For a long time, but especially through this season of Lent, I have wondered about one assumed part of the Easter story. Please understand that I am not a theologian, but I am a sincere child of God, a child who asks questions.
This is one that has troubled me: Did God the Father turn away from His crucified Son?
Why is this scenario so troubling? Because if, as I was taught from childhood, God cannot look upon sin, even when borne by His beloved Son, how could He ever see me in my unrepentant sinfulness?
How could He live up to His beautiful name, El Roi, the God who sees me?
The entire time He lived on earth Jesus enjoyed unbroken fellowship with His Father (e.g. John 14:9-11). But then came that horrible moment on the cross, when beaten, stripped and mocked, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Does your heart not break at those words? Mine does. There is Jesus, God’s obedient Son, fulfilling His purpose—to die in our place, paying for our sinfulness with His perfection.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Oh, the great, great love of Jesus! He willingly went to the cross, because of His great love for us. And on that cross, as the weight of all our sin broke His heart and His body, He cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
But the conclusion that God the Father turned His back on His Son has always bothered me.
Can Love turn away from Love?
Perhaps it is at this moment when Jesus’s humanity is most palpable and most identifiable. From His perspective, under the burden of our guilt, He cannot see His Father and feels forsaken, abandoned, alone. I know that feeling; do you? He experienced that sorrow for us.
Is there any Biblical backup for my supposition? Psalm 22 is widely considered to be a Messianic psalm of Jesus speaking to His Father. Look at verse 24: For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”
My tentative conclusion is that God the Father sees us always, but unrepentance keeps us from seeing Him. He waits in love for us to repent, to turn to Him, and Jesus’s agonizing death made it possible.
Thanks be to God for His amazing grace!