Prepare to Listen. But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid. (Psalm 22:19)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 27:45-56
45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ 55Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus’ first loud cry at 3 o’clock is a gut-wrenching quote from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The curious onlookers failed to understand; thought he was calling for Elijah (from the Aramaic ‘Eli, Eli…’). Did they deliberately misunderstand to avoid noticing the extent of Jesus’ suffering? I wonder. The second cry has no words. “Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.” The end. Was it a final cry of excruciating agony; one last plea to the Father? That too I wonder.
As people listened, without hearing, and watched, perhaps without seeing because of the early darkness, Jesus “breathed his last.” The death of Jesus, the most momentous redemptive event in Christianity, is mentioned in three simple words and no more. But, immediately the world was changed forever. First, the curtain separating people from God was ripped apart, giving free access to God’s loving presence. Second, in the rather strange story of the dead being raised (which only Matthew tells and which can’t be verified) there's a hint of what’s to come—the raising to life of all people.
Jesus’ willingness to remain on the cross, his refusal to call down angels to save him or tell his disciples to fight for him, resulted in the fulfillment of God’s grand plan of salvation for all creation. Jesus’ death changed the shape of the world then and continues to control its shape today. it may not seem like it today as we live through the worst pandemic of our lifetime. It takes courage to keep believing and taking the next tiny step.
Jesus breathed his last and we now can breathe new life.
In this familiar passage, what struck you the most reading it again? How does it speak into the world that's now living with an insidious enemy, covid-1?
Respond to Jesus
Lord Jesus, you died utterly alone, totally committed to the Father’s plan of salvation. Help me today reflect your commitment to your world by being as committed as I can today to you and this suffering world. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world that changed when Jesus breathed his last.
Note: Because we’re in Holy Week, there is a devotion scheduled for tomorrow, Holy Saturday. Stayed tuned to this space.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.