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Did the Father Really Turn His Back on Jesus?

For many of us the season of Lent provides an opportunity to reflect more intentionally and more carefully on the meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our thoughts often turn to the passion narratives and particularly to the words that Jesus uttered as he suffered. In Matthew’s gospel, the final words of Jesus before his death are the loud cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Commonly referred to as “the cry of dereliction”, these words remind us that Jesus suffered more greatly than we can imagine. It is a bittersweet reminder of the depth of his passionate love for us.

One common interpretation of this saying suggests that, at this very moment, God the Father abandoned God the Son. Unable to look upon the sin that Jesus carried for all of us, the Father turned his back, and the very heart of the Trinity was torn apart. This interpretation presents a variety of difficulties. What would it mean for the Trinity to essentially come apart? And is not the Father pleased with the Son? Why would he abandon his beloved at the moment of his greatest suffering? Even more, if the Father turns his back on the Son, can we trust God to be present with us when we need him the most? Jesus’ cry of forsakenness from the cross clearly presents challenges both theologically and pastorally. These difficulties have caused me to wonder whether there might be another approach to this passage? Can this text be heard on its own terms in a way that is faithfully trinitarian and pastorally sensitive?

Keep reading this post at Seedbed for the pastoral implications of a biblical and trinitarian approach.


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