“Why Have you Forsaken me?”

It’s common knowledge that Jesus hung on the cross and right before his death said words that translate into English as “God, why have you forsaken me?”

If you’ve ever discussed this with many Christian or followed the cross-references on a study bible, you know that this Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. 

I often thought that the reference to the psalm was meant to indicate that Jesus wasn’t as forlorn as he appears.  I thought that the argument went something like this: the psalm ends on an uplifting note.  Jesus began the psalm as a  shorthand to indicate he wasn’t as lonely or desperate as those words taken out of context might make it appear.

  I was contemplating this as I read through the psalms.  I decided it’s both too simplistic and too easy to simply decide that Jesus was talking in some sort of code.

Certainly he was quoting the psalm.  There are portions of it which appear more true for Jesus and his circumstances than any one else, ever.  For example, “But I am…scorned by men and despised by the people.   All who see me mock me;  they hurl insults, shaking their heads…Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.  From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God… They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,  and all the families of the nations  will bow down before him” The end of the psalm continues in this veign.  It’s hard to imagine how you could interpret the last several verses as anything but a prophecy around Jesus’ return.  (No disrespect meant to the Jewish, here.)

My point is this: Jesus certainly meant this as a reminder, a proclamation, a proof of what he was going through.  And it certainly is a model for what we should do, when we feel furthest from God, so distant and abondoned.  The awesome thing about scripture is that it is such a thorough expression of all elements of human experience.  When we don’t have words for a certain situation, we can be guarenteed, that somewhere in scripture somebody has said just what we wish we had words for.  When words escape us, we can latch on to the words of David or Solomon or Jesus or Mary to express what we otherwise couldn’t.

However, in that particular situation, there’s an upper limit to how much comfort Jesus could have recieved by leaning on scripture.  Given who he was and what had to happen, there is so way around the fact that feeling unimaginably desolate, isolated and cut off had to Jesus experience.

There’s two reasons that I believe this.  I don’t quite know if they are two seperate arguments or two different sides of the same coin.  (Any opinions out there)

First reason: In some hard to understand and explain way, Jesus was taking on the sin of the world.  If God could abide sin, he wouldn’t have needed Jesus to take it from humanity in the first place.  By definition, the eternal communion between God and Jesus had to be shattered if the crucifixion were to mean anything at all.

Second reason: Jesus has moral authority over our lives because he lived as we lived.  If Jesus hadn’t come down he’d certainly have a metaphysical authority.  But because he was faced with the same realities we face and he did exactly what is right in every circumstance, he has a certain credibility he’d otherwise be lacking.

Throughout our lives we will experience peaks and valleys in terms of how close we feel to God.  Through most of his life, Jesus, appears unimaginably close to God the Father.  If Jesus never experienced seperation from God, it’d be reasonable to say “Well, it’s not really a fair comparison.  Jesus was able to be act rightous because of his closeness to God.”

So, that’s how I see it.  What do you think?  (It’s been awfully lonely at Jeff’s Deep Thoughts lately.  I’m hoping somebody tosses out a comment here.)



My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
       Why are you so far from saving me,
       so far from the words of my groaning?

 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
       by night, and am not silent.

 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
       you are the praise of Israel. [a]

 4 In you our fathers put their trust;
       they trusted and you delivered them.

 5 They cried to you and were saved;
       in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

 6 But I am a worm and not a man,
       scorned by men and despised by the people.

 7 All who see me mock me;
       they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

 8 “He trusts in the LORD;
       let the LORD rescue him.
       Let him deliver him,
       since he delights in him.”

 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
       you made me trust in you
       even at my mother’s breast.

 10 From birth I was cast upon you;
       from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

 11 Do not be far from me,
       for trouble is near
       and there is no one to help.

 12 Many bulls surround me;
       strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey
       open their mouths wide against me.

 14 I am poured out like water,
       and all my bones are out of joint.
       My heart has turned to wax;
       it has melted away within me.

 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
       and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
       you lay me [b] in the dust of death.

 16 Dogs have surrounded me;
       a band of evil men has encircled me,
       they have pierced [c] my hands and my feet.

 17 I can count all my bones;
       people stare and gloat over me.

 18 They divide my garments among them
       and cast lots for my clothing.

 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off;
       O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

 20 Deliver my life from the sword,
       my precious life from the power of the dogs.

 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
       save [d] me from the horns of the wild oxen.

 22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
       in the congregation I will praise you.

 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
       All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
       Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

 24 For he has not 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.

 25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
       before those who fear you [e] will I fulfill my vows.

 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
       they who seek the LORD will praise him—
       may your hearts live forever!

 27 All the ends of the earth
       will remember and turn to the LORD,
       and all the families of the nations
       will bow down before him,

 28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
       and he rules over the nations.

 29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
       all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
       those who cannot keep themselves alive.

 30 Posterity will serve him;
       future generations will be told about the Lord.

 31 They will proclaim his righteousness
       to a people yet unborn—
       for he has done it.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

9 thoughts on ““Why Have you Forsaken me?””

  1. Through most of his life, Jesus, appears unimaginably close to God the Father. If Jesus never experienced seperation from God, it’d be reasonable to say “Well, it’s not really a fair comparison. Jesus was able to be act rightous because of his closeness to God.”

    You’ve opened a cool can of worms.
    i wonder if you’ve taken into account “the Fall” and whether or not Jesus was subject to that separation.
    Surely Jesus was separated from the Father during the crucifixion, but is this “closeness” to which you refer during his life in conflict with the experience of being separated from the Father as Adam and Eve were?

    (Don Miller does an awesome job discussing the God/man fracture in “Searching for God Knows What”.)


  2. I find it hard to take Jesus’s replies to Satan in the desert seriously if I think of Him as being very close to His Father then, if I think of those replies as essentially God’s. They make more sense to me if Jesus is essentially there a man replying more wisely than Adam and Eve…


  3. i am of the persuasion that the desert temptation was an immediate challenge for Jesus’ obedience to use Godly power for Fatherly purposes. i don’t see anywhere that God was any farther off from Jesus than He was from Adam and Eve.

    Once receiving power it was always a temptation to wield it in opposition to the Father’s will. The desert and the cross (beginning at Gethsemane) were the times when Christ’s flesh was weakest and screaming at him for relief.

    Jesus repeatedly stated that he did nothing the Father had not told him to do. There’s no shame or fault there.


  4. It seems to me we’re all pretty much on the same page here. I’m wondering if I’m missing anything when I sum things up thusly:
    #1) Jesus was as close as was possible to God in a fallen world. Because of the fallen-ness of the world, this may not have been very close compared to the communion they previously experienced.
    #2) The times it was probably hardest for Jesus to experience God’s closeness was in the desert confrontation with Satan and when He hung on a cross.

    I think Garret’s question way up top (comment #2)is really interesting… My initial answer:
    Jesus experienced a closeness that was incredibly close. We can experience tranisitory, occasional fleeting glimpses of eternity. Jesus probably mantained these moments for much longer periods, perhaps they were much deeper and fuller, too.
    It does stand to reason that probably these were not what they were supposed to be.
    But maybe not.
    The whole point, I think, is that Jesus is not fallen. He did not inherit Adam’s sin. Unlike all of us, he was not imperfect as a result of the actions in the garden.
    It seems plausible that the world itself might not act as efficiently as a medium for feelings of closeness to God, but I’m not sold on this: it seems like you could just as easily argue against the idea that sensations from God don’t require a medium to pass through and therefore were unperverted.


  5. A liker scale (if I’m thinking of the right scale)

    Is a 1 to 10

    10 being closets to God or in relation to anything else you may use it for.

    1 being the furthest away from God.

    I consider when I sin to be distancing myself from God (moving towards 1), but Jesus does not sin. How then can he distance himself from God? Are perfect beings able to distance themselves? (I’m not talking about psychical distance)

    Click Here to take survey


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