand in the entire Bible. Would God ever turn away from his Son? Weren’t the Father and the Son both committed to providing a way of salvation for the human race?
Some people view God the Father as hot-tempered and quick to punish, whereas Jesus is the one who is soft-hearted and forgiving. They picture God eagerly desiring to dish out wrath on us, but Jesus steps in and holds him back saying, “Father, please don’t do that! Let me bear the penalty for their sins. I love them too much to watch them suffer!”
To suggest that there is a difference in motive between the Father and the Son is utterly ridiculous! The ultimate expression of God’s incredible love is the sending of his son, Jesus, into the world. In fact, Jesus talked about the Father on a regular basis. And, Jesus even said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” and “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 14:9, 8:19). Jesus claimed, I and the Father are one (John 10:30).
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s divine nature (Hebrews 1:3). So, if you want to know what God the Father is like, all you have to do is look at Jesus!
The truth is, the Father and Son both suffered when Jesus was crucified. The Son obviously suffered by dying, and the Father suffered by watching his beloved Son being rejected and killed.
Warren Wiersbe notes: “We must keep in mind that what our Lord accomplished on the cross was an eternal transaction that involved Him and the Father. He did not die as a martyr who had failed in a lost cause. Nor was He only an example for people to follow. Isaiah 53 makes it clear that Jesus did not die for His own sins, because He had none; He died for our sins. He made His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:4-6, 10-12).
It is true that the Father sent the Son to live a perfect life and die to pay the penalty for our sins. But it is not true to suggest that the Son was reluctant to participate in the work of redeeming the human race. The Father did not force his Son to go through an ordeal he was unwilling to bear, and the Son didn’t beg the Father to provide a way of salvation he was reluctant to provide.
In 2 Corinthians 5:19, Paul the apostle states, “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” The Father, in giving up his Son to die, gave up himself; both the Father and the Son were involved in the work of redemption.
Paul continues: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The moment that our sin was transferred to Christ was the moment that the Father, in his holiness, looked away.
John Stott states: “So then an actual and dreadful separation took place between the Father and the Son; it was voluntarily accepted by both the Father and the Son; it was due to our sins and their just reward; and Jesus expressed this horror of great darkness, this God-forsakenness, by quoting the only verse of Scripture which accurately described it, and which he had perfectly fulfilled, namely, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Stott, page 81).
When Jesus was crying out in the garden, “my Father, if is possible, may this cup be taken from me,” you have to wonder if his greatest dread was the painful moment of feeling the weight of sin put upon him and the inevitable separation from his Father (Matthew 26:39). The physical agony would have been beyond description, but the agony in his soul would have only compounded the horror of the moment. Jesus went through all that to make sure that his followers would never have to experience eternal separation from God.
Jesus suffered in his soul the terrible torment of becoming a sin offering for us. He did it because he loved us with an everlasting love. Indeed, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
Dear Jesus, it’s hard to imagine what you went through when you took upon yourself the sins of the world, past, present, and future. Our finite minds could never comprehend the magnitude of all that took place on the cross. The world has never seen such love and we can’t thank you enough for paying the ultimate price to redeem the human race and for graciously including us!
Have you ever considered what the Father suffered when his Son was crucified?