VOICE AMONG THE SCOFFERS?
Lord, truly You were as human as we are.
Read MATTHEW 27:45–56
The Death of Jesus
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“We may not know, we cannot tell / what pains he had to bear, / but we believe it was for us / he hung and suffered there” (Cecil F. Alexander, 1818–1895).
Jesus feels totally abandoned. His disciples have fled, passers-by are jeering, enemies are gloating. Has even God forsaken him? The dying Jesus speaks to God in his mother tongue: not Greek or Hebrew, but Aramaic, the language of Nazareth, the language of Mary. In this death of all deaths, Jesus feels forsaken by his Father, crying out to him in the language of his human life fast ebbing away on the cross. People will react to this death in many different ways. Where would I have stood?
With moving words and haunting melody, Stuart Townend’s beautiful hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” is a favorite in my church. I recently pondered words of the second verse: “Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” Where would I have been?
Matthew concentrates on the spectators. With no nails, no blood, no pain, no thirst, little even of Jesus, Matthew hammers home his true but appalling point: Israel has finally and absolutely rejected its own Messiah. Religious leaders taunt him. Passers-by ridicule him. Fellow-sufferers insult him. The execution party tries to forget him, suppressing their aversion to an unpleasant job by gambling and drinking grog. A Gentile centurion says something more profound than he knows. Yes, some of us may have been among the scoffers, but many of us would have been elsewhere—some of us among the frightened disciples, some among the crowds who hurry past. Some of us, perhaps, may have been in the distant little group of distraught but faithful followers. We cannot know, but we are Jesus’ followers now. In the world outside, people react to Jesus’ death in the same ways—in sympathy, hostility, scorn, apathy or just plain ignorance. We are the ones who know why Jesus died. We alone hold that gift for a world that desperately needs to know it.
How are we going to share what we know with others?
Lord, Your death may be insignificant to the world, but it means the world to me. Help me to show this by my life.
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