Do you know what it's like to be abandoned? Maybe your wife or husband walked out on you. Or your child ran away from home. Or your parents divorced when you were very young. Whatever happened, it tore your heart out.
While we may all have stories about being abandoned, nobody can say they have been abandoned by God. That makes the cry of Jesus from the cross all the more compelling. It's incredible to us that the Son would say to the Father, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).
This is the only time when Jesus addresses His Father as "My God" rather than "My Father." Something is happening here. A separation is taking place.
At the cross the Father forsook the Son as the full wrath for sin was placed, not upon us, but upon Him. What is happening is that the Father is treating Jesus Christ as if He committed every single sin by every single person. That's staggering enough, but let me personalize it: God treated His Son as if He lived your life, so that He could treat you as though you had lived the perfect, righteous life of Jesus.
That's what the vicarious or substitutionary atonement means. Paul wrote, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). It's what Isaiah saw when he said, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). It's what Daniel referred to when he said "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself" (Daniel 9:26). That is, He'll be put to death for others.
This moment on the cross is the very pinnacle of His sufferings. What hurt the worst on the cross wasn't the crown of thorns, or the nails in the hands and feet, or the inability to breathe. No, He suffered all of that in silence until this moment, when the wrath of God is placed upon Him, and there is a separation of intimate fellowship.
What does it do to you as you read His cry? Does it bring a new appreciation, a new humility, as you realize, "Lord, you did this for me!"? As Arthur Pink said, "Surely this is the cry that ought to melt even the hardest of hearts."
But this is where it becomes good news. The Son was forsaken so that you and I would never have to be forsaken, so that life could be given, fellowship could be extended. The writer of Hebrews said, "Be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus was tasting death for every man. He experienced the anguish so that no one else will have to, so that all can find life. That's what's going on. He took the darkness so you could live in the light. He took the wrath so you could escape it.
If you know Him, you'll never have to cry out "Why have You forsaken me?"