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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Good Friday, March 30, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 15:16–41

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. (NRSV)

Reflection
Here in the Gospel of Mark, the last words Jesus utters are words expressing a sense of being forsaken. But he does not cry out about being forsaken by his disciples, even though he was. He does not cry out about being forsaken by the crowds who followed him, even though he was. Rather, he cries out about being forsaken by God. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? To me, these are some of the most powerful words in Scripture. I know Jesus was using Scripture from his Jewish tradition—Psalm 22—to form his cry, but that does not take away the visceral, verbal punch.

What does it mean that even Jesus, God’s Love Made Flesh, experienced a time of feeling totally abandoned by God? I trust that one thing it means is that nothing we can experience is so horrible that God does not intimately understand. As William Placher put it, “no one need feel, when everyone else has turned away, that God has turned away too,” because in Jesus, even God has experienced God-forsakenness (William Placher, Mark: Belief, A Theological Commentary, p. 232). But one more thing stands out to me about these last moments of Jesus’ life—even in the middle of his sense of total God-forsakenness, Jesus still cries out to God, to “my God.” Even when he feels that he has been abandoned, he still trusts that God cares, he still holds on to that relationship and refuses to let God off of the hook.

Might I have even a bit of that tenacious faith—a faith that will not let go of God, even in those moments when I wonder if God has let go of me? For if nothing else, Good Friday promises me that even in those moments, those God-forsaken moments, my reality is that even then, I am still held by the One who refuses to let any of us go.

Prayer
Holy God, as we come to this day and time, we pause and lift our hands. Words fail us. Feelings overwhelm us. Yet your love sustains us. Thank you. May your love transform not only our lives, but your world. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor


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