At the cross, Jesus took on the penalty and punishment for sin. Not just your sin and my sin, but the sin of the entire world. Jesus became sin, yet in becoming sin, Jesus, also took on the wrath of God against sin. As a perfect and holy God, God hates sin and sinners. They stand as enemies to Him and His plan for the world. In order to be a just Judge, God must punish sin. When we think of the punishment for sin, we typically think of hell. Though defined throughout the Bible using varied images, it is clear that hell is a place where the wrath of God is poured out on sin and sinners.
At the cross, Jesus went through hell. He experienced the wrath of God due the sins of the entire world. In Matthew 27:46, we see Jesus crying out as He experiences the punishment of hell at the cross… “And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46 ESV).
God has turned His back on Jesus because Jesus is bearing the sins of the world. Jesus is actively experiencing the wrath of God due your sin and my sin at the cross. It calls Him to cry out to God and to feel forsaken by God. To be forsaken is to be feel, lost, alone, and disconnected. In this cry, Jesus experiences being forsaken by His Father as He is being punished for sin. The Father turns His face away from Jesus and brings divine wrath on the sin that Jesus chose to bear.
For those of us who have surrendered to Jesus, these words of suffering from the mouth of the Messiah are words of great hope for us. Because Jesus was forsaken, we will never be forsaken. Because Jesus took our hell at the cross, we will never have to experience hell on our own. Because Jesus took the wrath of God, we will never have to experience His wrath. Jesus’ forsakenness and suffering brought us hope, freedom, and the truth that we will never be left alone and forsaken. How can you praise Jesus for the rescue from hell that He bought for you at the cross?
-This devotion is an excerpt from Ben Birdsong’s book Words from the Cross: 7 Statements that Will Transform Your Life. It is a 7-day devotional exploring Jesus’ final words on the cross through devotional reflection and illustrations by Pete Collins. Words from the Cross is currently available on Amazon.