Home » Did God Commit A Cosmic Suicide? (a rebuttal to David Platt’s interpretation of Matthew 27:46)

Did God Commit A Cosmic Suicide? (a rebuttal to David Platt’s interpretation of Matthew 27:46)

by Dr. Eitan Bar
24 minutes read

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

A few months back, I watched the 2022 Lanier Theological panel discussion on atonement.[i] At some point during the discussion (which at times turned into a debate), one theologian, Jeannine Brown, argued for a couple of minutes against the idea that a cosmic separation or disconnection took place within the Godhead between God the Father and God the Son. In response to her argument, another great theologian, Roger E. Olson, replied by quoting a short verse: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” Then, Olson turned silent, and you could see that “I won” smile on his face like he had just won the debate by quoting a verse (as if this was the first time Jeannine Brown had ever heard it).

Dr. Micah Goodman is a popular Israeli-Jewish author and scholar. He is the son of a Christian-born mother and a Jewish-born father. Once in his lecture, Goodman explained that in his observation, in Christianity, people quote a verse to end a debate. But in Judaism, people quote a verse to get it started… I assume that Goodman noticed that many Christians tend to read scriptures like a textbook and manual, while Jews tend to read the Bible like a narrative story. So, I guess as a Jewish follower of Jesus myself, I must keep up with my Jewish tradition. Therefore, we will soon dive deep into Matthew 27:46.

Earlier, we saw the logical connection that preachers of Divine Abuse make between two beliefs. The first is that God hates sin and sinners. Consequently, he must separate himself from men, who, due to their sin, are not worthy of his love but his wrath. Since God’s wrath would destroy us, we must be separated from him. David Platt explains:

To be a Christian is to realize that in your sin, you were separated from God’s presence, and you deserved nothing but God’s wrath.[ii]

By now, you may have guessed I don’t agree with Platt’s definition of what it is to be a Christian, nor with his description of what the gospel is. Still, the point is that preachers of Divine Abuse believe God is separated from men because we sin. We already saw this is not true as all over the scriptures, God courted sinners, including dwelling amid his chosen rebellious nation. We also saw that the very reason God came into this world was to dwell with sinners.

The second idea flows from the first: since God allegedly ought to be separated from us, God (the Father) had to be separated from Himself (the Son) as Jesus took our place. Substantially turning God’s hate for sinners to Christ, killing Jesus through his wrath instead of killing us. This was explained by reformed-Baptist scholar Wayne Grudem:

He was finally cut off from the sweet fellowship with his heavenly father…who is of purer eyes than to behold evil.[iii]

Therefore, according to preachers of Divine Abuse, we are no longer separated from God as he could relax his anger and unleash his accumulated wrath by torturing Jesus. During the time of separation, Jesus experienced the cup of wrath that was allegedly poured by God on Jesus. In other words, Divine Abuse takes “this cup” to mean that when Jesus said, “why have you forsaken me?” God’s wrath was released on him, and the relationship within the Godhead between God the Father and the Son was broken, as Jesus…

Had to undergo the horrible experience of separation between him and his father.
An experience that is the lot of every sinner.[iv]

In summary, Divine Abuse’s logic goes something like this:

  1. Sin causes God to be filled with anger, hate, and wrath toward mankind.
  2. Therefore, God must separate himself from mankind; otherwise, he will destroy it.
  3. God the Son substituted mankind in taking that separation upon himself and absorbing his Father’s hate, anger, and wrath toward us in our place.
  4. Thereby, God saved us from Himself.

In Part III of the book, we’ve established that God doesn’t hate us because we sin and that sin doesn’t cause God to cut people off. It is only our disbelief that separates us from God. In the previous chapter, we learned that the cup of wrath was poured on Jesus by evildoers, not by God, who reversed the deadly repercussion of the cup by resurrecting Christ back to life. Now we shall discuss the staggering idea that Jesus’s cry on the cross allegedly meant that God the Father cut the Son off the Godhead.

The Theological and Philosophical Implications

Divine Abuse’s concept of a cosmic separation between God the Father and God the Son is argued from Matthew 27:46:

 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

Reformed-Baptist pastor and member of “The Gospel Coalition,” Thabiti Anyabwile, explains that:

Spiritual wrath from the Father occurs deep down in the very godhead itself. We dare not speculate lest we blaspheme. But something was torn in the very fabric of the relationship between Father and Son…the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrahs. In the terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[v]

Likewise, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Pastor James Merritt, explains that:

Because of our sin, Jesus experienced total separation, complete isolation, and resolute condemnation from God.[vi]

Anyabwile said, “we dare not speculate lest we blaspheme,” yet he does precisely that; he speculates that the “eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken,” and so it did in an extremely violent fashion. Of course, this quote would be considered heresy by the better part of Christianity, an idea completely foreign to any of the church fathers. Sadly though, as we saw, Anyabwile is by no means an exception in promoting this blasphemous idea. Here is another example, this time from the famous pastor Mark Driscoll:

So, on the cross, Jesus is being crucified, and he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That eternal, unbroken communion and union between the Father and Son was momentarily severed.[vii]

So far in the book, we’ve heard about how God is angry with himself, punishing himself, hating himself, and can’t even look at himself. These are ideas aggressively promoted in books, videos, and online platforms, affecting the minds of millions worldwide, using the banner of “conservative Christianity.” Here is what these gentlemen are saying: God can’t even look at sinners, and since Jesus took the place of sinners, God couldn’t be around him. Filled with “holy” anger and wrath, the Father was so angry with the Son (instead of with us) that he had to punish him and then kick him out of the Trinity. So, perhaps without even realizing it, they turned the triune God, the Trinity of three-in-one, into a temporary “Binity” of two-in-one.[1]

However, you can’t just pull a verse out of its context and establish a whole doctrine based on it. Let alone about trinitarianism. If you do, you might quickly submerge yourself in the deep and dangerous waters of heresy, which is what Divine Abuse theology does. The idea that the unity of the Godhead ceased, momentarily even, or that the unity of the trinity was cut off, or that God was internally separated from himself in one way or another raises severe and fundamental ethical, philosophical, and theological problems. I will address just a few.


Divine Abuse teaches that the Father could turn against the Son, hate him, torture him, and disconnect him from the Godhead. By doing so, they speak of the Trinity as if a group of three individual gods who (get along really well with each other) are linked together yet are independent and can turn on each other if and when they want to. This belief, however, is an ancient heresy called tritheism, and it goes back to the 7th century.[viii] This accusation might sound harsh, but look at what Professor of Systematic Theology Thomas H. McCall explains:

The “broken Trinity” and “God against God” views run aground on the doctrines of divine impassibility and simplicity as well as the doctrine of the Trinity. According to Christian orthodoxy, it is not even a possibility that the Trinity was broken. If we know anything about the Trinity, we know that God is one God in three persons, and we know that God’s life is necessarily the life of holy love shared in the eternal communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit. To say that the Trinity is broken—even “temporarily”—is to imply that God does not exist.[ix]

Likewise, theologian Joshua M. McNall explains: 

To pit the Father against the Son runs afoul not only of the God’s loving character but also of the doctrine of the Trinity…The Father is not punishing the Son. Rather, the Father, Son, and Spirit are working in perfect harmony to bring forth salvation.[x]

Likewise, John Stott, a world-famous theologian who was noted as a leader of the worldwide evangelical movement, stated:

We must not, then, speak of God punishing Jesus or of Jesus persuading God, for to do so is to set them over against each other.[xi]

The source of life is in the Father (John 5:26). Therefore, a break, split, cut, or separation between God the Father and God the Son would mean that the Son of God died not merely physically on the cross as Jesus but also as God the Son. But God cannot die. Therefore, to say that one of the persons within the triune God ceased or died, even momentarily, is considered pure heresy. The Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit), each wholly and together, possess the divine substance or being. Therefore, they cannot hate, punish or hurt one another.

Much earlier, we saw that to hate someone is to reject or distance yourself from them. So, if God the Father indeed distanced himself from God the Son, it means, as some preachers teach, that the Father hated the Son. This is why they teach that “at the cross of Jesus, there is hatred for Jesus” by the Father.[xii] But God cannot hate himself because then God wouldn’t be love.

The Téleios family

We have seen that the “God vs. Himself” doctrine is based on two main ideas. The one is an alleged separation between members of the Godhead caused by the fact that one person within the Trinity hated the other. The second is that the Father was furious and unleashed his accumulated anger and wrath on the Son in some violent cosmic manner. One doesn’t have to be a theologian to see this doctrine as flawed, unethical, and self-contradicting.

Consider the following metaphor:

The “Téleios” family is a family perfectly and eternally united. Téleios household was always perfect in any and every possible way. So perfect, the Téleios family was chosen ahead to be the leaders of its neighborhood. This is due to their unparalleled love and unity as a family. Their leadership was also meant to set an example and model for all other families to admire and be inspired by. In the Téleios household, a father, mother, and son lived together in everlasting and perfect harmony. Their life sets the standard for everyone else around them. In fact, many claim that the Téleios family’s unity is the very pillar that holds together the entire neighborhood, especially during times of hardship. The very identity of the neighborhood’s people was rooted in the unity and well-being of the Téleios family. Now, one day, the Téleios’ next-door neighbors, the Israelite family, were acting up really badly. They’ve made such a mess that father Téleios finally started getting upset. As they continued with the hassle, father Téleios became full of rage, so much so that he had to find an outlet — a way to release his wrath and anger stored up against the Israelite family. However, since father Téleios also loved the Israelite family, he took his rage on his innocent son instead. He tied him to a tree outside, pulled out his belt, and beat him up severely until all his wrath and anger finally subsided. After hearing about such an outrageous event, you, who lived just down the block, had to find out what really happened for yourself. So, you rushed over to pay them a visit, and to your amazement, you discovered that not only was the son indeed beaten up severely by his father, he was also cast out of the house, having to spend a few cold nights in the streets all beaten up and injured. As was explained to you by father Téleios, this was the only way he could spare the Israelites. You left their home puzzled. The next day, you saw a group of people walking up to the Téleios household as they were singing a song of praise: “How great father Téleios’ love for us, for he tortured, abused and cast away his son out of his house so he may spare us! For when Téleios the son got severely beaten up, his father’s wrath was satisfied!” Utterly shocked by the ordeal, you picked up the phone, called for a U-Haul, and fled the neighborhood to the city of Secularium.

Will you, as an ex-member of the neighborhood, still consider the Téleios family to be a family perfectly and eternally united in love? Of course not. You would be online filling out a form and submitting it to Child Protective Services. What kind of logic is it that a father would torture his good and innocent son and then kick him out of the house because others down the block were acting up? And if this truly happened in the cosmic realm, what kind of an example does that set for us? Should we also abuse our innocent children when their siblings act up and cause trouble? 

God cannot hate, be upset, or angry with himself. One person in the Godhead may be separated from the others, just as much as you can disconnect your head from your body without dying. Theology professor, Glenn Kreider, claims that the very unity of the Trinity is a good enough reason to reject the doctrine of Divine Abuse:

God could hardly forsake himself without going against his own word and destroying the harmony and unity in the Godhead. The doctrine of the trinity is the most compelling reason to reject the popular teaching that on the cross, the Father rejected his Son.[xiii]  

If the connection between the members of the Trinity was torn apart, that would be a vast and revolutionary doctrine foreign to the Bible narrative. Therefore, one would expect such an idea to be revealed in the scriptures, especially in the epistles. Yet it is not; never. All there is to it are a couple of vague verses taken completely out of context. Theologian Thomas McCall concludes:

There is no biblical evidence that the Father-Son communion was somehow ruptured on that day. Nowhere is it written that the Father was angry with the Son. Nowhere can we read that God “curses him to the pit of hell.” Nowhere is it written that Jesus absorbs the wrath of God by taking the exact punishment that we deserve. In no passage is there any indication that God’s wrath is “infinitely intense” as it is poured out on Jesus.[xiv]

Another world-famous theologian, Thomas F. Torrance, perhaps most known for his contribution to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, wrote:

The Father and the Son are one in the Holy Trinity. Hence nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from his love, any more than anything can separate the Father and the Son from one another.[xv]

Yet Divine Abuse insists Matthew 27:46 teaches a cosmic separation between the Father and the Son. But is it really? Let’s find out…

Matthew 27:46 (and Psalm 22)

So why did Jesus call, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and in what way was he forsaken?

Into your hands

The first hint comes immediately after, as Matthew mentions one more prayer that occurred probably within minutes. In verse 50, we read: “When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” It is in Luke’s parallel gospel that we find the content of that second prayer:

Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

“Into your hands”? This doesn’t sound much like separation. It resembles nothing like the “holy wrath and hatred” explained by Platt nor the “bruised and disfigured” thought by Mahaney. Instead, it sounds like the hug of a tender, gentle, loving parent or a hen who secures her chick under her wings.

Imagine a father with two children, one of which, the younger brother, is dying of a disease. After running some tests, it seems that he may only live by substituting the young brother’s blood with that of his older brother. However, the older brother would consequently die. The older brother volunteered to donate all his blood and save the life of his young brother- willingly forfeiting his own life. While the older son lays in bed in his final moments, his father is there beside him- holding him, listening to his cry, crying with him, and sharing in his suffering. If the younger brother is to live, then the father cannot intervene. He must “forsake” his firstborn, allowing the staff to draw out his blood as he dies. In this (admittedly not very scientific) metaphor, our “big brother,” Jesus, died for us, so his blood can grant us life.

Divine Abuse’s speculation that in Matthew, Jesus suggested a literal cosmic separation within the Godhead between himself and his Father is already being contradicted by the second prayer presented in the gospel of Luke. Luke paints the classic picture of someone taking his last breath as he dies in the arms of his loved one. It is the opposite of a furious, violent God pouring his wrath on Jesus and kicking him out of the godhead. If anything, he receives him back.

The theological impact of Divine Abuse’s teaching of Matthew 27:46 is undoubtedly horrific. And injecting a doctrine about a relationship within the Godhead into that one verse is to miss Matthew’s point entirely. Theologian Fred Sanders explains:

In context, these particular words of Jesus on the cross don’t put the Father-Son relation in focus. Other prayers from the cross do: “Father, forgive them” and “Father, receive my spirit,” for instance. But for some reason, it is the words “why have you forsaken me” that have caught the modern imagination as having something special to say about the Father-Son relation. You can hear this presupposition in the way people paraphrase the cry of dereliction: On the cross, they say, the Father turned his back on the Son; the Son cried out to the Father; the fellowship between the Father and the Son was somehow eclipsed.[3]

The answer: Psalm 22

So how are we to read the forsakenness in Matthew 27:46? First, notice that Jesus’s prayer is actually a direct quote — word by word — of King David’s words in Psalm 22. And this is by no coincidence. The connection with Psalm 22 is crucial in understanding what Jesus meant and how he was forsaken.

To point his hearers to it, Jesus is quoting the beginning of one of the most famous messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. In our modern age, where the Bible is divided into chapters and verses, we could just say “Psalm 22”. However, early manuscripts of biblical texts did not contain chapters and verses. Back then, they did not have the divisions in the numbered form familiar to us, today’s modern readers. So, if Jesus wanted to point his audience to what we know today as the 22nd Psalm, how would he do so? By quoting the beginning of that Psalm, of course:

“My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)
“My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
(Psalm 22:1)

If we are to understand what Jesus meant by “forsaken,” we need to study Psalm 22. Both in Christianity and in ancient Judaism, it is well established that Psalm 22 is a messianic prophecy foreshadowing the sufferings of the Messiah.[4] Interestingly, this Psalm tells us in what way Jesus was forsaken and points at those to blame for torturing the Son of God. The first half of Psalm 22 presents a righteous sufferer, derided, ridiculed, and mocked by those who consider him their enemy, while God abstains – not coming to his rescue. But with verse 22, the tone takes a one hundred and eighty degrees turn, as suddenly, the sufferer is vindicated by God and then reigns over all the earth.

Psalm 22 begins with a description of hopelessness, suffering, and despair due to the righteous one not being rescued by the only one who could save him from evildoers. But Psalm 22 ends on a note of a triumph by a God who came to rescue after all and, through the resurrection, reversed what was done. Plenty of books and papers were already written[xvi] to establish the use of Psalm 22 in Matthew 27. But here are a few quick examples:

Ps. 22:18They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.They divided his garments among them by casting lots.Matt. 27:35
Ps. 22:7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads.And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads.Matt. 27:39
Ps. 22:8He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”Matt. 27:43

By quoting the beginning of Psalm 22, Jesus was drawing our attention to the entirety of Psalm 22, which begins with suffering caused by wicked men but ends with vindication by the good God through the resurrection. Theologian Craig Keener explains:

Here Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1, which may have been part of the Scripture recitation at this time of day. His opponents do not pause to consider that the psalm ends with the sufferer’s vindication and triumph (Ps. 22:25–31).[xvii]

Psalm 22:1 is also where we find the answer to the question we are so eager to figure out – in what way was Jesus forsaken:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1)

This same idea repeats in verse 11:

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Psalm 22:11)

We need not speculate anymore. The answer was waiting for us all along in the second half of the verse Jesus was quoting! “Trouble is near” means that Christ’s suffering comes from men, not God. However, “there is no help” as God is “far from saving” him. Clearly, God forsook Christ only in the sense that he allowed him to suffer and die at the hands of wicked men. God did not actively hurt Jesus himself. He just didn’t come to his rescue. Psalm 22 then goes on to describe, very graphically, the sufferings of this righteous one:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; (Psalm 22:14-17)

You do not need to be a Bible commentator to be able to notice the apparent echo and allusions of the painful descriptions in Psalm 22 with what took place during the crucifixion: the perspiration, the bones being pulled out of joint as the body fatigues on the cross; the possible rupture of the heart; the extreme dehydration. And by whom was it caused? By “they”, the “evildoers.” They were at fault for hurting, abusing, and torturing Christ, not God. If God was the source of Jesus’s suffering, and if Jesus knew it, then we would expect him to say: “My God, My God, why are you hurting me? Why are you causing me such pain? Why are you treating me this way?” But Jesus never said anything like it. He did, however, know Psalm 22 is a description of what is happening to him — a prophecy taking place on his own flesh — and wanted everyone to acknowledge it.

You see, death is something all created creatures experience, but not the creator. Death is foreign to God. It is the very opposite of God. The nature of God is life, as God is the source of all life. For the Son of God to experience death is like a fish climbing a sequoia tree; it is not in their nature. The sight of death is possibly why Jesus was sweating blood, but we can only speculate. Also, on the cross, Jesus felt something he never did before. When normative people sin, they feel guilt and shame. Jesus never sinned, yet he took our sins upon himself (1st Peter 2:24; 2nd Cor 5:21). We can speculate that on the cross, as Jesus took upon himself our sins, he felt an enormous amount of guilt and shame. Perhaps he saw all the bad things each and every one of us ever did, and experienced all that shame and guilt. Seeing all our sins, then and forever, Jesus’s heart was not angry nor seeking revenge. On the contrary, his response was “forgive them.” 

Psalm 22, verse 16 (Hebrew, 17) has been very controversial. The English version of the Jewish Publication Society translated: “Like a lion, [they maul] my hands and feet.” (literally, “like a lion, my hands and feet.”) We can speculate the reason why this was changed. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls (written two centuries before Jesus was “pierced”), as well as the Septuagint, both translated verse 16 not “like a lion” but “pierced.” The Hebrew words for “pierced” (KAARU) and “like a lion” (KAARI) look almost identical and differ by one letter. Both letters are just a single line differentiating only by the length of the line. Most English translations read, “they have pierced my hands and feet,” which I believe to be the correct way.

Either way, the connection between the crucifixion of Christ and Psalm 22 is as strong as the steel cables holding up the Brooklyn bridge. Either Psalm 22 is a direct prophecy on the part of David, or if he was referring in an exaggerated way to his own sufferings, David’s words went far beyond his sufferings to be fulfilled in a very literal way in the crucifixion of “the son of David.”

In Psalm 22, the suffering is caused by evildoers, never by God, who is silent. But God finally shows up at the end, resurrecting Christ back to life and undoing what was done by evil men. Jesus indeed felt abandoned and forsaken, but only in the sense of not being rescued by God. Psalm 91:15 declares God will save the righteous who cry out to him for help,[5] but when Jesus was in dire need, God did not help him, and this alone is the extent of his temporary “forsakenness.”

Matthew 27:46, according to Hebrews

In fact, not rescuing Jesus from evil caused by men is the precise point the author of the letter to the Hebrews made:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7–8).

Jesus offered up prayers to the one who could save him: Was God the Father able to rescue Jesus from death caused by God the Father himself? If so, that would mean we either have a logical contradiction or we are dealing with a God who suffers from a split personality disorder. However, what the writer of Hebrews meant is none of the above. All he meant was that God did not deliver Jesus from his human murderers. But even that was only temporary, as God did deliver Christ afterward, through the resurrection: “The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.” (Hebrews 13:20). Thus, in his human inhabit Jesus was forsaken to die, yet only temporary as even his flesh was delivered from death’s ultimate hold over him. So, was Jesus forsaken? Yes and no. He was forsaken, physically, and only for a moment, but we know what happened three days later, as was also foretold by the psalmist:

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. (Psalm 22:24)

God did hear Jesus’s cry for help. It was only a matter of time. There is an important lesson for us to learn here. We don’t always get what we want as soon as we want it, even if truth and justice are on our side. This is a good reminder that no matter what we suffer in this life, one day, we will be resurrected with a new and perfect body that knows no sickness or pain.

Matthew 27:46, in light of God’s relationship with Israel

The way God forsook Jesus is the same way Israel was “forsaken” by God throughout the Old Testament – God became passive and allowed Israel to suffer the consciences of their decision to worship other gods. This was usually in the form of the spears of the gentiles attacking Israel.

Protection is a blessing (Numbers 6:24-27, Deuteronomy 28). So, God drew his protection from Israel and allowed the pagan evildoers to conquer and abuse Israel. But in the case of Israel, it was due to their own fault and an implication of their choice to put their trust in other gods instead (good luck having them protect you.) Jesus, the ultimate high priest and representative of Israel, took Israel’s place and suffered the whips and spears of the pagans. In this way, he offered himself as the ultimate perfect sacrificial offering. Jesus’s sacrificial death wasn’t to appease some angry god. It was, among other things, to demonstrate how extreme God’s sacrificial love goes.

We can now conclude that on the cross, when Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, it was not because his Father was angry and upset with him. It was also not to introduce us to a new doctrine whereby the Son was kicked out of the Trinity by the Father. Thomas H. McCall, chair of Theology at Asbury, concludes:

…Does the text actually say that the Trinity was broken? The answers to these questions are surprisingly clear: neither the Matthean nor the Markan account says any of these things.[xviii]   

If the gospels’ authors suggest no such idea, 21st-century preachers and evangelists shouldn’t either. We now can and should proclaim with confidence that a doctrine that blames and points fingers at God for abusing, torturing, or hating Jesus, is a heresy that must be outrightly rejected.

He loves us even though we forsook him

Jesus wasn’t forsaken only by God, he was forsaken by all. In his commentary on Matthew 27:46, Grant Osborne notes:

It culminates a major theme of the Passion Narrative, in which Jesus is abandoned by his disciples (26:56) and Peter (26:69–75), then condemned by the high court of his own people (26:57–68) and taunted by his enemies—first the Roman soldiers (27:27–31) and then the Jewish people (27:39–40), the leaders (27:41–43), and the criminals crucified with him (27:44). Jesus stands alone, forsaken by all, and now he feels forsaken even by his Father.[xix]

To be forsaken is to have nobody on your side. No one to defend you, to stand by you, or to fight for you. Have you ever felt forsaken and alone? I know I did (even by the church). I am far from perfect, but I find great comfort in knowing that my perfect Savior also experienced that. Jesus is a redeemer I can relate to through my pain.

But there is something even more amazing going on here. Jesus was forsaken by his closest friends; those you’d expect would be there for him no matter what, die with him even. But they, too, took off. However, Jesus was not upset and did not hold it against them. Look at what Jesus did immediately after being resurrected: 

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee;
there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:9-10)

Despite them forsaking him, the first thing Jesus wants to do once resurrected is to be with them. Notice that he called them “my brothers.” Not “students,” not “friends,” not “those idiots who abandoned me just when I needed them the most.” In Israel, to this day, we call someone we really like and are close to “brother” (and “sister” if a female friend.) This is especially encouraging because as we might forsake Jesus at times, he never leaves us, nor is he upset at our stupidity. Also, the fact that Jesus calls them “brothers” is yet another beautiful allusion to the Messiah’s “brothers” (in most translations[6]) in Psalm 22:

I will tell of your name to my brothers
(Psalm 22:22)

A common thing to most people, religiously and secular alike, is that they often cut people out of their lives once they sin against them. But Jesus did the opposite; despite being betrayed by them, he wanted them nearby. He called them brothers. That’s true love. To conclude, the Messiah demonstrated the power of God and his greatness. Not the aggressive power of a hostile god, nor greatness through military power, but through his ability and willingness to suffer – because of us and for us. In our lives, too, our children or friends will often create trouble, yet often it will take us suffering to redeem the wrongdoing of our loved ones. This is what it takes to be a true hero.

[1] This is not me trying to be funny or make up new words. Binitarianism is a Christian theology that believes God to be of two persons in one unity- a “twoness” in God.

[2] Tritheism is the doctrine that the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are three distinct Gods, each an independent center of consciousness and determination.

[3] Sanders continues: “Most sermons and songs that head in this direction are probably led by the honorable instinct to take the cry of Jesus seriously, not to flinch from it, and not to soften it. And we certainly need to devote ourselves to more consistently thinking in trinitarian terms about all aspects of salvation! But by surfacing the Father-Son relation here, we accidentally conjure the error that has been aptly labelled the “broken Trinity” view. And that–the notion that God came apart into constituent person-pieces, broke up, got by for a while on two-thirds of deity, mystically divorced, untrinitied for one long, lost weekend–really only needs to be stated clearly in order for most Christian people to recognize it as nonsense and reject it as false.” (“God Forsaken for Us,” “The Scriptorium Daily,” 8 April 2020; scriptoriumdaily.com).

[4] In Judaism, the Talmudic sages saw a clear connection between Psalm 22 and the suffering of the Messiah. For example, the famous Midrash from the eighth century, Psikata Rabati 36-37, attributes the suffering described in Psalm 22 to the suffering Messiah.   

[5] Satan quoted Psalm 91 when he tempted Jesus to throw himself off the temple.

[6] Most English translations translated “brothers”. The NIV, however, chose to translate “people”; sadly, missing the allusion to Psalm 22:22.

[i] “Atonement and the Death of Jesus”, Lanier Theological Library, March 2022, YouTube.

[ii] David Platt, Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. 2013. P. 49

[iii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 574.

[iv] K. R. (“Noam”) Hendren, “Haish Hahu”, Keren Or books. Tel-Aviv, 1987, page 96. Translated from Hebrew.

[v] Anyabwile, What Does It Mean for the Father to Forsake the Son?

[vi] https://www.touchinglives.org/devotionals/god-forsaken

[vii] Mark Driscoll “Jesus drank the cup of the wrath of God

[viii] For farther explanation see: Kazhdan, Alexander (1991). “Tritheism”. In Kazhdan, Alexander (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University.

[ix] Thomas H. McCall, Is the Wrath of God Really Satisfying?

[x] Joshua M. McNall, “Mosaic of Atonment”, page 168.

[xi] John R. W. Stott, “the Cross of Christ”, page 287.

[xii] Mark Driscoll, “Jesus Sweats Blood”, realfaith.com

[xiii] Glenn Kreider and Eitan Bar, Who Killed the Son of God?: In Defense of Penal Substitution without Divine Murder. 2nd edition (June 6, 2020). Page 57.

[xiv] Thomas H. McCall, Is the Wrath of God Really Satisfying?

[xv] Thomas F. Torrance, “The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons”. T&T CLARK 1996, page 140.

[xvi] For example, Anderson’s paper “The Use of Psalm 22 in Matthew 27:33-50”, available for free on academia.edu

[xvii] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 27:46). InterVarsity Press.

[xviii] Thomas H. McCall, Forsaken: The Trinity and the Cross, and Why It Matters, IVP Academic, 2012. Page 30

[xix] Osborne, G. R. (2010). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 1037). Zondervan.

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist