Matthew 27:45-50 (NIV) From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About 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 there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ death was a real death. It was not symbolic as some try to make it. But it was accompanied by signs and wonders that demonstrated to any with eyes to see that something was going on here at a far deeper level than what it looked like.
Jesus had been hanging on the cross for about three hours when darkness fell across the land – a deep darkness that lasted for three hours at the height of the day, and terrified everyone’s heart. This was no solar eclipse. The Passover always occurs at the full moon, when the moon is opposed to the sun, making a solar eclipse impossible. This darkness was supernatural, demonstrating to all with eyes to see that the light of the world was sputtering and dying, leaving the world in spiritual darkness once again. (See John 9:4-5.)
Finally, after three hours of darkness, Jesus cried out with the opening words of Psalm 22, which outlines so clearly the suffering that Jesus was going through, physically as well as spiritually. For those nearby who knew that Scriptures well, who had marinated their hearts and minds in God’s holy word, these words instantly evoked the whole Psalm, and drew a gasp of recognition from their lips as the veil was lifted and they could suddenly see the awesome reality of what they had always seen as a figurative and stylized description of David’s suffering. Suddenly, here in front of their own eyes, they saw the whole panorama being played out for real.
But for those nearby who had no such depths of familiarity with the Scriptures, the beginnings of Jesus cry to the Father, “Eloi, Eloi,” “My God, My God,” spoken through thickened tongue and dry, cracked lips, sounded like a cry to Elijah for help. These people, who had gotten over the terror of the unnatural darkness, wanted to see some more cool stuff. Here was the potential to see Elijah swoop down from heaven in a fiery chariot to rescue Jesus from the cross. That would be worth seeing! So they shooed away the compassionate man who wanted to give Jesus a sip of sour wine to revive Him a bit, and sat back, their eyes searching the heavens to see if Elijah would come.
But no such event happened. Instead, Jesus gave a loud cry, “It is finished!” (See John 19:30), and collapsed into death.
Father, the blindness of those surrounding Jesus that day continues to astound me. These people, like so many today, reveled in “the show.” They liked Jesus’ miracles because they were strange and eerie, but His teachings, bounced off their hearts. Even at His death, they wanted to see some miraculous sign, and when Elijah didn’t appear, they went away disappointed. They had no idea that what they had just seen and heard was the greatest miracle in all of creation: the Son of God, God in the flesh, willingly laying down His life on that cross to pay for the sins of all humanity, including their own. It was an absolutely mind-blowing reality that they had no eyes to see. Help me to relive these events in my own heart, and to tell the story clearly and boldly to others as well. Amen.