The Manner in which Christ was Forsaken on the Cross

The question has been asked, “But how could God forsake God?” The answer must be that God the Father deserted his Son’s human nature, and even this in a limited, though very real and agonizing, sense. The meaning cannot be that there was ever a time when God the Father stopped loving his Son. Nor can it mean that the Son ever rejected his Father. Far from it. He kept on calling him “My God, my God.” And for that very reason we may be sure that the Father loved him as much as ever.

How, then, can we ascribe any sensible meaning to this utterance of deep distress? Perhaps an illustration may be of some help, though it should be added immediately that no analogy taken from things that happen to humans on earth can ever begin to do justice to the Son of God’s unique experience. Nevertheless, the illustration may be helpful in some slight degree. Here, let us say, is a child that is very sick. He is still too young to understand why he has to be taken to the hospital, and especially why, while there, he may have to be in the Intensive Care Unit, where his parents cannot always be with him. His parents love him as much as ever. But there may be moments when the child misses the presence of his father or mother so much that he experiences profound anguish. So also the Mediator. His soul reaches out for the One whom he calls “my God,” but his God does not answer him. Is not that exactly the manner in which the cry of agony is interpreted in the context of Ps. 22? Note:

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou answerest not;
And by night, but I find no rest.”

For the Sufferer with a superbly sensitive soul this terrible isolation must have been agonizing indeed. This all the more in view of the fact that only several hours earlier he had said to his disciples, “Note well, there comes an hour—yes, it has arrived—when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me (John 16:32).” And a little later he had added, in his touchingly beautiful Highpriestly Prayer, “And now Father, glorify thou me in thine own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world existed” (John 17:5). And now the Father does not answer, but leaves him in the hands of his adversaries. Reflect again on all the abuse and the suffering Jesus had already endured this very night. Is it any wonder that he now cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” His God and Father would not have abandoned him to his tormentors if it had not been necessary. But it was necessary, in order that he might fully undergo the punishment due to his people’s sins.

- William Hendriksen commentary on Matthew 27:46