April 10, 2020
Matthew 27: 45-51, 54
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.
But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.
Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Do you remember when Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, was in the theater? To this day, it is still the highest-grossing Christian film. I remember talking with my parents after they saw the movie, and my mom strongly opposed my interest in seeing the film. “It’s just so violent and gory,” she said. “Just read the gospels. You don’t need to see all that blood on a big screen.”
The stories of the trial, mockery, beating, and crucifixion of Jesus still push many Christians to skip from the parade and singing on Palm Sunday to the joy and surprise of Easter morning. Yet, the more I read about Jesus’ journey to the cross, the more my appreciation for the resurrection deepens. Yes, his death was brutal. Yes, the betrayal by his friends was desperate and heartbreaking. Yes, the trial before Pilate and the crowd was shameful and unsettling. As followers of Christ, I believe we need to take the time to let the stories of his death sink in, to fully grasp the glory of God’s act of love on the cross. On the cross, Jesus takes with him the weight of the world’s evil. Biblical scholar N.T. Wright states, “he takes with him the darkness of death and sin of the world: my sin, your sin, the sin and brokenness of countless millions.” Jesus does this out of love for the sake of the world, for our sake. The death of Jesus on the cross is the crescendo for understanding the depth and breadth of God’s love.
On this Good Friday, we can relate to the fear and uncertainty the disciples felt, watching their friend being arrested and condemned to die. Over the past weeks of Lent, we have lived with great uncertainty and constant reports of death and disease. The scriptures of tonight remind us that God has seen the beloved through tragedy before. Through Jesus, our God knows the depth of human fear, the extent of our brokenness, and the despair of death on the cross.
So we meet Jesus in the darkness tonight. We meet Jesus on the cross, in his lament, as the darkness grows. During Holy week, especially on Good Friday, we have a vivid reminder that “at the center of the Christian story lies love, not hate; grace, not rage; mercy, not vengeance.”
What will God speak to you in the silence and stillness of this night?
 “The Passion of the Christ.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Passion_of_the_Christ
 N.T. Wright, “Matthew for Everyone: Part 2 Chapters 16-28.” Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. 191.
 Jon Meacham, The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. New York: Convergent Books, 2020. 31.