Jesus Christ endured His awful death alone — completely cut off from God. Why? The answer should sober all of us.
Thick, black clouds swept across the Jerusalem sky. The Jews, preparing themselves for the deeply emotional Passover service, grouped around in the gathering gloom and wondered where the light had gone. It was not even 3 o'clock in the afternoon! The high priest, in the midst of the confusion, was trying to organize the people assisting him with the last minute arrangements needed for the annual ritual. In the murky darkness, on a hill just outside the city, the ultimate High Priest was about to perform the most meaningful sacrifice of all. And for the first time in His life, Jesus experienced what it was like to be alone. Only several hours before, as the mob came to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had told His disciples, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). Now, it seemed, Jesus was no longer able to count on that help. At the end of His human life, when the pain and anguish reached their peak, Jesus Christ could not rely on the strength that had seen Him through the trials of the previous 33½ years. Why, in His greatest hour of need, was He left alone?
Why cut off?
When Jesus cried out, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46), He was not merely mouthing empty, emotional words. He knew that, hanging there on a stake, He was now totally alone, totally cut off from His heavenly Father. That is the condition most of the world finds itself in today! And most of the world is totally unaware of it. This condition is brought about by sin. Isaiah was inspired to make it plain: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:2, New International Version). When sin is present in our lives, we are cut off from contact with God. Sin and God are totally incompatible. The two just cannot exist together. Therefore, unless the penalty of our sin — death — is paid, we cannot ever regain the contact with God that is necessary for eternal life. And that, of course, is where Jesus Christ enters the picture. As the Creator of all mankind, His life was worth more than the sum total of humanity. His death paid the penalty for every sin committed on this planet. But in paying this penalty, He had to take all these sins on His shoulders: "For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21). And again: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). As the clouds overhead darkened and the pain in His body became almost unbearable, Jesus Christ knew He bore the sins of the world. And He knew He was bearing them alone. Earlier when He had been in mental agony, His Father had sent an angel to strengthen and encourage Him (Luke 22:43). Time after time in the humiliation of His scourging, Jesus had drawn on the strength of His Father. The burden of responsibility – knowing that to fail in His mission would mean the oblivion of mankind — weighed heavily on His mind, and He constantly renewed His resolve through prayer to God in heaven. Now; in the hour of Christ's greatest need, there was nothing. Even if He were forced to abandon His own beloved Son, God the Father was not willing to compromise with sin. That's the way it had always been: "I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them ... And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought" (Deut. 31:17-18). "At that time he [God] will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done" (Mic. 3:4, NIV). God, therefore, was left with no alternative. If Jesus had become "sin''' for us, then God had to forsake Him. He would have to face the final minutes alone. Jesus, at last, could really comprehend what it meant to be cut off from God. He had come to this sick earth not just to give His life for all mankind, but also to experience human existence. By doing so, He would be able to intercede to the Father on our behalf with far more meaning and fervor. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). And so it was, on that fateful spring day, Jesus Christ knew what it was like to be completely alone in the world. As He hung there in torment, the words penned by King David became vivid in His mind. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 0 my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent" (Ps. 22:1-2). Read all of Psalm 22 and try to put yourself in Christ's position. Try to imagine being cut off from the strength and encouragement we in God's Church can have from the Eternal.
God doesn't compromise
This episode at the very end of Jesus' earthly life contains several important lessons we need to consider carefully. It should reinforce in our minds that sin — any transgression of God's spiritual law — will result in an estrangement from our heavenly Father. The fact that even Jesus Christ Himself had to experience that separation shows without a shadow of a doubt that God will not compromise with sin. And every time we sin we become responsible for the brutal torture and suffering Christ had to endure. This knowledge should move us to live the most perfect lives we can. This episode should also increase our faith. God says He does not compromise with sin, and we can believe what God has written in His Word. Not only should that encourage us, it should also make us aware that God means business when He emphasizes the punishment intended for those who willingly persist in wrongdoing. Christ died for our sins. His suffering, especially His mental agony when He knew He was totally alone in the ordeal, should make us consider what will happen to us if we refuse to repent of transgressing God's law. There can be no reasoning around the situation. God did not compromise with His Son, nor will He when it comes to the rest of humanity.