I watched his labored breathing, waiting for the moment when his chest would stop fighting.

As a minister, I was often associated with death, but the calls usually came after the fact, not before. My father is the only person I can remember watching die.

As my mother, wife, and I stood around his bedside in Atlanta, Georgia, our emotions flowed as we watched him taking his final breaths. We had made the difficult decision, at his behest, to remove him from life support and let nature take its course. After forty-five minutes of eternity, his chest stilled, and the scribbling on the nearby monitor straight-lined. He was gone. Our reactions differed, but sadness flowed through each of them.

I wonder how God felt as he watched his Son take his last breath. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46 NLT).

My father’s suffering came from Mercer, which he had contracted while in the hospital for heart surgery. Jesus’ suffering came from the spikes that fastened his hands and feet to a Roman cross. But the larger reason for his agony—and the reason his Father turned away—was our sin.

God is holy and cannot be associated with sin. His love led him to send his Son to die for humanity’s sins, but as he did, the Father was forced to look away. He could not gaze on his Son. Not only did Jesus die for the world’s sins, but he also became sin for them as well.

It must have pained the Father to turn his back, even if temporarily, on his Son, but the sorrow was transformed into joy three days later as Jesus arose from the dead. Now, the Father looks at his work as complete. But more importantly, he sees anyone who accepts Jesus’ sacrifice as cleansed and forgiven.

God will never look away from those who look to him.

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash