No, Jesus Was Not Separated From The Father On The Cross

No, Jesus Was Not Separated From The Father On The Cross October 12, 2018

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

From this single sentence, many bible teachers and pastors have theorized that it was in this moment that the Father looked away from Jesus – because of all of our sins being laid upon Jesus – and it was in this moment that Jesus experienced separation from the Father for the only time in all of eternity.

As dramatic and poetically compelling that might be, the truth is simply this: The Bible nowhere supports this theory.

So, where does it come from?

Well, apparently the teaching that the Father actually did forsake Jesus on the cross, and that Jesus experienced separation from the Father comes from a few assumptions:

First, the assumption that God is too holy to look upon sin.

Second, the assumption that Jesus’ cry from the cross at that moment was meant to communicate that His Father did actually forsake him.

Let’s take these two assumptions one at a time and see if they are true.

Is God really too holy to look upon sin? Not according to the scriptures.

Instead, we see all throughout the Bible that God does indeed look at mankind. We see that God’s eyes move to and fro over all the earth, searching the hearts and minds of His people. [See 2 Chron.16:9; Job 31:4; Jerem. 16:17; Zech. 4:10; etc.]

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” – [Heb. 4:13]

Q: What would happen if God wasn’t able to look at sin? 

A: It would mean that looking at us would be pointless because all He could ever see was a world full of sinful people [which is everyone].

The doctrine that God is too holy to look upon sin is actually based on one single verse of scripture in the Old Testament that says:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”  [Habbukuk 1:13]

But if you keep reading that chapter what you’ll notice is that Habbukuk wraps up that statement by asking: “So, why do you?”

In other words, the question is asked assumptively, but then the question itself is cast into doubt as the prophet observes that God does indeed look on evil after all.

Another verse that is often used to support this idea that God is too holy to look upon our sins is found in Isaiah where we read: 

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” [Isaiah 59:2]

But if we keep reading [a good idea as you can see], we read:

“The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.” [v.16]

As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit,who is on you, will not depart from you…” [v.21]

So, here, in the very same chapter, we read that God DOES look, and that He DOES see our sins, and that “[His] Spirit…will not depart…”

Finally, let’s look at Jesus. He was the “exact representation of the Father” and he was the only one who had ever seen God and who came to reveal the Father to us. 

What do we notice about Jesus? Does He, as God in the flesh, avert his gaze when surrounded by sinners? Hardly! Instead, those sinners are his closest friends. He spends so much time with them that the religious elite [who, by the way, were too holy to spend time with sinners], criticized him for it.

So, is God really “too holy to look on our sin”?

Absolutely not!

Second: When Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” doesn’t that mean that His Father really did forsake Him?

No.

This statement from Jesus was a quote from Psalm 22 which begins:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” [v.1]

But, this is a Messianic Psalm. In this Psalm we also read prophetic statements like:

“…they pierce my hands and my feet.” [v. 16]

“…They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” [v.18]

Perhaps Jesus is quoting this Psalm because he hopes to point out how these exact words are being fulfilled in their midst?

Note also what this same Psalm has to say about what God is doing:

“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.” [v.24]

Wait…what?

The Psalmist says that they will pierce the hands and the feet of the Messiah, and that they will divide his clothes and cast lots for his garments…and that God “will not hide His face from him”.

So…once more I need to ask: “Did the Father turn His face away from Jesus when He was on the cross?”

No. Not even once.

Finally, notice that Jesus affirms that His Father will never abandon Him:

“Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:31-33]

Notice that Jesus not only affirms that His Father will not leave him [even though the disciples will], but that this abandonment by the disciples and the ever-present nature of the Father occurs at the same time: While Jesus is hanging on the cross!

This really should not surprise us.

God promises all through the scriptures that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Jesus reminds us that He will be with us always, even unto the end of the age.

[See Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Deut. 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, etc.]

So, to recap: 

The Father did NOT look away from Jesus while He was on the cross.

God is NOT too holy to look at sin. [Jesus did it all the time]

God will NOT leave or forsake us, either.

I hope that helps!

If this has blessed you, please share it with your friends on social media.

*NOTE: Written with assistance from insights gleaned from Brian Zahnd, Brad Jersak and others.

For more on this: Brad Jersak: A Beautiful Gospel in Chairs

**

Keith Giles is a former pastor who left the pulpit 11 years ago to start a church that gives away 100% of the offering to the poor in their community. 

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

"Thank you so much. I was just about to 'Google' that verse to find it's ..."

What Is The Greatest Sin Of ..."
"You are correct. Current events have clarified what "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" is.81% of ..."

What Is The Greatest Sin Of ..."
"Genuine Christians know, and follow, the voice of their Shepherd and Savior … … and ..."

The Savage Sword of Jesus?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Herm

    Thank you, Keith. I can separate from my heavenly Father’s will but only when I ignore the Spirit of truth in my midst, and today living with and in me forever, without pause. Jesus’ awareness and influence (his life) was separated from our Father for three days in death. In grief our Father was never separated in awareness from Jesus, but his influence had no affect on Jesus until he rose from the dead to be, again, aware and influential, both in heaven and on earth. Please, forgive the length of this for I cannot present this any shorter and do it justice.

    This was shown to me to be within the covers of each of our Bibles. There is so very much more to be learned beyond those pages, enough to fill an eternity.

    Our Father in heaven will never leave us orphaned and he did not leave his only begotten son orphaned. Jesus did die on the cross for three days by the authority vested in the “seat of Moses” (the Law of Moses) enforced by the high priest Caiaphas. The dead know nothing.

    For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 (NIV2011)

    “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

    John 10:14-18 (NIV2011)

    The reason my father loves me is that I, too, lay down my life—only to take it up again. I carry my own cross, as did my Messiah Jesus, by the will of our Father.

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 14:25-27 (NIV2011)

    The death of the flesh and to be without the Spirit for three days, never known by God before, is not easy to face, even for Jesus.

    Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

    Mark 14:35-36 (NIV2011)

    He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

    Luke 22:41-44 (NIV2011)

    Our Father did not forsake Jesus but Jesus’s was in the last throws of death, slipping away to know nothing.

    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

    Matthew 27:45-54 (NIV2011)

    At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

    Mark 15:33-39 (NIV2011)

    The Law is the first five books of the Bible (the Torah which means to throw, direct, or teach) and the Prophets are other “Old Testament” books grouped differently depending on Christian or Jewish tradition.

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

    Matthew 5:17-18 (NIV2011)

    The Old Testament was fulfilled when Jesus said, “It is finished”. For Jesus, having given up his spirit (the one appearing as a dove and his heart, soul, strength, mind of spirit), he died to know nothing. For Jesus the heaven and earth actually did disappeared for three days. The Law and the Prophets, enforced by Caiaphas under the authority vested in the “seat of Moses”, was abolished and the Holy of Holies was opened for all to see, to accept (filled, whelmed, baptized) the Spirit of truth to live with and in them forever.

    Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

    John 19:28-30 (NIV2011)

    The Good News is that the realm (the kingdom of God) is in all within whom the Spirit of God lives, and all are subject only to the will of the Father and the authority of the Son.

    You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. [refer to John 14:15-21]

    Romans 8:9-11 (NIV2011)

    The true light within us, children born of God, sisters and brothers of the Messiah Jesus, teaches our hearts and minds, as we each can bear, in ways the Law and the Prophets never could.

    Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

    John 1:12-13 (NIV2011)

    Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

    John 3:5-8 (NIV2011)

    “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

    Acts 13:38-39 (NIV2011)

    When the curtain before the Holy of Holies was torn, top to bottom, the covenant authority of the “Moses seat” (the law of Moses) ceased. When Jesus appeared before the disciples, after his death and before his ascension, he then had all authority including as the high priest forever over his flock.

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV2011)

    The above scripture is my, and all disciples of the living Christ, written authority, and divine impetus, to make students (disciples) of all nations to learn directly from the Spirit of truth, the one Teacher, living with and in them forever.

  • The Mouse Avenger

    Thank you for this wonderful article! ^_^

  • K Curtis

    While I agree that the two apparent assumptions referenced in the article about the idea of Jesus experiencing separation from the Father are not valid, and need to be refuted, there is another way of looking at what Jesus was experiencing. What Jesus may well be reflecting as He uses the language of the Psalms is the sense that God in the person of Jesus is experiencing the full impact of what sin had done to creation – in effect, God absorbing all of that into Himself – which would include at the heart of that the experience, what it is like to be separated from love, life, and God (thus the idea of feeling forsaken). This could then be an expression of God willing to take the full impact of the blow that sin and evil delivers to creation. And so, even though God does not in any way abandon Jesus or look away in disgust of sin, nevertheless, God in the person of Jesus absorbs the worst that sin and evil and do and in those moments feels what that separation is like – and this, not because someone needed to punish someone, or to be punished, or to satisfy some offended sense of justice – but because the impact of evil on the world is real and can’t simply be wished away. And so God is willing to step into that place, in our place, experiencing the fullness of that impact in our place. This does not at all require a statement about God being too holy to be able to look at sin, but rather reminds us that God’s holiness is defined by a kind of love that goes far beyond what we can wrap our minds around. In that sense, sin cannot thrive in the presence of that kind of holiness, in much the same way that hatred cannot thrive in the presence of love – they are not compatible. And even though evil, sin, hatred, etc. can inflict pain in the short term, it is defeated by love in the long term. In this respect, the idea that God in Jesus was willing to take and experience the worst of what evil could do in solidarity with us who have both experienced and inflicted it, including experiencing that devastating feeling of separation (not to satisfy an angry God or a harsh requirement but out of love) can be a rather powerful statement of grace and love. Jesus was not abandoned – in fact – God was deeply present in the midst of that experience, in solidarity with us feeling it to its depths, and then pointing the way to resurrection.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    And your proof for any of this is….what?

  • Herm

    Number one it works in reality.
    Number two I can truly testify that I’m living it.
    Number three you can too if you choose to honestly dare God to prove it to you.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    There is no god.
    And church is boring.

  • Herm

    Your choice!

  • I experienced Jesus as the consciousness of the Sun. I wrote an ebook
    about my experiences which is available to download in pdf form and is
    also available on blogger, links are below

    link to my free ebook, “Messages from the Sun God, Jesus Christ”
    http://www.mediafire.com/fi

    link to the ebook on blogger: https://messagesftsg.blogsp

    blog http://www.jesuschristsungod.com

  • Eireanne Russ

    Nicely presented. I had never challenged that underlying assumption of the cross before. I should have since I have reconsidered God’s position in so many other pre-conceived doctrinal areas before

    Stan Mitchell in Nashville once preached a message about God seeking Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree, not to punish them for their disobedience, but so that he could cover their shame and begin the work of restoration. That God is a God who can look on sin and still act so that His mercy and grace would triumph over his judgement.

  • Sandra Broadus

    Thank you so much for this post. This has been the heart’s-cry of my theology as a spiritual director. I thought I was alone in the way of “the integrity and wholeness of the trinity.” Thank you. http://www.emmausformation.ca

  • Sandra Broadus

    Question: if Jesus was separated from the Father, as you’ve suggested, does that change his essence–does he lose the “fully God” essence? This is a complex question, begged by your rhetoric.

  • Evermyrtle

    GOD gave us the LORD’S Prayer which says “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, does this not mean that GOD sees our sins!! HE will forgive us if we regret the sin and ask HIS forgiveness and also because, “If you say you have no sin, you lie and the truth is not in you” what do we do with that one, John 8:4-11, 1 John 1:8???

  • Evermyrtle

    How do you know, have you ever been to church with an understandable heart, willing to listen and then decide? Don’t doubt that you will stand before HIM, one day and the given some of what you have earned, get ready, because it will be too late then to change your mind!! You may even be blamed for sins, that you are responsible for causing others to commit, with lies and ignorance!

  • Xavier de la Torre

    Thank you for this. I am now following you on Facebook.

  • Herm

    Sandra, God is much more than three. If one is considered of one God, as is the Father, the Son, and all the children of God born of the Spirit, who is considered not “fully” of the one God? I’m guessing that you see some value in being of the intellectually surmised “Trinity” (as some finite completion of a god that never grows) that I do not.

    The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV2011)

    My one Father, my one Instructor and my one Teacher serve me as the little, otherwise helpless, little child of God that I am. All I have, as a naked newborn child of God, to give them, that they do not already possess, is my love. They each loved me first, long before I knew to love them.

    Please, understand that Jesus, the Christ, introduced a family of God that none knew of God to teach before his ministry. All his disciples since have been his siblings of the same Father in heaven. Because I have seen to accept the Spirit of truth to live with and in me forever, on that day, I knew my brother Jesus in me and he knew me in him. This is not a carnal possibility but exists as a “Good News” possibility for all of mankind who possess the gifted image of God, which is to each their own responsibility to their heart, soul, strength, mind of spirit. Jesus never taught that his sisters, brothers, and mother were not “fully God ” in the Spirit.

    As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, the dead know nothing and Jesus knew nothing for three days. It didn’t seem to hurt his status in the hierarchy of God for upon returning from the dead our Father gave him all authority in heaven and on earth. My flesh is fully a senior adult, on earth, preparing to die. My spirit is an infant child, in heaven, preparing to live.

    I hope this helps at least a little more to understand my previous “rhetoric” and why your question wasn’t nearly as complex for me to understand.

    Love you and thanks!

  • madalyn baumstark

    We must get over the pagan, old testament view that Jesus died because we sinned! the sacrificial notion that our god, who gave us free will openly, willingly, would revert to the mentality of an angry “then throw me a virgin” when we actually used it.

    Atonement is at-one-ment. Jesus came because he loved us, wanted to share our existence, give us an example of how life should be lived. And died. Our God asks nothing of us that God has not already experienced.

    Leave the ticked off deities to the dustbin of theology and embrace the God of love, compassion, and companionship.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    There is a new way to explain words! Is that from the same work which describes “fellowship” to mean, “two fellows in the same ship?” Or Adam to mean, “A dam, holding things up?”
    I suggest you find a better Greek or Hebrew dictionary, and try again…

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I would go a step further. Psalm 22 is an outcry of a man in deep trouble. His sense of feeling forsaken is not limited to this Psalm, by the way. But as you read through the Psalm, you see where he realizes that, no, God has indeed not forsaken him. His circumstances made him feel that way – but the reality sets in…
    From my perspective, they cry from the cross shows Jesus’ full humanity. He is not a 100%/100% being. He is 100% human – and that is it. No more, no less. Like us – in every way. He, too, was tempted – like us. He, too, had to learn obedience through suffering. And in that suffering, He, too, like David felt that forsakeness from God. Of course, His recognition of the presence of God is seen in His other statements, like “Forgive them…” and “Into your hands do I commend my spirit…” Who would He be talking too, if He does not realize the presence of the Father?

  • madalyn baumstark

    Sorry. it seems you don’t appreciate rhetorical statements, word play as in ” ‘assume’ makes an ass out of …” But you are welcome to believe in the god of the old testament If you choose. You can believe in a God who was so wounded by his creation that the God demanded the bloody sacrifice of his most perfect creation to balance the cosmic scales that God had set. Alister McGrath tells us that “the cross spells freedom. It brings liberation from a false understanding of God.” Demetrius Dumm tells us: “…we weren’t saved just because Jesus died. We weren’t even saved because he suffered. We were saved because he loved and that involves suffering and sometimes death”.

    You can claim a knowledge of God based on Old Testament and other ancient cultures, or you can seek to broaden your view. You can have Moses’ YWWH or Jesus’ Abba. If you can hear Jesus say, “Who sees me, sees the Father”, and still see the former, that is your choice.

    Some of us choose to consider that our God is far greater than the limits we choose to place upon that God.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    there is no HIM to stand before.
    There is no way you can make fear of future judgement anything but a pathetic attempt at coercion.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    I deny that there’s any “him” before whom I’ll stand, anywhere, anytime.
    Typical fascist: “Do this or you’ll suffer!!”

  • ounbbl

    See Aramaic for Mt 27:46b “…. that is, O my God! O my God! To what have you left me alone!”

  • Kanawah

    He has forsaken himself.
    They are one in the same, and neither ever existed.