God did not turn his back on Jesus.
Good Friday is a day memorialized in Christian history as the day we stop and meditate on what it felt like for the disciples, Mary, and others to stand at the foot of the cross. The king is dead.
This day memorializes the darkest day in history, when Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross, lifted up, and mockingly called king. This was the day when the sins of the world were nailed to the execution post through Yeshua.
Attempts to make sense of the scene depicted in the gospel accounts have led to many assertions, though. One of them being that God turned his back to Jesus on the cross due to the nature of the scene. This popular theory is founded in Matthew 27.
Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
This single verse has caused many to theorize that as the sins of the world culminated onto Jesus, that God could not help but turn his face away from His son. This theory is expounded to suggest that this holy trinity was broken for the first time in all of eternity and that this is the true weight of sin.
The biggest disagreement with this theory, however, is the Bible itself. No where does the Bible seek to support this opinion. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. God does not turn His back on Jesus, nor does He turn His back on you.
When Jesus cried out the words claiming that God had forsaken Him, He was actually quoting a Psalm out of the Old Testament.
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
This Psalm is one that portrays the author coming to a point in their life where he has lost hope, feeling the darkness cave into their life, and believes God has abandoned them. The Psalm also contains messianic themes that seem to paint a picture of the future crucifixion scene in a prophetic fashion. The chapter continues with the author claiming that his enemies have pierced his hands and feet (verse 14), has his bones on display for all to see (verse 15), and that his enemies have divided his garments through the casting of lots (verse 16).
When Jesus cries out that God has forsaken Him, it isn’t because God couldn’t stomach the scene. Jesus cries out this verse to remind His disciples, and us, of Psalm 22. As I mentioned, Psalm 22 is a psalm depicting a time of hopelessness, where one feels so far from God’s grace and mercy that it is as if God has forsaken them. It depicts someone who is experiencing violence and despair as they cry out in prayer to God. Then, Psalm 22 concludes with showing that God never left their side during their tribulation.
Psalm 22:24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
No, God did not hide His face from Jesus while He was on the cross. I think that is why Jesus quoted this Psalm. He wanted all standing there that day to understand that despite what the world looks like, despite how much darkness there is, despite having absolutely no reason to have hope, God is still here. God is still working. God has not turned His back on you.
On that day, Jesus was exalted up, a crown placed on His head, and a sign officially hung proclaiming Him king. The world thought of this as a mockery, but the cross became His throne. This was how King Jesus was inaugurated, as a dead lamb standing in the center of the cosmos in the divine throne room (Revelation 5:6).
Good Friday is a day that traditionally memorializes that day when Jesus was exalted up on the cross. It should also remind us that even in the darkest moments conceivable, our God remains there. Our God has no resume of forsaking those He loves, and he loves you.
Pastor Matthew Vander Els is Founder of Founded In Truth Ministries and leads FIT fellowship in Fort Mill, SC. Matthew’s passion is the person of Yeshua and the power of the gospel, His crucifixion, and how the resurrection changed the world forever. Matthew also loves exploring the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the archeology and anthropology of Near Eastern kingdoms as they relate to the Bible.