If the deepest truth of Jesus in this forsaken moment is not strength of heart or resolve or incredible faith, what is it that allows Him to cry out my God, my God in the same breath as forsaken?
It feels like it's impossible for us to understand something like this. How could Jesus have any thought of the relationship when He also declares that it is God who has turned His back on Him somehow? How could the love of the Father and the Son persist through such torn darkness? Is Jesus foolish or naive to still consider this "forsaker" His God? The whole thing is ludicrous! Or is it...?
It feels like it's impossible to understand, but the truth is that we can actually understand this quite well because we see it on a micro scale in our own parent-child relationships. (And remember - we are dealing here with both a man-God relationship AND a parent-child relationship.) But it's the parent-child relationship that allows Jesus to continue loving God even when He feels forsaken.
Let's bring this down to our level. A human father is teaching his human son how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. Both are excited about the outcome - the freedom to ride bikes like a big boy. Both are a little apprehensive about the process - the boy is not sure about things, and the father knows that a fall or two is coming. Sure enough, a few feet down the road, the boy falls. He skins and bloodies his hands and knees as he hits the pavement. And he gives his dad...the look. It's the look that says, "Why did you let go? Why did you let me fall? Do you see my bloody knees, father? These are your fault..." And the son is troubled by the father.
At the same time, he comes running to him. The son seeks comfort in the father's arms. In this moment of pain and failure, his father's embrace is the only place he wants to be. He doesn't want to talk about riding bikes right now. He doesn't want to think about trying again. But he wants his daddy to hold him, to mend his wounds, to wash clean his scraped up hands and knees, and to reassure him, even in this moment...especially in this moment...of the love that is shared between them. He does not trust his daddy to hold the bike, maybe, but he trusts his daddy to hold him.
And this is not some feat of super strength on the son's part. It's not because his heart tells him that he ought to continue to love and trust his father. It's not because something in him thinks he needs to forgive his dad for the pain he's feeling right now. That's the furthest thing from his mind. And it's not some act of incredible faith. Ask the kid in this moment. Ask him how he feels about his father's trustworthiness when it comes to bikes. He's not ready to get back on there, not even if his daddy is holding him steady on two wheels. So it's not that he has some weird, unexplainable faith in his father at this point.
It's all about the relationship. This man, this strong, incredible, amazing man that this child has spent his whole life growing up with, this man who just let him take a hard, bloody fall on the pavement, also happens to be his father. He also happens to be the man who reads him bedtime stories, gets him a cup of milk, sneaks cookies in the middle of the night, takes him to school, goes fishing with him, lets him help in the woodshop or in the garage, teaches him how to laugh and to love and to cry and to question. Yes, he just fell, but they have a million other moments together that help to reshape this one, that help to redefine this one. And at the very moment that his flesh is torn, even though there's a part of him that cannot ignore that it was his father who let him fall, he instinctively turns and cries out, Daddy!....
This is what we see on the Cross, in most dramatic fashion. (Yes, even more dramatic than a young child who has just fallen off his bike.) This is what we see in Christ. At the very moment that His flesh is torn, even though there's a part of Him that cannot ignore that it was His Father who orchestrated this whole thing, He instinctively turns and cries out, MY God, MY God...because this is still His God. And in the very breath that this man feels betrayed by His God, this Son clings to His Father.