GOOD FRIDAY: The CRY (part 1 of 4)
MARK 15:33-41 (also Mt 27:45-56; Lk 23:44-49; Jn 19:29-30)
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 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?” 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 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. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
If some group was to invent a religion with the goal that it be accepted by the existing culture, this Good Friday narrative of hero Jesus dying on the cross would definitely NOT be the place to begin. In this “Death of Jesus” text there are four details that would have immediately discredited this religious movement within the context of its 1st century backdrop. So why are they included in the text? Perhaps because that is exactly what happened that Good Friday!
The four aspects in this text that tell us some very important and crucial (pun intended) things about Jesus are, in order: The cry (v33-37), the curtain (v38), the centurion (v39), and the circle of women (v40-41).
1. The CRY (v33-37). The first shocking and offensive aspect of this narrative is the cry of Jesus. As Jesus hung dying on the cross, darkness swept over the land. Darkness: Signifying death, lostness, and judgment over sin. And as this darkness hung over the scene of this gruesome execution, Jesus continuing to bleed out, cried out in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani?” ; which the text already tells us is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.
The bystanders who overheard him crying out were mistaken. They thought Jesus was possibly calling out to the great Old Testament prophet Elijah, but that wasn’t the case at all. They misheard. Jesus was actually calling out to his Father, in brutal agony and anguish, and doing so by quoting David’s Psalm 22:1. For in a cosmic way that we are not humanly able to fully comprehend, as our Lord Jesus willingly took upon himself the compacted and compounded sin and brokenness of fallen mankind and creation, the result to him by doing so was this distressing separation from his Father. In that moment, he felt utterly forsaken and alone. For the first time in forever Jesus was without his Father.
Most people can understand the heartbreak that comes from losing the love of a good friend, a beloved relative, and especially a soul-mate; a spouse. But nobody can understand what a rupture in relationship could possibly feel like to a Son who is now experiencing complete alienation from, isolation from; feeling absolutely abandoned by his Father, and this after an eternity of blissful relational co-existence together.
The pain must have been devastating. It was literally hell on earth.
Not exactly hero-like in his composure, Jesus seemed completely fragile at this point; utterly breaking apart at the seams. So where was the Father in all this? Scripture informs us that God the Father permitted his Son Jesus to willingly come to our earth in order to accomplish this definitive act of self-sacrifice on our behalf. This very moment was the very thing needed to redeem this world of ours. Perhaps God the Father was also simultaneously weeping in heaven.
The cry of Jesus tells us that the pain he experienced was above all else a relational pain. Certainly the act of bleeding to death would be painful in and of itself, but other martyrs before and after accepted their fates with more bravery and peace than this. But here’s the reason why: For Jesus, this wasn’t about physical pain as much as it was relational pain. In this darkness before death, Jesus the Son was completely separated from God the Father and this was beyond any pain we could even imagine.
But because of love, Jesus willingly accepted, and even invited, this destiny by incarnating himself into our world to set us free from sin and death. This cry that demonstrated HIS temporary alienation and abandonment also displayed OUR permanent inclusion and relationship in the kingdom of God; because of his submissive act of substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf.
On that dark Good Friday, Jesus cried in order that mankind (and all creation) would one day sing and laugh with joy.