Did the Father turn his face from Jesus?


A common thing I heard growing up was that Jesus was separated from his Father while on the cross, or that in some way the Father "turned his face" from Jesus. After all, it's right there in Jesus' own words in his cry from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!" But is it possible that there's more going on there than appears on the surface? Why does it matter? What kind of Father is God? What does that mean for us? If the Father would turn his face from his son, whom he loves, could that mean that the Father would turn his face from us in our time of greatest need? Let's begin with a look at the actual words Jesus cries out from the cross. When looking at this, it seems as if Jesus is talking to his father, in other words praying. But its worth noting that every single one of Jesus' prayer begin the same way: "Father." For some reason this one doesn't. And as we look deeper we realize that these weren't Jesus' own words at all, they come from Psalm 22, a psalm of David. Jesus literally quotes the first line of the psalm word for word. If Jesus was praying, he most likely would have began his prayer with "Father," so apparently he's doing something else here. In the same way that if someone around you sings the line to a popular song you have that whole song stuck in your head the rest of the day (you don't just keep repeating the line that they sang over and over), Jesus' hearers (at least the Jewish ones) would've been familiar with that psalm and the rest of the psalm would have began to fill in in their minds. What if Jesus was trying to get them to see something that this psalm portrays? The entire psalm is eerily applicable to what was happening to Jesus at the time (I recommend you check it out once you're done reading this) but I want to emphasize two important things that the end of the psalm contains: First, verse 24 actually says that "...he (God) 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." Wait, seriously?! So the whole point was that the Father was there with Jesus after all? This psalm was actually a psalm of victory: "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, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations." This psalm is about God becoming King of the nations. One more thing from this psalm--the very last words are "he has done it!" Where have we heard that before? "It is finished!"

Not only was Jesus trying to help them (us) understand what was really going on there, it's interesting that from the cross he also says "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Would he have said that if his Father was long gone? Before Jesus went to the cross he explained to his disciples what would happen to him, and that they would all disown him (temporarily) and be scattered. But he assures them (and possibly himself), "but I am not alone, because my Father is with me." (John 16:32) If there's anything we can know about God, it's that God is always with us, even (especially) when it feels like He's the furthest away.

Now you're probably thinking: I thought the Father had to turn his face from Jesus because Jesus became sin and God can't look upon sin. We'll talk about that next :).