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April 23, 2024

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Christ Was Forsaken So That We Would Never Be

Skip Heitzig

If you haven’t read Psalm 22 before and you’re only familiar with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, you might read verse 1 (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”) and think, Didn’t Jesus say those words on the cross?

For the first three hours of that horrific ordeal, the words Jesus spoke were focused on others, not Himself: “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…. Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:28, 34, 43).

Then when the darkness covered the land, Jesus made a plaintive cry of broken fellowship. He was feeling the separation from God that sin causes, which He had never experienced before. He was so close with His Father that He even said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). On the night He was betrayed, He said, “You will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).

But on the cross, it was different. He felt the separation because He became the sin-bearer. That’s what it felt like to have all the iniquity of the world laid on somebody sinless and perfect (see Isaiah 53:6).

Jesus endured the cross because of the holy character of God. God is so perfect that He can’t just hang out with imperfection—unless something is done to bring us together with Him. And that something was the cross of Jesus, the perfect One, who substituted Himself for all of us imperfect ones, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You see, you and I have an imputed righteousness—a righteousness given to us, not earned by us. It’s a free gift because of the abandonment Jesus experienced on the cross.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Who, getting crucified, has any joy? Jesus did—He had a certain joy that enabled Him to endure that horrible, ignominious death. And you, reading this, are the joy that was set before Him. It was His joy to save you.

Now, I know that you might be feeling forsaken by God. Some experience you’ve gone through makes you feel like God has forgotten you. I just want you to know it’s a theological impossibility for God to forsake you. It cannot happen. You might be experiencing His silence, like David and Isaiah did. You might be experiencing His discipline. Every believer I’ve ever met has. You might even be experiencing His displeasure because of a particular sinful pattern in your life.

But that’s different from God forsaking you. The truth is that Jesus was forsaken so you would never be. He experienced darkness so you could have light. He experienced death, but in His death, He gave life.

The great old hymn “How Firm a Foundation” says, “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.” The reason we can sing that song is because He was forsaken.

The shameful, painful death of Jesus brought life, light, joy, and peace to the world—for all who put their faith and trust in the One who died in our place and then conquered death by resurrection. That’s what we celebrate this Easter week.


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Skip Heitzig

If you haven’t read Psalm 22 before and you’re only familiar with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, you might read verse 1 (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”) and think, Didn’t Jesus say those words on the cross?

For the first three hours of that horrific ordeal, the words Jesus spoke were focused on others, not Himself: “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…. Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:28, 34, 43).

Then when the darkness covered the land, Jesus made a plaintive cry of broken fellowship. He was feeling the separation from God that sin causes, which He had never experienced before. He was so close with His Father that He even said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). On the night He was betrayed, He said, “You will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).

But on the cross, it was different. He felt the separation because He became the sin-bearer. That’s what it felt like to have all the iniquity of the world laid on somebody sinless and perfect (see Isaiah 53:6).

Jesus endured the cross because of the holy character of God. God is so perfect that He can’t just hang out with imperfection—unless something