Did Jesus Separate from God the Father on the Cross?

by Matt Paulson

Question: Did Jesus separate from God the Father on the cross?

Answer: Many good Bible preachers have taught that Jesus was separated from the Father on the cross. I have heard it said that for a short while God the Father turned his face from his beloved Son. However, in apparent contradiction, these same Bible preachers also say that Jesus is God and He exists in three persons, i.e. the Trinity. Thus, it would seem problematic for these Bible preachers to explain how Jesus (God the Son, incarnate) could be separated from God (the Father) since they are both integral to the Triune God. We need to remember that when anybody sees Jesus, they are seeing God incarnate, or the essence of God (John 14:7).

When Jesus was on the cross suffering for our sins did Jesus stop being God? No. Was God the Father unable to look upon the judgment that fell upon God the Son? Of course not. Clearly, Jesus never stopped being God even when he died for the sins of mankind. Likewise, Jesus cannot be separated from God the Father. He said, “I and the Father are One,” John 10:30. With this important verse in mind we must ask why Jesus would say “My God, My God, Why has thou forsaken me?”

Can God look upon sin?

We know that the Bible teaches that nobody can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). However, does God look upon sin and the appropriate sacrifices which were given in the Old Testament? God does like the appropriate sacrifice. Noah proved this fact. “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. 22 "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," (Genesis 8:20-22).

Does God look upon sinners, those that have faith in Christ and others who will in the future?

One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Romans 9:19-24.

Even as objects of his wrath, God has made Christians to be objects of his mercy!

Do you remember that the Israelites made a Golden calf and called it “eloheim” their God? Moses was worried that God would pour out his wrath upon his chosen people: “Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin,’" Exodus 32:30.

Romans 5:12 says “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…”

When Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 on the cross there were many Jews watching. Most of those Jews watching were very familiar with King David’s remorse from his affair with Bathsheba. From age 6 the Jewish children memorized the scriptures. There were no chapters and verses in the Jewish Bible at that time. How did they reference passages of the Bible without chapters or verses? Here is how they did it. If a Jewish Rabbi wanted his student Moshe to quote the scriptures he would ask, "Moshe, please recite the passage 'My God, My God Why has thou forsaken me?" This is the first line of Psalm 22 and this short line is how the Jews would refer to certain portions or chapters of scriptures.

Back to Psalm 22. Read the whole chapter of Psalms 22 and look at the internal details. 

  • My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me
  • Why are You so far from helping Me
  • But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
  • All those who see Me ridicule Me;
  • they shake the head, saying, 8 "He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"
  • Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water,
  • And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
  • For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
  • They pierced My hands and My feet;
  • I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
  • They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
  • But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
  • Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog.
  • Save Me from the lion's mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
  • Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! 27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the Lord,
  • They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,
  • That He has done this. (God has completed or finished these tasks above!)

Psalms 22 has many references or circumstances about the atoning death of Jesus Christ. To Christians, the prophecies are profound and obvious. Likewise, those Jews watching Jesus on the cross being crucified saw the many parallels of the crucifixion or the fulfillment of prophecy. As Jesus was suffering, he was quoting the Jewish scriptures from the cross! In this view, there is no doubt that Jesus was drawing the attention of the Jews to the words of King David, the first sentence of Psalm 22. Can you imagine the expression of the surprised Jews as they remembered the whole of the messianic prophecy as Psalm 22 unfolded in front of their eyes? And the climax would be Jesus’ final words, "It is finished."  Look at the last line of Psalms 22! "It will be completed." What a contrast with Jesus’ words “It is finished!” Thus, in this view Jesus is actually saying that He is the Messiah from the cross.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.