No, God did not turn his face from Jesus on the cross

Good Friday, 29th March, 2024

“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me!” and so, 2000 years later we sing about God forsaking Jesus, turning his face away and pouring out his wrath on him instead of us.

What a limited understanding of God. How small we make him.

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, which speaks of being mocked, of being surrounded by evildoers who “divide my clothing amongst themselves, for my clothing they cast lots” (v.17) events that were echoed during the crucifixion. Psalm 22 starts with the psalmist crying out “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me” as he describes his suffering, but look at how it ends.

“You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
Stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;
He did not hide his face from me,
But heard when I cried to him”

(v 23-24)

Jesus was fully human, he felt the things we feel. How many of us, in our suffering, feel all alone? Feel that God has abandoned us? The psalmist did, and Jesus did too. Jesus felt forsaken just like we do sometimes, but he wasn’t. God would never forsake Jesus, and he would never forsake you either.

God promised Joshua (Joshua 1:5) “I will not fail you or forsake you” and that’s a promise for all of us too. It was a promise for the patriarchs, for the psalmist, for Jesus and ultimately for you.

I will not fail you or forsake you

Joshua 1:5

God did not abandon his son on the cross. God never abandons anyone in their suffering. God hears our cries, he counts our tears. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way, God is with us on the cross, in the tomb, in the darkness until resurrection morning.

When the Israelites were in exile in Babylon the prophet Jeremiah was tasked by God with breaking the bad news that their suffering was not about to end any time soon, that God knew they would be there for another 70 years, some of them would die in captivity. But, alongside this, God told them “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Yes, it was a time of pain, of captivity, of darkness, but God was with them in the midst of that, planning their future, giving them reason to hope, planning their resurrection morning. Just as God was on the cross with Jesus, in the tomb with Jesus, planning Jesus resurrection morning. And, when we suffer, God is with us, through the pain, in the darkness, planning our resurrection morning.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope

Jeremiah 29:11

The light is coming!
Happy Easter.