There was never a time when Jesus was separated from His Father. Does that surprise you? If you understand what you were taught about the atonement, it probably does, like it did me when I first saw this.
I’ve been making the point in the last few posts that we’ve embraced a theology in the West that creates a conflicted Godhead– thus, we’ve become conflicted in our view of the Father and Jesus. And we can lay the blame for this confusion squarely in our faulty view of the atonement.
As I wrote about here and here, our Reformation forefathers have projected their worldly ideas of punitive justice and a pagan-influenced need for appeasement onto God and, thus, have left us the legacy of a schizophrenic Deity–amiable, approachable “Dr.Jekyll” Jesus and a scary and distant “Mr. Hyde” Father. And while these contradictions are subtle, they are devastating to how we view our relationship to Him.
After all, you’re not going to run into the arms of Mr.Hyde.
In this regard, I will continue my evangelical myth-busters series by talking about the idea of the Father having to abandon Jesus when He took our sin on the cross. This entrenched fable is right up there with God not being able to even look at sin, which I will cover tomorrow.
Now, I can fully understand that having a picture of Jesus being forsaken by everyone–even His Father–creates heart-felt sentimentalities that make us cry and love Jesus all the more. But in a much deeper and darker place in our soul, it also makes us wonder about a good Father who would abandon His Child…under any circumstances.
Heaven looked away?
I love the Kari Jobe song, “Forever.” We sing it all the time. I like the song so much I did a blog post about it here. It’s a near perfect song…except one of the lines says, “As Heaven looked away, the Son of God was laid in darkness.”
Yes, He was laid in darkness, but did Heaven actually look away?
I would argue the opposite–that Jesus taking our sin away was THE most public event in the heavenly realm! For this was not a time of abandonment for Heaven but of great triumph! Look at how Paul described it (bold-type added)…
“Having disarmed principalities and powers,
He made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2:15 NKJV)
I’ll take it a step further. The Father did not look away–actually, He was IN Christ reconciling us to Himself when WE looked away.
“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor.5:19 NIV)
So, where was the Father? IN CHRIST, reconciling us to Himself.
“Forever” is still an awesome song, by the way. 🙂
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Okay, you may be thinking about now, what about Jesus quoting the beginning of Psalm 22…“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34).
Yes, He did…but why was He quoting it?
We must understand that whenever someone quoted one line of Scripture in their religious culture, the audience would understand it in the context of the whole passage. The New Testament writers did this all the time. They didn’t turn Scripture into refrigerator verse platitudes like we like to do.
So, Jesus quotes the beginning of Psalm 22…
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
But read the rest of the Psalm for context. What does it say later (bold-text added)…
“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
nor has He hidden His face from Him;
but when He cried to Him, He heard.” (Psalm 22:24 NKJV)
Did you see that? It’s saying that God has not hidden His face from Jesus, nor has He abhorred Him so much that He was deaf to His affliction.
So then, what was Jesus doing here?
Jesus was identifying with our orphan heart–our feelings of abandonment and separation from God.
WE are the ones who viewed Him stricken by God (Isa.53:4). It was our grief, our sorrow that He took upon Himself. It was not His, for He and His Father were always and forever in intimate union, which is critically important for us to see (John 17:21-26).
In that light, let’s drive one last coffin nail into this evangelical myth, shall we?
Jesus was never alone, neither are you!
Jesus said this to His disciples on the night of His betrayal that, while they would all leave Him, His Father would never leave Him (bold-text added)…
“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come,
that you will be scattered, each to his own,
and will leave Me alone.
And yet I am not alone,
because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32 NKJV)
We are the ones who saw Him abandoned, we are the ones who turned away…everyone one of us. But the Father was always with Him.
Notice very carefully what Jesus says in John 8. He’s clearly talking about His crucifixion here (bold-text added)…
“Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will know that I am He,
and that I do nothing of Myself;
but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.
And He who sent Me is with Me.
The Father has not left Me alone,
for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29 NKJV)
Okay, what do the statements, “He who sent me is with Me“ and “The Father has not left me alone“ usually mean to you? Do you see it yet? Jesus leaves no doubt here–He did nothing of Himself. And, again, Paul affirmed it by telling us that the Father was IN Christ reconciling the world to Himself on the Cross.
Beloved child of God, your heavenly Father is not an absentee Dad. He won’t run off on you…ever. He never left Jesus in His hour of greatest pain, and He will never ever, ever forsake you either.
And He’s not Mr.Hyde, He’s Mr. Love!
Next time, we will look at the myth that God cannot even look at sin. For now, let the following emphatic declaration of the Father’s commitment to you wash over your soul (Brackets are in translation)…
“for He [God] Himself has said,
I will not in any way fail you
nor give you up nor leave you without support.
[I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not
in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake
nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”