How could Jesus say God had forsaken him?
- When Jesus cried, "My God, why have you forsaken
me?" on the cross, He was not expressing a belief that God had somehow left him.
- Jeues was pointing His listeners to Psalm 22, a psalm which
Jews had long understood to be about the coming Messiah, the Suffering Servant.
- 1 John 2:1 says: "We have a helper with the Father, Jesus
Christ, a righteous one." This Scripture clearly illustrates that, while there is only one God
(Yahweh), He exists and manifests Himself in three persons, each of which is fully God.
"Get and read God's book." -- Isaiah 34:16, The Message
10, Answers to a Jehovah's Witness questions
What are the implications of Jesus being called the Father's helper?
Excerpts from email exchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: Look at Mark 15:34 and Matthew
27:46. If you say Jesus was God, aren't you making it sound like Jesus was asking himself why he
had forsaken himself?
- My answer: Do you really want to know what Jesus was
saying in those Scripture passages?
First of all, it must be noted that Jesus is here quoting words from Psalm 22. I realize you have
brought up these words of Jesus from the cross to say that they show a separation between the
Father and the Son. That's a mistaken interpretation. With his cry, Jesus was not expressing a
belief that God had forsaken him. What Jesus was doing in calling out the opening words of a
psalm was to call attention to what that psalm said about the Messiah!
So, what was Jesus saying by quoting that Old Testament
Scripture? Well, in the scrolls used in the synagogues during Jesus' day, individual Psalms were
not numbered. So, when Jews wanted to refer to a particular psalm, they quoted its opening lines
-- much like we would do today when we use song titles. Indeed, speakers today use this
technique of quoting a phrase or two from a song or poem in order to make their listeners think
about the whole song or poem. Preachers often quote a short phrase from a song, knowing that
just a few words will make their audience remember the whole song. I'm guessing that speakers
in Jehovah's Witnesses congregations may well do the same thing.
As Jesus was
dying on Calvary, He wanted those watching
Him die to think about all of the things which Psalm 22 says. Read Psalm 22. You'll see that
it speaks of the Messiah. That Jesus knew God had not actually forsaken Him is
clear from that very psalm to which he made reference. For instance, verse 24 says: "He
(meaning God) 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."
That day on Calvary, Jesus was declaring to his accusers that they were seeing the fulfillment of
Psalm 22 -- which even in His day was commonly understood to be about the coming Messiah,
the Suffering Servant spoken of in Isaiah. The psalmist himself understood that the "forsaking" of
God was not abandonment, but a lifting of His Sovereign protection according to His divine plan
so that the threats of Jesus' enemies could be carried out in fulfillment of prophecy.
In fact, there were several times when Jesus' enemies sought
to kill him (John 5:16 and 8:59, for example). They were not able to because, as Jesus said, His
"hour" was not yet come (John 12:23-28). Even as Jesus' crucifixion approached, He declared to
Pilate, "You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above" (John
19:11). That Scripture makes it clear that the Son knew clearly that the Father would not
abandon Him on Calvary.
Therefore, don't be looking at Jesus' cry reported in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 as something to
disprove the divinity of Christ. If you're going to look for proof that Jesus of Nazareth was
not God, you'll have to look elsewhere in Scripture. What we have here are words
that called into the minds of Jesus' listeners a Psalm which proclaims the coming of a divine
Messiah. It is a Psalm that says, among other things, "All the ends of the earth will remember
and turn to the Lord." Meditation on this "saying from the
- Jehovah's Witness question: What does this scripture means
when it said we have a helper with the Father, and it give us the name of that helper, Jesus
Christ? (1 John 2:1) "We have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one."
- My answer: You picked a Scripture that clearly illustrates
the truth that, while there is only one God (Yahweh), He exists and manifests Himself in three
persons, each of which is fully God. Remember that the verse does not say Jesus is God's helper.
Doesnn't say that Jesus is the Father's helper? This passage shows the wonderful interaction
between two persons of the Trinity on our behalf!
John is the only New Testament writer to use the particular Greek word —
parakletos — that is here translated as helper or
advocate. John uses that Greek word four times in His gospel in addition to what he says in this
letter written to the churches in the area of Ephesus.
That word carries the meaning of "being called to one's aid."
Because of the challenges of trying to translate all the nuances of the Greek word, many people
use Paraclete, which is an English version of the Greek word.
This advocate or Paraclete of whom John speaks must be a
person, rather than an "influence" or "force," since that particular title is used for someone's legal
defender before a judge. Did someone's "influence" or an impersonal force ever serve as a legal
defender? What is fascinating about this is that John uses a word that can be translated "lawyer"
to describe the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus.
The Scriptures in which John uses this word strengthen the
case for the Holy Spirit being a person rather than the "it" of "God's influence." How can an
"influence" or force act as the lawyer for someone? If we have to go to court, do we want
somebody's influence to show up? Don't we expect a real person there to defend us?
1 John 2:1 is a great affirmation of the understanding of God
as triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (one God, eternally existing in three persons). This
Scripture is clear: God the Father and God the Son are two distinctly different persons. This is
not a logical contradiction because personhood and essence are two different things (a point on
which a lot of people get hung up).
Essence is a "what" and personhood is a "who." 1 John 2:1
illustrates this clearly by calling Jesus "righteous." That is significant because just a few verses
before (in 1 John 1:9) that same identical word -- righteous -- is applied to God. Do you see what
John is saying? 1 John 1:9 says God is righteous. 1 John 2:1 says Jesus is the righteous one.
This is just one more indication that Jesus and Yahweh are of the same essence!
1 John 2:1 shows Jesus' role in the Trinity as our Advocate
before God the Father. Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill that role. That's because He
as God Incarnate is the only sinless one who died a sacrificial death and was then resurrected. As
the perpetual mediator between God and human beings, God the Son is perpetually distinguished
from God the Father. However, both Father and Son are God.
Why is God the Son our Advocate? Is it because God the Father is reluctant to save us? Is the
desire that we be saved from our sin a desire only of the Son? No, it is not. Jesus' advocacy for
us manifests the intense longing by the triune Yahweh (without distinction of Person) for our
- Jehovah's Witness question: If Jesus was God incarnate, wouldn't
that mean that there would not be a father for Jesus to go to if Jesus was already there in the flesh
existing as the Father?
- My answer: Aren't you misunderstanding what I'm saying?
God is one and yet He is also three separate persons. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not
the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. Yet, all
three are of the same essence. There is a unity and yet a separateness. Jesus did not exist "in the
flesh as the Father." The Son existed in the flesh as Jesus.
Think of H20, the chemical
designation for that compound whose molecules contain two atoms of hydrogen for every atom
of oxygen. In its liquid form, H20 is called "water." However,
H20 can also exist as steam or vapor. It can even exist in solid
form as ice or snow. Which of those three forms is really H20.
Well, they all are. Is steam the same as ice? No, but it is exactly of the same essence, isn't it? Is
liquid water the real H20? Well, it is
H20, but H20 exists in two other
forms as well.
Now, this metaphor is not perfect. Like any metaphor, it can be "pushed" too far, but it still is
one illustration of what Scripture says about God.
- Jehovah's Witness question: You used the word "saved" to describe
yourself. Do you know that, as it is today, none of us are saved according to the scriptures?
- My answer: Shouldn't you say, "according to what the
Jehovah's Witnesses have taught me, none of us are saved"? How can you substantiate that
assertion about what scripture says or doesn't say in the light of passages like Exodus
14:301, Exodus 18:42, Exodus 18:83, Deuteronomy
33:294, 1 Samuel 14:235, 2 Samuel 22:46, 2 Chronicles
32:227, Psalm 18:38, Psalm 22:59, Psalm
34:610, Psalm 106:8, 1011, Psalm 107:13, 1912, Psalm
116:613, Isaiah 25:914, Isaiah 43:1215, Jeremiah
4:1416, Luke 7:5017, John 10:918, Acts
2:21, 4719, Acts 15:1120, Acts 16:17, 3021, Romans
8:2422, Romans 10:1023, 1 Corinthians 1:1824, 2
Corinthians 2:1525, Ephesians 2:526, 2 Timothy 1:927,
Titus 3:528, and Hebrews 10:3929? Clearly, Yahweh is a saving God
who saves now.
To be sure, our final redemption, that "glorious hope" as
Scripture calls it, is in the future. However, the Corinthian letters do speak of "being saved," so
isn't there a sense in which that future event is seeing fulfillment in the present? Aren't the
Jehovah's Witnesses actually contradicting scripture to say "none of us are saved."
Look up all of those scripture passages I've listed. In his
letter to Titus, doesn't Paul twice say, "He saved us"? Was Paul wrong there? Doesn't 2 Timothy
1:9 say, "He has saved us"? Should that passage be eliminated from scripture? Doesn't Romans
8:24 say, "In this hope we were saved"? In teaching you that no one is currently saved, haven't
the Jehovah's Witnesses ignored the fact that there is a present aspect as well as a future
component to being saved?
- 1"That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians." -- Exodus
- 2"My father's God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh." --
- 3"Moses told his father-in-law . . . how the Lord had saved them." -- Exodus
- 4"Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?" -- Deuteronomy 33:29
- 5"So on that day the Lord saved Israel." -- 1 Samuel 14:23
- 6"I called to the Lord . . . and have been saved from my enemies." -- 2 Samuel
- 7"So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem." -- 2 Chronicles
- 8"I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved." -- Psalm
- 9"To you they cried out and were saved." -- Psalm 22:5
- 10"The Lord heard him; he saved him." -- Psalm 34:6
- 11"He saved them for his name's sake . . . He saved them from the hand of the
foe." -- Psalm 106:8, 10
- 12"They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their
distress." -- Psalm 107:13, 19
- 13"When I was brought low, he saved me." -- Psalm 116:6
- 14"We trusted in him, and he saved us . . . Let us rejoice and be glad in his
salvation." -- Isaiah 25:9
- 15"'I have revealed and saved and proclaimed -- I, and not some foreign god
among you',. . . . declares the Lord." -- Isaiah 43:12
- 16"Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved." -- Jeremiah
- 17"Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'" -- Luke
- 18"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved." -- John 10:9
- 19"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. . . . the Lord
added to their number daily those who were being saved." -- Acts 2:21, 47
- 20"It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
-- Acts 15:11
- 21"She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of
the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' . . . He then brought them out and
asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'" -- Acts 16:17, 30
- 22"For in this hope we were saved." -- Romans 8:24
- 23"It is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." -- Romans
- 24"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us
who are being saved it is the power of God." -- 1 Corinthians 1:18
- 25"For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing." -- 2 Corinthians 2:15
- 26", ." -- Ephesians 2:5
- 27"He has saved us and called us to a holy life." -- 2 Timothy
- 28"He saved us, not because of things we had done, but because of
his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." -- Titus
- 29"We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those
who have faith and are saved." -- Hebrews 10:39
-- Howard Culbertson,
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