The Great Divide, Part 1

During the sermon this past Easter, I was struck by this thought in real-time as I preached, "wait, did God actually turn away from His Son while He was on the cross?"

I know the typically understood answer to that question, which I have readily accepted, is that God separated Himself from His Son at this point because sin cannot be in His presence. Jesus taking on the sins of the world caused the Father to have to leave His son for those hours on the cross, which is why Jesus would exclaim, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mathew 27:46)

However, there is an immediate theological dilemma with this assumption: The unity of the Trinity cannot break. One of the bedrocks of understanding the Trinity is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One God." To break this oneness apart, if even only for a few hours, would constitute a ceasing of the Trinity's existence, or the very existence of God as the Bible teaches concerning His nature.

It may be countered that God separated Himself, not from Himself, the eternal Spirit of God within Jesus, but He separated Himself from the human flesh of Jesus, where humanity's sin dwelled. This thought gets close to the heretical idea of Docetism; it is also equally impossible because, as we are told, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell within the body of Jesus (Colossians 1 v19). The 100% human flesh of Jesus was incarnated with the 100% Son of God. It had to be both God and man as one that died on that cross. God's whole plan of salvation would not work otherwise. So we cannot say that it was the human part only of Jesus from whom God turned away.

If God could not divide from Himself, then the presence of sin and evil existed in His presence while Jesus was on the cross. Doesn't this fly in the face of a core Christian teaching?

Most surprisingly, the Bible does not teach anywhere that sin or evil cannot be in the presence of God. Apparently, this is one of those many commonly accepted teachings of man that does not have solid Biblical support. What the Bible actually teaches is much the opposite; our God put a plan of salvation into gear the minute Adam and Eve rejected Him, which required Him to enter into the depths of our sin to rescue us. We see this at the very start as God Himself seeks Adam and Eve out and draws close to them despite their rebellion.

Beyond this, a core teaching of Christian doctrine is that God is omnipresent, meaning He is present in all spaces and times all at once. To say He could not be in the places where sin is is to strip Him of this attribute. To say God could not be in the presence of sin and evil would also mean He was not present in the horrors of our human history in which sin and evil raged and yet, which exists still, stories of grace and love, evidence of His presence within such suffering. Indeed in the book of Job, we read that the devil enters the presence of God to stand before him on numerous occasions.

Then there is Jesus Himself, fully God, who went directly to the presence of sinful people. Can we conclude that only God the Father cannot have sin in his presence, but Jesus as God can? That would mean one part of the godhead allows something different from another, putting us on shaky theological ground.

 As we hold loosely to the teachings of man and do our own Biblical studies, we find God's holiness does not mean he cannot allow sin into His presence. His holiness means He enters into sin and redeems it with a  love that is greater than our sin. We also find that sin could not separate the oneness of God from Himself. If it could, God would stop being God.

So then, if God the Father did not separate Himself from His Son on the cross, what was it that caused Jesus to utter the words, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What I suggest is that although Jesus did nothing worthy of his own shame, it is likely He identified with the shame of humanity as He took within himself the sins of all of us. In this sense, what Jesus lost was his sense of the presence of His Father, even though His Father never actually left Him. The barrier that caused Jesus to cry that phrase out was felt, but not actual. This is a theme we will be looking at more in PART 2 of this 3-part post. 
Vincent Donnachie, Pastor


Dietlinde Hoffman - April 24th, 2022 at 4:54pm

Hadn't thought of it that way before. Thanks.

- April 28th, 2022 at 1:21pm

You are so welcome Dietlinde. Thank you for interacting. :) It's so interesting how dogma gets passed down without being seriously questioned Biblically, isn't it?