It means to be abandoned or deserted; which infers an interruption of sorts. The one forsaken wasn’t alone to begin with. My own instinct is to assume (in most cases) a devastating separation, or rejection. Which is what caught my eye and compelled me to linger as I read Jesus’s words on the cross.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
Why? We ask. For what reason was he forsaken??!! At least this is the conversation that came up recently among friends, and here’s where we landed: because God is just. Jesus took on our sin and he wore it before God; taking the punishment that was meant for us – separation from God.
I take pause to highlight this devastation not because I love to wallow in the dramatic, but because I think the more frequently we hear a story, the easier the glory is lost upon us. Familiarity fosters comfort. This can be great, but it can also be dangerous. I’m SO glad I’m done dating. I LOVE that the lines and curves of my husband’s face is familiar to me. But it would be dangerous not to revel in the intimacy of the story behind why I’m familiar with him. I think that generally speaking, when we consider who God is, so often we don’t embrace him as personal – not really. And it might even be a stretch to assume that he “gets it” when it comes to the deepest of our aches – until we acknowledge and consider his story.
God is a God of relationship. And because he is perfect, within the trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit), the most perfect relationship that ever existed was being experienced. We do not have an existing backdrop of comparison to help us wrap our minds and hearts around this kind of joy. Stop and think about the most perfect love you have ever felt and relish in it for a moment. Imagine having this distinct experience from the beginning of time until a harsh but necessary interruption abrasively halted things. The pain would be staggering. We can’t even imagine the cost, much less pay it. The second we start to feel like God doesn’t get us; that he can’t possibly appreciate our pain – because he is perfect and distant and ignorant to our “people problems,” please stop to consider that when God became man and dwelt among us, he made it clear that he can relate – he is intimately acquainted with pain. And that fact alone begs that we at the very least notice and respond in some way.
Timothy Keller puts it this way in his book; The Reason for God:
“We cannot fathom, however, what it would be like to lose… the infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity. Jesus’s sufferings would have been eternally unbearable… Christian theology has always recognized that Jesus bore, as the substitute in our place, the endless exclusion from God that the human race has merited… The death of Jesus was qualitatively different from any other death. The physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual experience of cosmic abandonment. He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.”
It’s the greatest love story ever. What Jesus willingly submitted himself to was driven by his love for us and an unwillingness to default on eternity without us. It is appropriate to consider ourselves rescued and cherished. So know this – you were worth it to Jesus. And know this:
It wasn’t cheap.
It wasn’t easy.
It wasn’t an afterthought.
It was the most intentional rescue mission ever constructed.
He gets it. He was forsaken. He knew what he was doing. And he had you in mind. That kind of sacrificial love is what takes me in and invites me to consider more. To allow a relationship. I urge you to soak in this story. How does this impact your definition of him? We can’t fully appreciate his invitation if we don’t understand who he is at his core – a topic I look forward to unpacking soon – His holiness, compassion and his justice.