b) Matt 27:38–49: Virtually all of Jesus’s followers abandoned him. Only his mother, John, and “many women” kept vigil at the cross (Matt 27:55). Those who passed by the three crosses heckled him.

Darkness covered the whole land as an expression of God’s wrath.[1]

However, this did not result from an eclipse. Passover always occurs during a full moon, and eclipses can appear only during new moons.[2]

Since God had plagued Egypt with darkness (Exod 10:22), the Jewish leaders should have recognized this apocalyptic image of mourning and judgment (Joel 2:1–2, 31–32).[3]

Most crucified men gradually lost their strength and consciousness.[4] Yet, Jesus cried out “with a loud voice, saying, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Those who heard him misunderstood his words as an appeal to Elijah. This seems to be why Matthew translated Christ’s name for God into Hebrew (eli) rather than precisely quoting Jesus’s call of desolation, which he uttered in Aramaic (eloi, as in Mark 15:34), the commonly spoken language in Israel at that time (Mark 5:41).[5]

This cry of complete devastation comes from Ps 22:1.[6]

Horrific as crucifixion was for anyone, until that time Jesus had experienced the perfect fellowship of the Trinity. Therefore, we cannot accurately assess the true depth of his distress.[7]

Christ bore divine retribution and the punishment for our sin (Isa 53:3–6). In fact, “the one who did not know sin, on our behalf became sin” (2 Cor 5:21). He was damned by God, for “Cursed is one who is hanged on a tree” (Deut 21:23; Gal 3:13).[8]

The cry, “My God” indicates that Christ’s lament did not express a loss of faith but rather a temporary deprivation of contact.[9]

During that era, pious Jewish households recited the psalms as their prayer book.[10] Therefore, Jesus’s enemies should have recalled that Ps 22 ends with the sufferer’s vindication (Ps 22:25–31).[11]

In our day, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” evokes much more than that simple phrase for anyone familiar with Star Wars.

Thus, by citing the first verse of this psalm of desertion, Christ also looked forward to the vindication which he would receive at his resurrection (Heb 12:1–2).[12]

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Matt 27:38–49. How do we know that this darkness was not a natural phenomenon? What did it portend? Why did God forsake Jesus?  How does the ending of the psalm Christ quoted provide you with hope?

 

 

 

 

Go to The Death of God

 

[Related posts include A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); and The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11)]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: The Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:14–15)]

 

[1] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1075.

[2] Osborne, Matthew, 1037.

[3]Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 844.

[4] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1075.

[5] Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 844. Not that “i” at the end of a Hebrew noun means “my.”

[6] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1076.

[7] Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 844–5.

[8] Wilkins, Matthew, 902–3.

[9] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1076–7.

[10]Davies and Allison, Matthew 19–28, 625.

[11] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 27:46.

[12] Osborne, Matthew, 1037.