One of the most complicated issues in Christian thought: what is the relation of God to Jesus as he is dying? For many, God is in heaven as Jesus dies on earth and God is pouring wrath or anger out on Jesus. God must do this because God has placed our sins on Jesus and God deals with sin by exercising wrath. Some point out that even Jesus believed this when he quotes Psalm 22 from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God could only forsake Jesus if he had turned his back on our sin (or so the logic goes). Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 22 is the only time in the gospels where Jesus does not refer to God as Father, so we must ask what is occurring here. Most of us are familiar with Psalm 23 and could recite it by heart. It brings us comfort in times of distress. But perhaps we are not so familiar with Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is a cry of dereliction. It is a psalm about the experience of being the victim of an unjust accusation and of being prosecuted. In short, it is a psalm about being a scapegoat. Many of us have had experience with this, where we have been part of a group that has generated rumors about us that we knew were not true. Then one by one our friends took the side of the group against us until we were standing alone and no longer part of the group. It is a horrible experience. When Jesus quotes Psalm 22, he is seeking to bring to the mind of his executioners that they are playing the role of the scapegoating community. If someone were to quote the opening line of Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd” most of us could go on and recite a good portion of that psalm. By quoting the opening line of Psalm 22, Jesus is not saying that God has abandoned him; he is bringing to mind the entire context of the psalm. One might object that this is not necessarily the case but it is important to note that breathing was very difficult on a cross and extended conversations and dialogues would have been both very painful and virtually impossible.
Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God said that, “[n]ever will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” In Deuteronomy 4:31 we are assured that God, “will not abandon you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers, which He swore to them by oath.”