Friday after Laetare
Scripture: St. Matthew 27:39-66 (NKJV)
39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. 49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
This is not mere pain that cries out. Most certainly, it is not doubt: it is not for Himself that Jesus utters these words, but for those who will hear Him. He cries out as One Who has no reason to question His Father’s constancy, nor His own faithfulness, as One—the only One—Whose relationship with the Father has no reason to be disrupted. Yet, disrupted it is, as disrupted as can be: God has abandoned Him.
We can never make this cry. We have often abandoned God, but He has never abandoned us. The very moments in which we would doubt His love, when we are grieved and beaten down with trial, the very fact that we are yet living and not cast to Hell gives certainty that we are not, indeed, abandoned. Instead, we experience the cross upon us so that we may remember that He was forsaken for us. These things that we, by our sins, have brought into this world—upon ourselves and upon one another—He uses to drive us back to the suffering of Christ that saves us from Hell.
The One Who cries out suffers all of Man’s scorn, all of Hell’s evil, and all of the wrath of God over all men’s sins at once. Jesus suffers abandonment by God on the cross—God abandoned by God!—all that we would suffer in Hell is upon Him, and He cries out. He cries out so that we might see the injustice of it all: the only Righteous One suffers for the sins of all sinners.
He cries out so that we may see the victory soon to be revealed, as well. “MY God,” He cries, because His bearing all our sin cannot end in His being abandoned forever, but only in the triumph by which He brings us sinners—cleansed and forgiven—into being separated from God no more.