Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Question about the Cross

It's not that I don't like to relax and have a good time, but I really like to have serious discussions... which mostly end up being on topics that we can't completely understand or don't have the answer to. Many times I've gotten myself into a pinch by bringing up something at the entirely wrong time. The room goes silent, people stare blankly and eventually someone asks what the weather is supposed to be like next week. Not fun. You'd think I might have learned my lesson, but evidently not.

Recently, I've come up against some spiritual questions and thoughts that I just can't seem to make sense of in my mind. I know the Holy Spirit is our teacher and the Bible holds all we need to learn and grow... so is it wrong that I still want some discussion? I guess it is if I'm looking for validation from you or if your opinion means more to me than the leading of the Spirit. But lets proceed on the assumption that those two things are not true (and I'll do some meditating on whether they may be).

If serious discussions aren't your thing, it's ok. You're welcome to exit here. Really, I won't be offended and I'll send you off with a song... a new favorite!

So...we're told that God turned his back on Jesus on the cross. Diving right in, my question is "why"? Why would he do that? What kind of Father would physically leave his son during his toughest time? And not only his son, but also himself! If it's not true that God can't look on sin (literally, because we know that he can see it and be in the presence of it) and if we agree that nothing we do or don't do threatens His holiness, then what other reason might there be? What am I missing?

Jesus bore our sin and our shame on the cross.  Sin came by disobedience in the garden and shame immediately followed making them hide from God.  God sought them out, but the shame made them view him differently. Shame fills us with embarrassment before God, makes us focus on our failures instead of on his grace and power and ultimately makes us feel estranged from God. But it's not because God is not with us during our sin or during our shame. At the very point in which we feel that he is a million miles away, he is actually right beside us and in us. Is it not possible that the separation that Jesus felt on the cross was not because God's face was turned away, but because (as he bore our shame) it FELT like his Father had left him?

Thoughts? Corrections? Additions?


  1. Lots to think about, Katie. I'm excited to dig into my Bible and explore this and would love to read some discussion here on it. By the way, does anyone know what the weather is supposed to be like next week? ;)

    1. Thanks so much for commenting and lol about the weather.

      ps.I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

  2. I don't have much comment except AMEN! I feel like God was very much there in that moment! After all, the Godhead is three in one, so how could he NOT be there, and be separated from Himself?! I feel it is pivotal point to our own trust walk with the Father, because [if] the Father separated himself from the Son during His absolute worst moment, then where does that leave you and I? We CAN absolutely trust HIM to be there to see us thru our worst of times, which is why I think this common thought about the cross needs reopened and reexamined. Now as for the debate on the other side... Yes, God is holy, righteous and cannot passively abide with sin. The scripture about how light and darkness cannot be mixed is coming to mind. HOWEVER, God wants to redeem the sin and sanctify us to himself! The most poignant example of that is the extreme measure by which He carried that out in the death of His only Son...
    By the same standard, I believe God comes to us in those dark moments to- as one of Clays Bible stories puts it- 'rescue us from all our sin and badness' ! So thankful that we can trust him as the Great Deliverer in our times of struggle!
    Now, what was that I said at the start about being brief?!??

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kam... I feel like some of this stuff is only just now penetrating my heart. :) I so appreciate your support, as always.

  3. Katie. I appreciate your expression just wonder from the perspective of the Word what you would use to support your thot on the Father being there. I will dig in the meanwhile. Not sure we can ever begin to understand with our limited earth vision...

    1. Befree, I think you may have mistaken my questions for something more. Or maybe you meant to ask Kami, since she seems to have a more solid footing on the idea. :) Either way, I'm not a huge fan of proof texting. Looking at the bible and new testament as a whole is much more preferable, I think. I do, however, look forward to any thoughts/answers you may have.

  4. Here is an excerpt from an author I respect and agree with on this matter-
    "I’ll be the first to admit that the relationship between Father, Son and Spirit is a mystery beyond our ability to define with absolute certainty. But I am deeply bothered by the thought that in some way God was able to separate himself at the cross. The popular understanding of the cross seems to be that God the Father executed wrath on God the Son while standing at some discrete distance.
    Such thinking not only denies the essence of God’s nature but then distorts what happened at the cross. Paul wrote that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” God was no distant observer, but a participant. He didn’t send Jesus to do what he would not do; but God himself acted through Jesus to bring about our redemption.
    Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face away from his Son.
    God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross.
    In Chapter 16 we’ll take a closer look at why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” The point here is that all of God was fully involved in all aspects of this incredible plan. The anguish that ripped through the Godhead that day cannot even be fathomed by our limited perspective.
    But it is important that we see them working together, enduring the process necessary to destroy sin and liberate those they loved. Jesus was not the victim and his Father the victimizer. They were executing a plan they—the Father, Son and Spirit—had devised on the day they first decided to create a man and a woman. They would pay the price together for the relationship they so deeply desired to share."

  5. Katie,
    This a a really thought provoking post, and I hesitate to write alot, But I know that I like for readers to comment their thoughts to me :)

    I lean towards the thinking that it only "felt" like God had forsaken, much as it feels when we think He forsakes us. Which He NEVER does to a heart turned towards Him. The cross is a wonderful, powerful mystery that our minds cannot comprehend it all. The thing we know for certain is, Jesus loved us, died for us, and saves us from our sins.
    Also I had a thought, I know what it feels like to bear my shame, how ashamed I am when I fail, and think about my failings in the past, can you imagine how heavy the shame of the whole world was?!

  6. I like this question as I have also pondered this & have been stirred to reexamine my thinking...in reading about Jesus' life & ministry on earth, we have observed that He had a need to go apart to pray & I'm going to guess, be refreshed in His spirit...why? Did He feel a drain because of all the people's great needs & have a need to be refreshed? Is it possible that He was faced with a whole different dynamic of spiritual conflict which included emotions..."tempted in every point like we are yet without sin" (than He would have known in heaven)? Like it's already been stated, He felt separated... Therefore a perception but not truth...

    Kami, I like your quotes :) Isn't there some illustration about cancer & the antidote for it being like the cup of wrath is the antidote for sin? This opposed to God pouring His wrath out on Jesus...? The pivotal point being our view of this affects how we view God and our desire to trust Him.

    Sara E

    1. The pivotal point *again*... didn't realize that this thought had already been referred to but I guess it does still fit :)

    2. Very interesting... about Jesus facing emotions (spiritual conflict) here that he wouldn't necessarily have faced in heaven. Never thought of that but it totally makes sense.

      I went back the other day and re-listened to the part about the Cross being the cure, not the punishment. It made sense the first time I heard it (more than a year ago) but I think I'm finally starting to understand it in my heart. I want to read through the NT a couple times and really pay attention to references to the cross, etc just to see for myself that it really fits in with the entire NT.

  7. Sara mentioned that our view of the cross shapes our view of God and our desire to trust Him. And I would say, for myself, it shapes my view of His feelings towards me. You know those times that you come to the Lord in complete brokenness? I had one of those a week or so ago and it hit me that there had quite possibly never been a time when I felt so desperately unworthy and undeserving of even coming to Him. Yet I know, we all know, that He doesn't leave us during those times- the times when we actually deserve to be left. Yet we are taught that Jesus (who NEVER sinned and actually did COMPLETELY deserve the God's presence) was left alone when He most needed His father's support.

    My mind cannot hold those two statements together, side by side, as truths. They seem to radically oppose one another.

  8. Here's another thought to add to the mix... how our view of God shapes how we relate to Him.

    I found a freedom in realizing that God made me 1) because He loves me & desired relationship with me & 2) in His image. So what makes us undeserving of His love? The sin that we chose to participate with...separating myself from my sin & knowing God created me because He loves me helped me to be able to come boldly to Him for help (& I don't mean in arrogance!). Would I want my daughter cowering because I am so much more righteous than her that she can't come to me to have me help her sort through her stuff? Also knowing that as I stand on the truth that the victory over sin has been won, I am justified by Christ. This means to me that I have the power to work through & have victory over my stuff not that my stuff has disappated. I think of a pregnant mother willing to go through the anguish of labor because she desires for her child to be delivered & I've wondered if this is the same desire that God/Jesus had in facing the cross.
    I have really struggled with the idea of us as humans being "worthless"...God did create us, after all. I'm not sure exactly how to word it so it doesn't become "living to please" & making ourselves "worthy" rather than living in relationship with Him yet giving Him all the glory. I think simply acknowledging that it's His work & His power & all we did was invite Him in. Yes, sin makes it's devastation in our life but is it not the heart & will of God to help us come to freedom from this?!

  9. Katie
    I love what you're saying about knowing it in your heart. It does make sense in your head but doesn't actually become part of who you are until it becomes real & you are living it. This doesn't come by us making it happen but Father certainly loves to show Himself to a hungry heart!

  10. Katie,

    Okay, you said you wanted discussion and push-back...

    Wrestle with it. It's a hard thing...one i don't claim to understand. The tension that you're calling attention to is one that i think we have to come to embrace, not question. Seek to understand it, but know that it is bigger than any of us. The cross is a glorious mystery. Paul (who wrote 13 books of the NT)... when he comes close to the reality and implications of the cross, habitually either calls it a mystery or breaks out in praise to God because of it's reality. We would do well to do the same.

    The cross creates a lot of tensions in us...and it well should. It made way for the resurrection. Which should create a lot of hope.

    2 Corinthians 5 has been instrumental in my wrestling with the depths of the realities of the cross...specifically verse 27: "He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." That verse confused/wrecked me for a long time. I wanted to understand HOW that (verse 27) played out in space and time, when the real point isn't to say HOW it happened...but simply THAT it happened. Verse 27 seems to be simply a proclamation of praise by Paul to revel in the fact that it did happen and that our lives must be different because it did. Yes, it IS hard to understand... Paul calls Christ in us the hope of Glory... a mystery...and not just any mystery, but a mystery worth hanging our hope on...because the cross ultimately points at the God who made it happen and not those that it reconciled.

    More to your questions...
    "If it's not true that God can't look on sin (literally, because we know that he can see it and be in the presence of it) and if we agree that nothing we do or don't do threatens His holiness, then what other reason might there be? What am I missing?"
    "Is it not possible that the separation that Jesus felt on the cross was not because God's face was turned away, but because (as he bore our shame) it FELT like his Father had left him?"

    1. Push-back...
      the cross is not ultimately about us. It is about the glory of God being on display for the world to see, experience and fall on their faces before.

      Don't get me wrong, the cross has massive implications for mankind...and without it we are lost. But it is ultimately about God being the jealous God that He is and keeping the glory for Himself.

      Sin creates separation. In the garden of Eden, what was the lie that was believed? 'God doesn't want you to become like Him....He is afraid of what you'll become. You won't die...God's just trying to keep you in check.' the serpent said. And when the sin occurred...so did separation. Banshment form the garden, the curse...death the new enemy.

      When Christ bore our sins there HAD to be separation. God created the separation, both in the garden AND at calvary. He is calling attention to the fact that the separation created in the garden had to be dealt with by God alone...by His rules, on His turf, for His glory. Like He (God) killed an innocent animal to cover Adam and Eve, He would now at the cross take sin so serious that He would not just watch but participate in His Son, for the Glory set before Him, willingly laying down His life to bear our sins. A perfect sacrifice for a perfect God. Once and for all. True. Real. And in obedience to and for the glory of the Father. And He truly died, so that He could be truly raised...so that we could have a trustworthy and able object of faith...One that has truly defeated death, and felt the separation from God on our behalf. Philippians says that it PLEASED the Father to crush Him. (doesn't that make the neurons squirm?, pass the Advil...).

      Any other alternative or explanation creates bigger tensions that i am not ready to accept. If God did not turn his head/pull away (whatever phrase were using this week)...did He really bear our sins for us? Did He then really become sin on our behalf? Did He really resurrect or was it a deep sleep? Do we, in response to the call of the cross, really need to die to ourselves...or can we just work hard and that be good enough? If there was not separation in the Godhead over sin, do i really need to separate myself fully from sin? Do i need to take it THAT seriously? Can i flirt with it and be okay?

      To minimize the holy hatred God has for sin is to give my sinful heart license to capitalize on that fact and let it serve myself. I think that part of the beauty of the cross is that we will not fully know its implications this side of eternity...by design. The cross should make us scratch our heads and weaken our knees...and end in worship. We worship what we focus on. When i see myself in the cross, i worship me. When i see the glory of God on the cross, i worship him.
      Please hear me clearly...i don't claim to understand or know perfectly what happened at calvary, but i do know that all the details and happenings and implications and eternal ramifications were in the hands of a God worth trusting, loving and serving because He has provided for us so richly in His Son...for His glory.

      I love the discussion.
      Keep it up.

    2. I am smiling and saying- Yes! This is exactly what I was looking for! Something from a completely different angle and deep enough to make me question my questions.... rather than just saying something about how I shouldn't question it. :)

      Your question that "if God didn't separate himself from Jesus, did he really bear our sins for us" is an intriguing one. I'm thinking... Jesus bore our eternal punishment on the cross so we could have eternal life through Him. And eternal punishment = hell = separation from God. Right? So that and a few other points you brought up, leave me agreeing that this is not something we can completely understand. Not that I ever thought it was, but... :)

      I still think shame plays into it too somehow and that Kami and Sarah's quotes have merit. Not sure how it plays together, but surely it does. It makes sense to go back to the Garden of Eden, but I can't get over the thought that the initial separation Adam & Eve experienced from God was a result of the shame they felt (over their sin). And their banishment from the garden because, had they stayed and ate from the tree of life, they would have lived eternally in a state of sin, never being able to experience the closeness with God. God was still there afterwards and sought them out, talked with them and loved them just like he does when we sin. And like them, it's the shame of the sin that makes us want to avoid him.

      I don't know how that plays into it, if at all. But it makes more sense to me that the separation on the cross was equal to Christ experiencing the eternal hell that I deserve, than about God having to turn his face away from sin. That actually does make sense.

  11. good thoughts everyone. kate, i'm excited to see how God is working this from your head to your heart!
    M Gipe, you have given me some food for thought. :)
    {If God did not turn his head/pull away (whatever phrase were using this week)...did He really bear our sins for us? Did He then really become sin on our behalf? If there was not separation in the Godhead over sin, do i really need to separate myself fully from sin?}
    Jesus is God. the whole 3 in 1 mystery of the Trinity.... so how is it possible that God can separate from God? i think Jesus became sin to cure the power sin had over us. God is big enough to do that. before He died, He said, "it is finished." WHAT was finished? i think sin was defeated. before Jesus ever died. He said, "NO ONE can take my life from me. i lay it down." sin didn't kill Him. i think He chose to die so He could crush the power of death when He triumphantly rose again on Sunday morning. sin&death have zero power where God is involved!
    so why do i bother to separate myself from sin? off the top of my head, i chose to avoid sin because sin brings shame and a distant feeling from my Father God. i don't like that feeling. when someone loves me, {and boy does God ever love me!} i choose to live like i'm loved! and usually we want to be close to those we love!
    most of all, it's about God's glory.... and like someone said in the above discussion... it IS a mystery. a grace filled mystery.
    my ramblings here might make zero sense. i'm a bit sleep deprived right now but started typing and didn't get stopped!


What'cha thinkin?