Forsaken — Jesus Became A Curse
If there ever was an obscenity that violates contemporary community standards, it was Jesus on the cross. After he became the scapegoat and the Father had imputed to him every sin of every one of his people, the most intense, dense concentration of evil ever experienced on this planet was exhibited. Jesus was the ultimate obscenity.
So what happened? God is too holy to look at sin. He could not bear to look at that concentrated monumental condensation of evil, so he averted his eyes from his Son. The light of his countenance was turned off. All blessedness was removed from his Son, whom he loved, and in its place was the full measure of the divine curse.
Jesus Was Forsaken
At midday he turned the lights out on the hill outside of Jerusalem so that when his face moved away, when the light of his countenance shut down, even the sun couldn’t shine on Calvary. Bearing the full measure of the curse, Christ screamed, “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani,” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Jesus took that occasion to identify with the psalmist in Psalm 22 in order to call attention to those looking upon the spectacle that what they were witnessing was really a fulfillment of prophecy. I don’t think Jesus was in a Bible-quoting mood at the time. His cry was not, as Albert Schweitzer opined, the cry of a disillusioned prophet who had believed that God was going to rescue him at the eleventh hour and then felt forsaken. He didn’t just feel forsaken; he was forsaken. For Jesus to become the curse, he had to be completely forsaken by the Father.
I’ve been thinking about these things for fifty years, and I can’t begin to penetrate all it meant for Jesus to be forsaken by God. But there is none of that to be found in the pseudo-gospels of our day. Every time I hear a preacher tell his people that God loves them unconditionally, I want to ask that the man be defrocked for such a violation of the Word of God. What pagan does not hear in that statement that he has no need of repentance, so he can continue in sin without fear, knowing that it’s all taken care of? There is a profound sense in which God does love people even in their corruption, but they are still under his anathema.
The Gospel—Our Only Hope
Just because a man is ordained is no guarantee that he is in the kingdom of God. The odds are astronomical that many are still under the curse of God. There are ordained men who have not yet fled to the cross, who are still counting on the nebulous idea of the unconditional love of God to get them through, or even worse, still thinking that they can get into the kingdom of God through their good works. They don’t understand that unless they perfectly obey the law of God, which they have not done for five minutes since they were born, they are under the curse of God. That is the reality we must make clear to our people—either they will bear the curse of God themselves or they will flee to the One who took it for them.
Thomas Aquinas once was asked whether he thought that Jesus enjoyed the beatific vision throughout his whole life. Thomas said, “I don’t know, but I’m sure that our Lord was able to see things that our sin keeps us from seeing.” Remember that the promise of the vision of God in the Beatitudes is the promise made to the pure of heart. The reason why we can’t see God with our eyes is not that we have a problem with our optic nerve. What prevents us from seeing God is our heart, our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. So obviously he had some experience of the beauty of the Father until that moment that our sin was placed upon him, and the One who was pure was pure no more, and God cursed him.
It was as if there was a cry from heaven, as if Jesus heard the words “God damn you,” because that’s what it meant to be cursed and under the anathema of the Father. I don’t understand that, but I know that it’s true. I know that every person who has not been covered by the righteousness of Christ draws every breath under the curse of God. If you believe that, you will stop adding to the gospel and start preaching it with clarity and boldness, because, dear friends, it is the only hope we have, and it is hope enough.
You can hear R.C. Sproul teach further on the curse motif of the cross today on Renewing Your Mind.
Excerpt adapted from “The Curse Motif of the Cross” by R.C. Sproul in Proclaiming a Cross Centered Theology, Copyright ©2009. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.