"Is Jesus saying 'I have been forsaken by God'? No. He's declaring, 'Psalm 22! Pay attention! This psalm... applies to me!'"

“Jesus is not saying that God has forsaken him. He’s declaring the opposite. He’s saying that God is with him, even in this time of seeming abandonment, and that God will vindicate him by raising him from the dead.”
He’s Calling for Elijah Why We Still Mishear Jesus

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

...yet.
The writer doesn't seem to deal seriously with the primary purpose of the cross: for God Himself to satisfy His own righteousness by pouring out His wrath on God the Son.
He also doesn't interact much with the view that Jesus, a Person with both a human and divine nature, sometimes speaks more from one than from the other. A person who has become the object of the Father's wrath must--at the very least--feel abandoned.

Quote:
The view that Jesus’ quotation of Ps 22 anticipates the vindication found in the larger context of the psalm stresses what does not appear in the text at the expense of what does.

Blomberg, C. (2001). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (419). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Seth Johnson's picture

Why must Christ - at the very least feel abandoned? What has our exegesis of the text to do with our contemporary feelings or views of a Father/Son relationship? Because of how much I love my own son I cannot help but believe I would watch him, locked eye to eye to the bitter end giving Him my assurance of my love. But is this a sound basis for exegesis?

The normal argument is the "The Father cannot look upon sin" is perplexing because what in all creation is there not tainted by sin? Did He not Himself sacrifice an animal in Genesis to provide for Adam and Eve? Did the Father turn His face away from all of the sacrifices of the OT given to cover over sin until Christ? Did He not receive the sacrifice of the OT saint given in faith? Did He not compel Abraham to sacrifice His own son who clearly expressed faith to the servants that he and the boy would return? Has He not remained faithful to His people, mired in sin, and in due season send His Son?

The nature of sin and the outpouring of God's wrath in no way mandates that He covers His face while punishment is given.

If the remark by Christ on the cross were not found in the Psalms perhaps our view could be different, but it is such a direct quotation of a Psalm our exegesis should begin with the message of the whole message of the Psalm not just its introductory lines.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The article is very disatisfying because its approach errs thus its questions err (or vice versa if you wish). To ask if God is the "kind of God" who turns his back on his Son or on those who cry out in need is to both ignore the context of the acts of God and in the Father and Son and begin with the presumption that the question has already been answered in support of the writer's view.

But let's take this formula and ask is God the kind of God that lets women be raped? The common mistake here is using God's acts to explain his person instead of using his person to explain his acts. God the Father separated himself from God the Son who was sin for us and received God the Son who sufficiently paid for our sins.

SamH's picture

I don't think "atheists" were the ones to proffer the nonsense of "divine child abuse." Seems we heard that broadly through Mclaren's misshapen soteriology--who most likely gleaned it from the likes of Brock and Parker (both liberal protestant authors.)

Regardless if the narratives overall are recording ipsissima verba or ipsissima vox, the Gospel writers had a point to make--Christ not only perceived He was forsaken, but actually was forsaken. For indeed what is recorded is a clear quotation from the Psalm--a pointed quotation. Of course He is alluding to His Messiahship--but this Messiahship includes this ugly and beautiful truth--that there was divine suffering going on beyond whatever human suffering was occurring. A suffering which included the actual "forsaken-ness" of the Suffering Servant. Hsu commits an ecumenical conceit here--did our Lord physically suffer any more than any other on this cruel instrument of justice? There is no scriptural evidence that makes such a point. Why was His death significant and more so than any other death--including cruciform deaths? His sin-bearing was certainly more than the physical pain (this is Mel Gibson's folly). Isaiah, the Synoptics and the Epistles point to something more than physical occurring. Do we not understand how significant our sins are against God? That such were the cause of a rupture of sorts between Father and Son?
Why could this forsaken-ness not be included in Hsu's paradigm of suffering Messiahship? Because he is up to something more. He reveals this as he essentially lays anti-Trinitarian heresy at the feet of those who see the Son forsaken in this fashion. He finishes with some near ecumenical pablum of the point being that Christ identifies with our struggles, etc.

Nice....

Has anyone ever used claims of orthodoxy to label orthodoxy as heterodoxy before? Nah...not in Christianity Today...

SamH

Wayne Wilson's picture

Something makes me think the author of this CT article has a very weak appreciation for the idea of a substitutionary atonement.

I agree with Aaron. This crying out from the cross is more than saying "Look at Psalm 22!" Somehow the idea that Jesus, under the extremity of crucifixion and bearing the sin of the world, is merely hoping his hearers will "catch the literary allusion"with his cry seems to elevate what is a fascinating aspect of the cry to the most important thing, while robbing it of its greatest meaning — that Christ felt in that moment our abandonment. The fact that this cry was uttered as the darkness fell over the land would seem to confirm that this was a unique moment in His becoming sin for us.

Hsu's weak explanation of Jesus' cry does not solve the supposed problem of "divine child abuse" as the article suggests. We still have Isaiah 53:10 "But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering..."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Why must Christ - at the very least feel abandoned? What has our exegesis of the text to do with our contemporary feelings or views of a Father/Son relationship? Because of how much I love my own son I cannot help but believe I would watch him, locked eye to eye to the bitter end giving Him my assurance of my love. But is this a sound basis for exegesis?

The basis for the interpretation I mentioned is not contemporary feelings, etc. It's based on the two things I mentioned, and more.
First, what we know from Scripture happened on the cross (He became the propitiation, satisfying Divine wrath)
Second, the dual nature of the person of Christ.

So He feels abandoned because He has become the object of divine wrath and He is human.
Add to that, the fact that He was "smitten of God and afflicted" and that "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him." (Isa. 53.4, 10)

In the scene in the garden not long before, He is sorrowful "even unto death" and asks the Father three times if He can be spared "this cup." So we know that He was having very normal human feelings about the whole thing even while being completely yielded and anticipating future joy (Heb. 12.2).

Solution to the "divine child abuse" thing:
a. He volunteered.
b. He is fully God Himself.
(In addition to the even more obvious: God is supremely righteous, good, holy and the Creator--so "abuse" is a meaningless concept applied to Him.)
People who parrot the child abuse angle are really not trying very hard to understand the event!

Seth Johnson's picture

"A person who has become the object of the Father's wrath must--at the very least--feel abandoned."
"The basis for the interpretation I mentioned is not contemporary feelings, etc."

Forgive me but I can't reconcile these two statements. Either feelings are essential to the interpretation or they are not.

If abandonment is the sin quo non of the wrath of God how long was He abandoned? Was fellowship restored when He committed Himself into the hands
His hands?

Wayne Wilson's picture

Those are good questions, of course, Seth, but we can't really expect to understand it all. I don't think we can understand the experience of the God-man bearing sin in terms of the magnitude (all the sins of mankind) or how he experienced that sense of abandonment in terms of time. Clearly, at some point, it was "finished."

I think Leon Morris was helpful in his commentary on Matthew.

Quote:
"Another view is that Jesus was mistaken: in this desperate hour he felt abandoned, but, of course, God had not really forsaken him. But it is almost blasphemous to say that we know the situation, and specifically the relationship between Jesus and the Father, better than he did. It is better to face the words honestly and to accept the fact that this was the part of putting away sin. There must always be mystery here."

In contemplating Hab 1:13, 2 Cor 5:21 and Gal 3:13 in the light of Jesus cry on the cross, Morris continues,

Quote:
"When we put such passages of Scripture together, it seems that in the working out of salvation for sinners the hitherto unbroken communion between the Father and the Son was mysteriously broken. It is surely better to accept this, knowing that we do not understand it fully, than to attempt some rationalization of the saying so that it becomes more palatable to the prejudices of modern Westerners."

I think this view gives the cry of Jesus the weight it is meant to have.

Mike Durning's picture

If Psalm 22 prophecies the Suffering Savior, then why can't "Why hast thou forsaken me?" accurately reflect his experience? I see no reason logically why Jesus can't be accomplishing both purposes -- fulfilling prophecy by crying and feeling "Why hast thou forsaken me?" AND saying "Look in Psalm 22."

Anything less than Psalm 22 accurately reflecting His thoughts and feelings on the cross turns Jesus' cry into some kind of stupid time-travel movie-like plot, where he says "Oh, must remember to fulfill prophecy by crying out from Psalm 22, or I'll create a paradox!"

SamH's picture

to see what Christ said as a legitimate question related to His present reality, not just perception of His reality? The Son is using the Spirit's own words to fulfill prophecy(something to which the Synoptics refer a time or two), and to express both His sentiment and situation.

Not sure I like Leon Wood's path above--how can Christ be mistaken? For Wood "blasphemy" is related to our comprehension of the Father/Son context. But, should we not shudder at how it seems Wood allows for the possibility for the Christ to be mistaken? Is it not blasphemy to attribute error or mistakeness to the Christ? Christ is asking this heart-wrenching question of the Father because He has been forsaken by the Father. This is part of the price of our sin--a God-ordained (Is. 53:10) disruption to the intimacy of the Trinity.

What a Being to give of Himself in this way!

(Does Wood's statement disavow the possibility of Christ being mistaken? Regardless of our understanding of the Father-Son dynamic, can such an understanding allow for Christ's being mistaken? Or am I parsing Wood wrongly? He gets to the same place, but I'm not sure he gets there by an orthodox road?)

SamH

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Seth wrote:
"A person who has become the object of the Father's wrath must--at the very least--feel abandoned."
"The basis for the interpretation I mentioned is not contemporary feelings, etc."
Forgive me but I can't reconcile these two statements. Either feelings are essential to the interpretation or they are not.

If abandonment is the sin quo non of the wrath of God how long was He abandoned? Was fellowship restored when He committed Himself...

I'm not clear what you're asking here. "Feelings are essential to the interpretation" is not language I used... but I guess, now that I think about it from that angle, yes, He has to be feeling what He says He's feeling.
The question is, as far as the article in the Filing goes, was He feeling triumph and assurance or was He feeling agony and something more akin to--at that moment--alienation? But it seems pretty hard to escape the idea that He was feeling something, as well as thinking something, and that His words reflect that inner reality.

Maybe the phrase "contemporary feelings" confused me... perhaps you meant that in the sense of "feelings He was having at that time"? I took it has having something to do with "how we feel about things today."

I don't think I'd characterize abandonment as the sine qua non of wrath. But I'm inclined to think that one who is suffering God's wrath would feel far worse things, hence my "at the very least" reference. There is some biblical evidence for the experience of wrath involving subjective distance from God, though.
And I don't think I'm making a leap to say that if Jesus had normal human emotions, He would have felt something similar to what we feel when people are angry with us. There is certainly a sense of distance.
The OT word in Ps.22 can simply have the idea of "to withdraw" or "to leave."
The NT word can as well (Romans 9:29 "left") but just about always has the connotation of walking away from someplace you really ought to be--a kind of unexpected, painful departure where someone was being depended on to be there (2Tim.4.16, 2Cor.4.9, etc.), or a leaving that is unexpectedly permanent (maybe Ac2.27).

About being Jesus being mistaken...

Quote:
Does Wood's statement disavow the possibility of Christ being mistaken? Regardless of our understanding of the Father-Son dynamic, can such an understanding allow for Christ's being mistaken?

Having feelings that do not accurately reflect the reality isn't really the same as being mistaken. Don't we all sometimes feel something to be true that we "know" is not? It's been a few years now, but it used to be that whenever I began a descent down the first big hill of a roller coaster ride, there was a moment or two when I keenly felt "I'm going to die now!" but never really believed it. That's part of the thrill of the experience.
Also used to feel pretty often when getting up to speak to a congregation "I'm going to make a complete fool of myself" even though I'd prepared well enough to know that was pretty unlikely. Went on feeling it anyway.

John B's picture

Seems to me we cannot fully explain it because the cross was a double-imputation. With regard to the imputation of our sins to the Christ, He was abandoned by God. With regard to Christ’s active obedience, He was affirmed and vindicated by God. This vindication came in the form of resurrection/exaltation/reception of a People. Indeed, Psalm 22 itself prefigures not only Messiah’s abandonment, but also his vindication (v. 21b ff). It seems the abandonment and affirmation must be concurrent – it’s not as if God changed his mind after 3 days. Of course, this does not mean that Christ was abandoned and not abandoned in the same way at the same time -- like we do not say that God is “one” and “not one” in the same way at the same time. That would be a logical contradiction. This does means that, as with the doctrine of the trinity, we must work towards a more careful parsing of this unusual event. Not sure anyone says it just right, yet.

SamH's picture

the Christ expressing something that was not properly reflective of reality is one of the possible contingencies here as we contemplate His person? Expressed in a prayer? To His Father?

In our fallen-ness are our own foolish fears, and our foolish responses to those fears a proper analog to His experience with fear, etc.? I am not questioning His humanity, but hopefully pointing to the difference between an entirely faithful (unfallen) Human and us. Are not feelings a result of thinking? We are not defined by our glands, nor are we slaves to them, but we can misinterpret or think wrongly about what the circumstance is because of our bodily reactions (fear bringing on adrenaline, etc.). Can an unfallen, fully faithful Human do the same?

Also, Wood says "mistaken"--so I was dealing with his language. He does not answer that but shunts it off to our lack of context, etc.

Isn't mistaken-ness a flaw of fallen-ness, not of humanity per se? And can not only the human, but the entire theanthropic Person of Jesus Christ the Son of God have thoughts/feelings which do not reflect truth?

SamH

Wayne Wilson's picture

Sam, Leon Morris, (not Wood), is rejecting the view that Jesus was mistaken. Some have propsed that Jesus felt abandoned but really wasn't, so his feeling abandoned would be a mistake on his part. Morris is arguing that we should accept that Jesus was indeed forsaken by the Father as the sin-bearer.

Seth Johnson's picture

Aaron,
The reconciliation problem has to do with whether one can decisively say Jesus felt abandoned based on what one today would feel today. It would be seem a normal outcome of exegesis but not the reader-centered basis for exegesis.

When Christ asks questions does He not already know the answer? Either He does not know why God has forsaken Him, indicating a limit on His knowledge about the wrath of God or He does know why God has forsaken Him, indicating a rhetorical question to those observing/listening.

Thoughts?

SamH's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:
Sam, Leon Morris, (not Wood), is rejecting the view that Jesus was mistaken. Some have proposed that Jesus felt abandoned but really wasn't, so his feeling abandoned would be a mistake on his part. Morris is arguing that we should accept that Jesus was indeed forsaken by the Father as the sin-bearer.

I was not fully satisfied in how he gets to his conclusion--or I didn't get how he was framing his view vis a vis the wrong view. Mea culpa.

Christ is not mistaken because He cannot be mistaken--about His Father or about Himself (His thoughts, emotions, etc.) Thanks Wayne.

SamH

John B's picture

Christ is both the sin offering and the burnt offering.
He was as truly forsaken as the scapegoat abandoned to the wilderness.
He was as truly received as the sweet savor of sacrifice to the nostrils of God.

What bothers me as I read Hsu’s article is not so much that he emphasizes God’s affirmation/vindication of Christ in his death as much as the concerns that seem to drive him. It seems as if he is more driven by cultural expectations than by biblical revelation.

And it seems as if in his desire to vindicate God of “divine child abuse” he actually ends up belittling the doctrine of penal substitution.

And there are the seeds of heterodoxy.

Kevin Callahan's picture

Since Hsu started out with a quote from Stott in The Cross of Christ, I will do the same in this brief reply. On page 199, Stott says, "Substitution is not a 'theory of the atonement.' . . . It is rather the essence . . . and the heart of the atonement."

Most dispensationalists agree and teach that the essence of death is separation (and yes, I also believe that it includes inability, but that's an entirely different discussion that certainly lies outside of the current focus). If the essence of death is separation, and the essence of the atonement is substitution, how could Christ have died our death in our place without experiencing the spiritual aspect of separation from the Father? Is this not what sin does to every member of the human race, starting with Adam and Eve in their fall in the Garden? How then could Christ die in our place as our substitute and avoid the same separation that all of us experience as a consequence of being dead in trespasses and sins (from Ephesians 2, a chapter which certainly attaches the concept of separation to the concept of spiritual death, using terms like "aliens" and "strangers" in the AV)?

I am not denying the trinity, and I am certainly not attempting to explain it. It has to be true in some altruistic sense that the Father and Son were not separated from one another. If fact, in an ultimate sense, even sinners burning in the lake of fire will not be separated from an omnipresent God. However, they will know God's presence only in the sense of His judgment and wrath. Never, in all of eternity, will they be able to experience communion or fellowship with Him. They are forever separated from this aspect of His presence.

It was this kind of alienation from the Father that Jesus experienced on the cross. He fully drank the cup of His Father's wrath, experiencing ALL that this means, including alienation from the fellowship of His Father as He bore our sin and suffered the consequences of it. To say that this is not true is to say that Jesus was less than our full substitute who died in our place.