The difficulty of understanding all aspects of the cross may be lessened by understanding why Jesus said “My God…” in relation to his Father, since that is how most of mankind views God, as some sort of distant upholder of the law who is intent on bringing us to justice for our sins.
The subject of light and darkness is present in scripture as a means of understanding the good happy stuff as distinct from the bad sad stuff. That God is light and we (sin) are darkness. That he dwells in light while we dwell in darkness. [darkness is scary because you can’t see where you’re going].
When Jesus “bore our sin”, he entered into the darkness that is common to mankind, he entered into the state of separation from God who is light. This separation from God is a theme which began in the garden when Adam failed to maintain his relationship with God, who was his Father. Henceforth his relationship would be felt by him [Adam] as one who was an outcast from God’s presence, and as one who was unworthy of God’s love.
He felt this condition because his PERCEPTION of God had been altered by the cloud of sin and guilt that acted as a filter to prevent his own view of himself as being one who was acceptable and lovable. Where once there was only the singularity of God and his love, there now lay the complexity of sin and guilt, which heavily filtered out the light and brought darkness to his “soul”. [this darkness is seen as condemnation and “wrath” ]
Jesus was “made in all points as us”. This means he was not only the perfect son of God, but that he was a “heavenly Spirit” who lived in an earthly body. As such, his identity was always that of consciously being “The Son of God”, and to him, God was his Father. “Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business” he said when he was twelve years old or so. This identity heavily “polarised” him so that his conscious self always dwelt within this identity, and any temptation that came to him was immediately isolated as being from an “alien” source.
This position/condition remained with him throughout his life until he began to enter into his “passion”, which means until he began to enter into the realm within himself that was identified as man’s “world”, man’s consciousness, man’s deficiencies, and man’s sins and the very mechanism within from which and by which sin is generated. This passion began in the garden, where he began to feel the effects of it so severely that he literally began to die. “Father if it be thy will let this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, thy will be done”*.
This is ultimately portrayed on the cross where literal darkness came over the scene. Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken [abandoned] [left] me.” He was no longer feeling the loving presence of his Father, he was feeling the same sense of isolation from Love that we feel, he was caught up in the darkness of “soul” that we feel, his perception was not that of his loving Father but that of an angry God who was confronting him with the sin that by indwelling mankind, continued to express and produce the works of darkness that he now felt within him.
He stayed in this condition, feeling what we call “hell”, subject to all that we perceive to be the “punishment” of hell, feeling the burning wrath of the inner conflict that had now erupted into anguish and agony of soul. Until at last all of the inner death that mankind had “brought to the table” had been extinguished, had been overcome, had been brought to a state of life, where previously there was only death. Sure, he could have bailed at any time, he could have, as Spirit, returned to the Father. But once entered into the battle, it was inconceivable that he would quit the mission for which he was born. He was entitled to retain life, but having uttered the words “It is finished”, having defeated the “enemy” and restored the human condition, he surrendered his life, his Spirit, to God. To his now restored perception, of God as Father. He died.
God the Father was never any different, had not changed, yet sin had changed man’s idea, view, of God into being someone who was out for revenge, someone who wanted to set things right by punishing us for sin. And we feel that sense of punishment within, we feel the impending doom through guilt and fear of death, yet God has never changed from being the loving Father to us all. He has never wanted us to die in our sins, he has always been available to wash us in his love, to restore us from darkness to light. We simply have been blinded to him in that way, because of the indwelling darkness of sin.
Jesus was the revelation of the true nature of God. He came to remove the blinkers from our eyes, to take the shroud of death from our hearts, to release us from the misery of self condemnation that was empowered by the law that exists within us because we were made as sons of God. That law that is reinforced by the correct judgement we bring to bear on ourselves, so that, unable to bear it, we hide from it and from him, because the perceived unattainable love is so painful and miserable a condition. Jesus entered into this same condition, and destroyed its validity, destroyed its falseness of accusation against us and God, so that by our recognition of his loving righteousness in restoring us in Jesus, we rightly judge and agree with his action in forgiving us in this way as being the ultimate righteousness of all.
As created sons of God, we condemned ourselves to the point where our perception was that God was of the same nature as our false perception.
Christ didn’t remove the barrier between us and God because there never was one. What he did was to reveal his Father as being our Father, by presenting him in the correct perspective in relation to us and our own faulty perspective. Certainly he destroyed the faulty nature of man and suffered that which was the natural outcome of our “sickness”.
But by showing the outcome of this process as being life itself, he draws us to himself and the heavenly Father. We are drawn to his love which is able to cleanse us as we submit to that which always was, from the perfection of his concern for us to perfect us in the love that he is. By faith our sins are remitted, as they do not exist in his eyes, but only in our eyes. Such sorrow there may be as to hold us back from such submission, but such love must ultimately bring us to his heart and allow that love to consume us and consume our faults, our defects, our sin and darkness. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, no man comes to the Father but by me”.
Jesus exampled the father and also humanity within his own body. In this way he has become the high Priest for us, the intermediary for us. We are perfected in him, once we commit to him. We are not perfect as he is perfect, but we are perfected in that we will live with him regardless of our “performance” as we continue in the process of ultimate perfection, in which we are saved regardless of our ultimate condition, as long as we remain in him. “live a life of love”. “All things are yours”.
Love is the active ingredient that engages the enemy and suffers because of it. The nature of love is something that is continued in as faith builds a new reality which is really an old reality (I give you a new commandment which is really an old commandment) but is the reality of God and his love for us. Love one another, bear each others burdens, and so fulfill the “law” of Christ.
[* this is probably the least preferred view of two, the other being the obvious, that he was forseeing the anguish he was about to enter into]