Why did God the Father forsake His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ? What is behind Jesus’ cry here in Mark?
Having been persuaded by the rioting crowd and the chief priests of the Jews, Pontius Pilate agrees to crucify Jesus Christ. The common form of the death penalty in those days was death by hanging on a cross for public display. Jesus Christ had done no crime and the Bible says committed no sin against God; He in no way deserved this treatment. They crucified Him around 9AM on a Friday morning. Mark records here that at the ninth hour, around 3PM, Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” (Mark 15:34). This means “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Jesus cried out this way because He could feel the abandonment by His own Father. His grief and agony were too great for us to truly express in words. To understand why Jesus was abandoned by God in this moment we must also look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
This is perhaps the single greatest verse that explains the Gospel in the entire Bible. God the Father put on Jesus all the sins of whoever would believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus never sinned and upon the cross He was still not a sinner, yet God treated His own Son as if He were guilty of all the sins of those who would ever believe. Jesus never ‘knew’ personal sin in His life, yet God imputed the sins of guilty believers on Jesus. Therefore Jesus was made to suffer the wrath of His Holy Father. This is why He went to the cross.
In that moment on the cross, Jesus was so blackened with all these sins that God could not even look upon His own Son. God is holy and cannot entertain the presence of any sin; in fact He must punish all unholiness as it violates His own nature. At the cross Jesus felt this wrath and punishment from God and felt God turn His back as it were away from Him because of all the sins He was vicariously bearing.
Paul says in the later part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 that because God treated and punished His own innocent Son as guilty of all the sins of believers; then God treats us who believe in Christ as being righteous and without the guilt of sin. Jesus suffered while being a righteous man on our unrighteous behalf. Therefore when we put our faith in Him as the only Savior from God’s wrath, God imputes Jesus’ righteousness upon our lives just as He imputed our sins upon Jesus.
Jesus crying out in anguish because of God’s wrath upon Him and abandonment because of the blackness of sin upon Him is a sobering testimony to how repugnant sin is to God. God is so holy and any sin is an offense to His holiness and He must judge it. Let us who claim the name of Christ in our lives never forget the seriousness of how much God hates sin. Because of sin in our lives, He sent His only Son to a cross to hang and die a gory death. We are saved eternally by God having punished Jesus on our behalf, but let us not tread carelessly throughout our lives living as if sin is a light matter to God today. When you hear Jesus crying out in anguish from this verse in Mark, remember that it should have been you and I dying on that cross and feeling the wrath of God.