This story is not what you might think it is. It sounds like a salvation story, but it’s not. We are called upon often to take a journey to the cross: Every Lord’s Supper of which we partake. This journey focuses on a particular phrase that Jesus spoke while on the cross and its impact on my life and my whole concept of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son.
In Matthew 27:46, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I have read this verse many times and have believed, as I was taught, that it was at this point that Jesus had the wrath of God poured out on Him, and thus God had to turn His back on Him because God cannot look upon sin. I saw the little footnote directing me to Psalm 22, which was what Jesus was quoting. In fact, verse 2 continues by saying that God will not answer. But Jesus is quoting David, who, true to form, begins with high emotion and then answers with truth: “Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the praise of Israel.” Verses 3 through 5 speak of God’s faithfulness to His forefathers.
Then the Psalm takes a turn that sounds ominously like the crucifixion. For instance, verse 8 is nearly a quote of Matthew 27:4, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if He wants him.”
Verse 9 and 10 swing back to the intimate relationship of the Father and the Son; you can almost see David pacing back and forth as he vacillates between despair and hope.
It was at verse 11 that I began to sense something wrong. The verses remind me of a lamb caught in a thicket and being attacked by wolves. Verses 14 through 17 describe Jesus’ physical condition on the cross. Verse 18 speaks of the guards casting lots for his clothing. Then the Lamb begins to cry out for His Shepherd, “But You, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” Verses 20 and 21 continue His call. In verses 22 and 23 you can hear the confidence that the Sheep has for the Shepherd, and IT IS IN VERSE 24 that we receive, in true Davidian form, the answer to his question in verse 1, which was, “Why have you forsaken me?” LISTEN: “For he has NOT (emphasis added) despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has NOT hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Now, THAT’S a Shepherd! The rest of the psalm is David singing the praises of his God, and finishes with, “It is finished,” which is one of the last words of Christ, leading me to believe that Jesus quoted the entire psalm while on the cross! What better way to pass the time than to quote a psalm that is fashioned specifically for His situation?
If God did NOT turn His face away from Christ, then what WAS God’s role in the crucifixion? I began to read the Gospels looking for clues. Here are a few:
John 12:27-28 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” God was going to glorify His own name through the crucifixion of Jesus. This fact is punctuated by God speaking from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Wow!
John 17:1 Jesus prayed, “Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.” More glory being poured out here! The intimacy they shared was beyond anything our human minds can imagine. Jesus told them often that He and the Father are one: John 10:30, 14:7, 9, 10, 11, 17:21 and 23.
We get a glimpse of that glory in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.” The picture I get as I walk to the cross is one of the Father and the Son doing this thing together. As Jesus was on the cross, I get the image of a delivery with God as the Doctor. I see God with His hands dirty. I see a God who loved me enough to come looking for me, and to come down into my pit and pick me up, and carry me to safety, to clean me up, bind my wounds, and anoint my injuries. NOW, THAT’S A SHEPHERD!
Now, back to the question, “Can God look upon sin?” The verse that is used as argument for the “No” side is Habakkuk 1:13a, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” But this verse is, in my opinion, Habakkuk’s opinion. If God cannot look upon sin, then He could not look upon mankind, let alone walk among them! Even Habakkuk has to question his own doctrine in the second part of the verse, “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” It is, therefore, my opinion that God HAS seen me in my sin and HAS reached down and saved me. He was Jesus’ Partner at the cross and was in full fellowship with Him throughout the entire ordeal!
He is a mighty God worthy to be praised! He is a Warrior who came to fight for me and win me back! O, what great lengths and what great depths You travailed to find me, my Great and Good Shepherd! You truly love Your sheep, Your little lambs (of which I am one), don’t You?