Why Has Thou Forsaken Me

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Question: Did Heavenly Father forsake Jesus on the cross?

Answer: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland offered the following insight, “I testify...that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour...Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence...For [the Savior’s] Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die, not only physically, but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally abjectly, hopelessly alone” (“None Were with Him,” Ensign, May 2009, 87-88).

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Matthew 27:46

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Note: This had to have been a most difficult time for the Savior. Apparently, as part of the Atonement, Jesus had to experience what sinners do when they sin so much that the Spirit leaves them.

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Jeffrey R. Holland:

Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence.

It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us.

When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 95; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 155; Excerpt from “None Were with Him,” by Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Conference, April 2009.