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

Whenever I reprimand my son, he scans my face to understand how serious I am.

I regret that a number of times my face is very harsh. I see this shaking him to the core. Sometimes he’ll say, “Papa, why is your face that way?” I know what he wants more than anything: It’s to know that our relationship is okay, even with the wrongs he’s done. And he knows we’re okay when he sees my face.

Realizing the power of this, I’ve repented to God for the times I’ve been unduly harsh, and I’ve asked Philip for forgiveness also.

But these interactions came to mind when contemplating one of Jesus’ last words before His death. Both Matthew and Mark captured Him shouting, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was an uncharacteristic break from His mostly calm and composed demeanor. These accounts show that Jesus endured all the pain and shame with silence and without complaint. But finally toward the end, He cries out that He’s been forsaken. What did it mean for Him to be forsaken by God? And why was this the point that broke Him?

We see in the rest of the Bible that Jesus, God the Son, enjoyed a great relationship with the Father. In fact, it was this intimate, free-flowing, affirming, and accepting relationship He had with the Father that so intrigued, offended, and alarmed those who saw it. He was only showing them a piece of what the Son and the Father had enjoyed in relationship for all of eternity before this. That is until the Cross.

On the cross, that all came to a screeching halt. The Bible says that God showed His love for us by sending the Son to be the sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). This means that Jesus took the Father’s wrath for us. On the cross, Jesus looked up to heaven and instead of seeing the warm, accepting, joyful face of His dad beaming down on Him, He saw the anger of the holy God at the sin that was destroying His creation. This broke the suffering servant’s composure, leading Him to cry out, “Why have you forsaken me?” It was the pain of a Son who’d known only love and acceptance, but felt rejection and judgment for the first time. And He did it for us. He did it so that we could feel the love and acceptance He had always known.

The Cross is the great exchange for all people who believe. Like Jesus on the Cross, we labor under the fear, guilt, and shame of knowing that we aren’t right with God. This is why Jesus died for us. He was excluded from God so that we could be included in God’s family. He took God’s wrath for God to look at us with pleasure.

Lately, I’ve begun consciously using my face to communicate my love better to Philip. I’ll call his attention while he’s playing and smile at him. Then I ask, “Philip, what does my face tell you?” His responses range from, “You’re happy that I’m with you” to “You love me and you’re proud of me.” I’ll nod, then he’ll smile and go back to playing, but with a little more zest and excitement. It helps him to know his papa is smiling at him.

That’s what Jesus did for us. And when you put your faith in Him, you can know that’s what God is doing to you. Every time you pray, open your Bible, go to church or small group meeting, or just look up to the sky in the middle of the day, remember that because of Jesus, the Father is smiling at you. He isn’t mad, disappointed, frustrated, exasperated, or looking at you with harsh features. He’s smiling. He loves you, and he’s proud of you. He’s here for you. This is why we will always be grateful to Jesus for opening the way to the Father.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6