Rejection—it is something we have all experienced at one time or another. Moreover, it is something we all seek to avoid, as we sometimes do the most foolish things to gain acceptance from others. Whether the one who rejects us is a spouse, a friend, a coworker, a family member, or any other human being, we feel pain and a profound sense of loneliness when we are rejected.
We know the pain of rejection by our fellow human beings, but unless we are impenitent and end up in hell, none of us will ever know the pain of utter rejection. We will not experience the loneliness, forsakenness, and accursedness of being cut off from God’s grace. We who are in Christ will never know such divine wrath because Christ bore it in our place.
That is the key lesson of today’s passage. From the sixth through the ninth hour on the day Jesus died, there was a profound, disorienting, dreadful darkness over Golgotha. This was no mere solar eclipse but the darkness of God’s wrath against sinners. Passages such as Amos 5:18–20 depict the day of the Lord’s judgment as filled with darkness, and that forms the backdrop for rightly interpreting the cross. The cross was an act of divine judgment; in fact, it was the judgment of that final day brought forward in time for the sake of God’s people. God cannot simply forgive sin without judging it. His wrath must be propitiated—satisfied and exhausted (Rom. 3:9–26). That wrath will either fall on us on the last day and on into eternity, or it will fall on Christ so that we can be forgiven and can escape eternal judgment. He had to be made sin so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Because God’s eschatological (end times) wrath was poured out on Christ for all who trust in Him, those who trust Him will not face it on judgment day. John Calvin comments, “Our Lord Jesus . . . was denied the light of the sun, when he was in his sufferings, to signify the withdrawing of the light of God’s countenance.”
Jesus’ crying out the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” confirms this. This was the anguished cry of the One who had for all eternity enjoyed the good pleasure of His Father. But the Son of God took on a human nature, enabling Him to experience—as the God-man—what it means to be cut off, to be rejected by the Father. His humanity means He could represent us before God and receive the curse our sin is due so that we can enjoy the Lord’s blessing.