One of the most profound moments in all of history occurred when Jesus received the full penalty for sin while hanging on the cross. Mark 15:33–34 reads, “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What does it mean that Jesus was forsaken? In those dark moments, Jesus bore God’s wrath as our Substitute. He became a curse for us. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Paul echoes this truth in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
What does it truly mean to be cursed? We must understand that the opposite of being cursed is being blessed. In the Old Testament, the epitome of being blessed by God is found in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
Don’t we long for this? We want to see the face of our Lord. We want to seek His gracious countenance, to know His peace, and to receive His comfort and security. We know that right now on earth we cannot see Jesus, but one day we will. We all long for the day when we will see Him face to face.
The greatest definition of blessing manifests itself in the face of the Lord shining upon His people. In the Scriptures, a blessing is often called a BENEDICTION!
But yet, what is the opposite of blessing? Cursing. Being cursed. Being forsaken—the experience of abandonment.
At that moment when Jesus was bearing God’s wrath, He became a curse for us as a sin offering. He was forsaken by the Father. What did Jesus experience on the cross? He did not hear the blessing of God, but the curse of God. It was the exact opposite of the blessing in Numbers. Instead of the Lord’s face shining upon Jesus in blessing, God turns his face away from Jesus in judgment.
Jesus experienced the rejection of God in these words: “May the Lord curse you! May the Lord abandon you! May the Lord turn His face from you! May the Lord pour out His wrath upon you! May the Lord not give you peace, but hostility!” That’s what it means for Jesus to be forsaken! To be cursed! To be abandoned! This is not a benediction, but a malediction.
The wonder is that Jesus suffered this abandonment —this cursing—for hell-deserving sinners like you and me. God forsakes Jesus on the cross. Never before had this happened. Jesus and the Father have always had perfect fellowship and intimacy, and now because of our sin, Jesus was numbered among transgressors. He bore our sins. He was cursed by God. He was treated as the worst of sinners, yet never once sinned Himself. This was the darkest, most torturous moment of Christ’s life as the full weight of God’s justice against sin was unleashed upon Him. God does not hold back the penalty for sin, put pours it out completely on Jesus who exhausted it fully—for you and for me!