I’ve reproduced this piece in full here. Friends, have a good read – this is engaging stuff. I would want to take issue with a few small things but the general thrust has really got me thinking. Don’t shirk reading! Go for it….
Did God Hide?
Many times I have heard people say that Matthew 26:47 means that while Jesus was on the Cross that God had to turn away because He could not look at Jesus who had become sin. “God hid his face because He can not look at sin,” they exclaimed. “So He turned His back to Christ, and that broke Christ’s heart. And Jesus cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
But when I read Scripture I do not find that is what exactly happened. I do not find God turning away from the Cross, covering His eyes, or anything like that. In fact, Isaiah 53:4 says that Christ was “stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” And verse 10 says that it was “the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” These are descriptions of an engaged God, who looked fully and completely upon His son and judged Him with Divine wrath.
I asked someone, “Do you believe that Matthew 26:47 teaches that God the Father was separated from Jesus?” Immediately the person said, “Yes.” He believed that at that moment there was a break in the Trinity. That Jesus was literally separated from the Godhead. He went on to say that he thought that is what he had been taught for years, that God forsook Jesus. This is why I am convinced that we must treat this verse with more care. As I have stated, no reformed pastor that I know believes that there was a separation in the “being” or “essence” of the Trinity. But that is not what people are hearing!
When they hear God turned his back, they hear something different than penal-substitutionary atonement. They hear something different than a break in the fellowship of the Father and Son. Some even go as far as to say that at that moment Jesus as a man suffered separation from God. But that is a dangerous, heretical statement that not only does damage to the doctrines of the Trinity, but also to the doctrines of Soteriology.
Erwin Lutzer said, “If only the humanity of Christ suffered at the cross, then there was no real Incarnation. Indeed, it might lead to the conclusion that only a man died on the cross, not the God-man. Jesus suffered not only as a man but as God.” His humanity absorbed the judgment and so did His divinity. Only Jesus the God-man could endure the indignation of the God against sin. And the Father was not passive or absent in this suffering, but was the actual judge and executor of punishment. Jesus became cursed by our sin (Galatians 3:13) and suffered the fury of Divine justice for us.
This is the gospel: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36); “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury, (Romans 2:8); Because it is our sins that evoke God’s wrath, there is nothing we can do to appease or propitiate God. As long as we remain in our sins, we are very properly “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).
But Jesus is our propitiation. Upon the cross Jesus satisfied the wrath of God. Though many modern English translations of the Bible obscure this truth by replacing the word “propitiation” with “expiation” or “atoning sacrifice”, the doctrine of propitiation and penal-substitutionary atonement is clearly taught in the New Testament (Rom. 3:25-26; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2). There is no doubt that the Greek hilasmos is “propitiation. And furthermore, God’s wrath is not unholy or irrational. Both the Father and the Son agreed that the only way to redeem the elect was to punish Jesus in our stead.
So here is my proposition: when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Jesus knew with all Divine certainty that He and the Father were accomplishing the marvelous and mysterious plan of salvation. Upon that cross all of the fury of God’s wrath and judgment was executed upon Christ. And in the spirit of the psalmist of Psalm 22 the Lord felt the pain and agony and distress of one who was the propitiation of our sins. Not only was his outer-man but his inner-man twisted in the horror of this cup of wrath. But as A. W. Pink said in his book about the sayings on the cross, this was a cry of distress but not of distrust. Jesus knew as did the psalmist that God was faithful. The Trinity did not, as if it could, suffer fraction. God abandon the fellowship with Christ, but this was all the pre-ordained plan that they had before the foundation of the world. Christ knew why God was cursing him — in fact, He had sweat drops of blood over the anticipation of it.
So let me quote the answer to the questions of Psalm 22:1.
Psalm 22:22, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise you.
Psalm 22:24, “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard. (italics mine)
Was this a statement of fear or faith? Did God hide or did He engage? Did God forsake or was He faithful? When the wrath of God was poured out, did Jesus know exactly what was taking place and why? Was there some seperation in the Trinity?