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Was Jesus forsaken by God? 

03-07-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet


For most believers, this will hardly be a question. After all, did Jesus not cry out, on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat.27: 46; Mar.15:34). Indeed, this is (approximately) how it is presented in most Bible translations. When we consider the matter further, however, we find that there is more to be considered…

why or what for?

In the first place, the word that hides behind “why”‘ is in Hebrew “lama” and this word does not mean “why” but literally “to what” or “what for”. The word “why” conveys despair, however, in the exclamation, “what for” there is hope. Jesus has constantly looked forward to and was, therefore, also able to bear the cross.

… Jesus, Who, for the joy lying before Him, endures a cross … Heb 12:2

forsaken or left (given up)

When we zoom in on the Greek word used in Matthew and Mark for “forsaken” (Strong 1459), we see the same word in the following Scriptures:

… because Thou wilt not leave my soul to hades… Acts 2:27 (YLT)

… that his soul was not left to hades… Acts 2:31 (YLT)

(YLT) Ro 9:29 …  ‘Except the Lord of Sabaoth did leave to us a seed… Rom.9:29 (YLT)

On the cross, Jesus did not ask, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” but He cried out: “My God, my God, to what or what for have You given Me up“?! [to them]. Of course, Jesus knew the answer (i.e., for the joy that lay before him). Therefore, the question is rhetorical, an exclamation of emotion.

the Father is with me

Jesus, on the cross, did not cry out into a dark nothing, but in the consciousness that His God and Father was with him and listened. A few hours before, Jesus had even said to his disciples:

Lo! the hour is coming and has come, that you should be scattered, each to his own, and you may be leaving Me alone. And I am not alone, for the Father is with Me. John 16:32

given over to His enemies

God did not forsake His Son on the cross, but He gave Him up to His enemies. Paul wrote:

Surely, He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all, how shall He not, together with Him, also, be graciously granting us all? Rom.8:32

God gave His Son over to a world that was hostile to Him. What the world did not know, is that God precisely by means of this way would give life to that same world. The life that came to light three days later, when Jesus , as the Firstfruit, arose from out of the dead!


It is as it was with Joseph: precisely because his brothers sold him, that he could be their savior (Gen.45:7). So was Joseph not only able to keep his brothers alive, but also to win their hearts. How could they remain hostile to him, who, despite all they had done to him, gave them bread to still their hunger (cf Rom.12:20)? Never does love (Gr. agapé) become more persuasive than against the background of enmity.

the cross as “lightning rod”

Behind the idea that Jesus was forsaken by God, on the cross, is the age old theology of “conciliation through satisfaction”. That theology holds that God was, substitutionally, pouring out His wrath on Jesus. The world deserved punishment, but Jesus, serving as “lightning rod” saved the world. It is claimed that the cross, in the first place, was necessary to give satisfaction to God and to appease Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! Scripture never speaks about God’s wrath in connection with the cross of Calvary. God does not need to be paid first, before He is able to forgive. In fact, forgiveness is meaningless, if the debt is already paid.

the cross conciliates

The doctrine of “conciliation through satisfaction” has blinded the people for the true meaning of the cross. That the cross reconciles, means to most people that God has, since Golgotha, received satisfaction and is, consequently, able to forgive sins. What a travesty! To reconcile means making enemies or those alienated into friends!

and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace THROUGH the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens. And you, being once estranged and enemies in comprehension, by wicked acts, yet now He reconciles Col.1:20,21

Reconciliation did not take place ON the cross, but took place THROUGH the cross. It is not, God conciliates Himself to the world, but He conciliates the world to Himself (Romans 5:10; 2Cor.5:19)! Reconciliation takes place when man becomes convinced of God’s love, demonstrated on the cross of Calvary.


The idea that Jesus, on the cross, was forsaken by God provides not only a distortion of reconciliation – it even changes the reconciliation into its opposite. It makes the cross a symbol of reckoning sins, while according to Scripture the cross is precisely the emblem of not reckoning sins (2Cor.5:19). God did not give up His Son, because He had to settle an account, but He left Him to His enemies, because He wanted to demonstrate His love (Rom.5:8)!