29 March 2013

Eloi, Eloi

New birth, a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade: for everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ, these are the present-moment benefits. But what was the cost? In what shape did God’s great love come, that we should now be known by Him, as children?

To see the answer to that question, we turn our eyes back. Back to the rejected man hanging from a wooden beam on a hill called Golgotha––Skull, being taunted by the jeers of the onlookers, laboring for breath, now calling out with a parched throat up into the darkened heavens, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" 

If you knew nothing about this man before hearing that cry, you might have written him off as just one more among the thousands, crucified and crushed by the rumbling Roman war machine. Just one more lacerated nobody, now calling out, what was it? Eliya? Elijah? 

The Gospel of Mark tells us, "When those standing by heard this, they said, 'Listen he’s calling Elijah... Leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah will come and take him down.'

It could have been any one of us, saying those words, knowing nothing about the man pinned to the wood, bleeding and wheezing and appealing to the air. But what if you knew him? What if you knew that here was a man who lived on the Scriptures of God like others live on food, who saw in his life and his person, the promised fulfillment of those Scriptures’ many strands? And what if you were listening just a little more closely than the casual spectator that day?

Would you have caught it? Would you have realized he was calling not for Elijah, but for his God, and calling for Him in the words of Scripture, the opening refrain of Psalm 22, as if he had learned it especially for this moment? 

Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
Those were the only words he quoted from that Psalm. But if we take those words as being spoken by a man who lived and breathed the Scriptures of God, we may be able to hear more of his dying thoughts simply by reading on in Psalm 22...

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. 
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to its roof; 
My God, my God, why? You lay me in the dust of death.
A pack of villains encircles me;
They  pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
they divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

And then come the closing verses, which read like this:

...all who go down to the dust will kneel before him––
those who cannot keep themselves alive...
They will proclaim his righteousness, 
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

And so the cry of despair ends in this note of triumph, given voice by Jesus’ final words, “It is finished.” 

We are those unborn people mentioned in the Psalm, now born anew into a living hope with God. And all because of this man on the cross, this God-sent Son who cried out to his Father in the words of this Psalm, not in despair, but in confidence that the ordeal he was enduring would end just like the Psalm: in praise for what the Lord had done.


Post a Comment