Today’s Scripture – March 27, 2015

Mark 15:33-37 (NIV)

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Some try to explain the darkness that came over the land through natural phenomena, such as an eclipse.       But the crucifixion happened at the Passover, which is always at the time of the full moon when no eclipse is possible, since the sun and moon are in opposition. And eclipses don’t last for three hours! Instead, this was a decidedly supernatural phenomenon, one that God personally brought about to show those who were witnessing these events that, far from a normal crucifixion, something hair-raising was going on – the people of God killing God’s Messiah in cold blood. It was no religious fanatic, no heretic, no criminal hanging on the cross, but God’s one and only Son, through whom all things had been created (John 1:3), and by whom all things are sustained (Hebrews 1:3).

The darkness freaked the people out who were gathered by the cross, and some of them left in fear.       But some, explaining everything away to their own satisfaction, stayed to taunt Jesus.

At the end, Jesus chanted the first line of Psalm 22, a Psalm with deep significance, since God had enabled David to unconsciously extrapolate from his own suffering to describe the sufferings of his descendant, the Messiah, in excruciating detail. Jesus was now living out what David had seen, fulfilling the prophecy to the letter.

But the people gathered there at the cross misunderstood Him, partly because Jesus’ swollen lips and tongue made it difficult for Him to enunciate clearly, and partly because they didn’t know the Scriptures nearly as well as they should have. They heard in His “Eloi, Eloi” (“My God, My God”) a call for Elijah.       They gave Jesus a little sour wine to drink, and then taunted Him with, “Now let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”  But their taunts went unacknowledged by Jesus. Instead, marshalling all of His remaining strength, He shouted out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46), and more softly, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Then He yielded His spirit to the Father, and died.

Father, it is amazing to see how in-control Jesus stayed this whole time. No last minute ranting, no pleading. He simply walked through the ordeal laid out for Him before the world was made (1 Peter 1:20). His steadfastness, even in the face of nearly continual taunting; the fact that He didn’t lash out at those who jeered at Him, but prayed for them instead (cf. Luke 23:34); all of these point us to a life that was infinitely more than it seemed to be.       Lord, help us to never minimize what Jesus did, and to never forget the love (both Yours and His) that moved Him to do it. Help us to always stand at the foot of the cross in awe and wonder. Amen.

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