In my last post, I indicated that there might be at least two reasons why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” while on the cross, other than the traditional explanation that the Father had truly abandoned His Son. The first reason, as I explained, might be that He was seeking to call to the minds of the religious leaders around Him the words of Psalm 22 so that they might realize this messianic prophecy was being fulfilled before their eyes and repent.
Another possibility is that Jesus truly did experience a feeling of abandonment while in the process of “becoming sin” on our behalf. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus, “…endured the cross, despising the shame…“. Though Jesus never committed any sin (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Pet. 2:22), He suffered its effects when He became sin for us. And, what is one of the greatest consequences of sin? Shame, and the sense of condemnation that goes along with it.
In the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God. Why? Shame. They were ashamed to be naked and ashamed to face God. Shame made Adam and Eve feel as if they couldn’t face God. It wasn’t true. Notice, the Lord came looking for them. He didn’t stay far off, unwilling to look upon them in His holiness. What a beautiful lesson for us. In our sin and shame, He comes looking for us, like the Good Shepherd that He is.
Is it possible that Jesus, when overwhelmed with the sense of shame that we sinners know all too well, felt what we felt in those moments – abandoned by God? How often it is that I have allowed a cloud of shame and condemnation to come between me and my Father in heaven. The turning away is never on His part, but on mine. I feel unworthy to approach Him with my guilty conscience. I feel as if He wants nothing to do with me…I feel forsaken. This is only a deception, based on feelings and the lies of the enemy, not truth or faith. We all know how powerfully oppressive condemnation can be. It is smothering. What if Jesus, in taking on our sin, felt that same dark sense of separation from God? No wonder it is the one thing the scriptures tell us He despised about the suffering of the cross. I think the Lord really does hate shame – it keeps His children from running into His arms when they need Him the most.
And, it was from the depths of despair and shame that Jesus showed us the way out. Though everything within Him screamed that God had abandoned Him, He used His last breath to exercise the greatest act of faith and trust in all eternity:
Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.
He refused to succumb to the shrieking lies of the enemy or confusing feelings, but relied on what He knew was true of His Father – that His Father loved Him and would never leave Him or forsake Him. Though engulfed in the deepest darkness any man has ever known, He put His trust in God to deliver Him. In fact, toward the end of the messianic psalm He quoted, it says this:
For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy, He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
The Father Jesus knew did not turn His back on His people, He always answered those who cried out to Him. This is why Paul could say, with great confidence in Romans 8:1-3:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh…
In those dark hours, when Jesus became sin, that sin was consumed and condemned to death by the power of God residing in the body of Jesus Christ. This is why only Jesus, God incarnate, could accomplish our salvation. Only He had the power to obliterate sin once and for all, and then go on to conquer death three days later.
God does not want you to live under a heavy burden of sin and shame, my friends. Jesus did away with that on the cross. It is the enemy of our souls, the accuser of the brethren, who wants you to continue to believe that the Father does not want you to come near to Him because of your weaknesses and failings. Jesus’ invitation is, in fact, just the opposite to those lies:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matt. 11:28-30 (NLT)
Those heavy burdens are our sins and we become weary with the effort of trying to be good enough for God through the keeping of laws and rules. The same Spirit that did away with sin and the law in the body of Jesus wants to do away with it in you as well. But, it is HIS work to do, not yours. Just rest in Him and trust in His finished work – He will do the rest.
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