We’ve reached one of the most famous and most debated and most preached couple of verses in the Gospel of Mark.
At noon, the brightest part of the day, the sun darkens for three hours. The darkness is a sign of the immense spiritual and eschatological signficance of what is unfolding on the cross.
Darkness was associated with the original Passover, a sign of God’s judgement and of death. Does Jesus’ cry of desolation in the midst of the darkness reveal his experience of God’s judgement and of death? And in doing so his cry reveals the unfathomable depth of the passion of the Christ?
Jesus’ cry echoes the words of Psalm 22:1, yet are spoken in Aramaic. I’ve heard all sorts of interpretations of these verses.
– Jesus loses hope and dies a failure on the cross. Like Albert Schweitzer’s idea of Jesus as a radical but failed apocalyptic Messiah.
– Jesus didn’t really feel forsaken, his cry is more an affirmation of faith in his Father looking beyond death to the resurrection.
But the words in Psalm 22 are of a desperate cry for help for the righteous sufferer. Mark has made clear the impending horror of the cross and Jesus’ full awareness of what lay ahead. He has come to give his life ‘a ransom for many’. His death will be substitionary, representative and involves bearing other’s judgement for sin t0 effect liberation, freedom and forgiveness.
I think we need to be cautious about how far we can press these verses to speak to the depth of trinitarian relationships between Father and Son being ‘severed’. But Jesus endures and experiences the curse and judgement of death (Deut21:23) which separates him in some awful way from the presence of his Father. The sinless one dies a death that is not his to endure.
He dies your death and mine.
And in doing so, his desolation is real. His pain is real. His death is real.
And it is in that very historical reality that Christian hope is rooted.
The Death of Jesus
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).