Why does Jesus ask God, “why have you forsaken me?” if he knew it was the only way to save us?

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, … “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

These words from Jesus are the beginning of Psalm 22. Jesus seemed to understand that even though these words were written a thousand years before he lived, that they were about him. Psalm 22 is about God’s chosen leader, suffering for his people, and then ruling over all the nations in glory for ever. 

Think about these lines, and how they are fulfilled at the cross.

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

“He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. (Psalm 22:7 – 8)

they pierce my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)

They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. (Psalm 22:18)

 

So, in quoting the Psalm Jesus seems to be pointing to the fulfilment of God’s great plan of salvation, in exactly the means God had promised.

But it is also a genuine cry of agony and “forsakenness.”  The Old Testament says of God “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;” (Habakkuk 1:13) and yet we know that Jesus took our sin and rebellion on himself.  The Apostle Paul said “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It seems that on the cross, there is some breaking of the perfect relationship between Jesus and his Father that had existed since before the creation of the world. Jesus didn’t stop being God, but as he took the punishment we deserve for ignoring and rejecting God, there is a sense in which his Father’s face is turned away from him as it had never been before.