Many times we hear some one say, “God loves you unconditionally” or “God loves you no matter what you do”. This usually may reflect a relative theological naievity in the speaker. It most times shows that the person doesn’t know what the lifeless bloodied body of God on the cross signified. It also makes the hearers take home a false notion that God doesn’t really care much about sin and you can live your reckless life without any care. But then….
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.
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.
Many live in sin and they are under the curse of God. That is the reality we must make clear to people—either they will bear the curse of God themselves or they will flee to the One who took it for them.
Excerpt adapted from “The Curse Motif of the Cross” by R.C. Sproul.