17. Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 4)

At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,”Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” – which means,”My God, My God why have you forsaken me.” (Matthew 27:46)

His first utterance was a prayer to God for the forgiveness of his persecutors. His second utterance was a promise to the one whom appealed to him for kindness. His third utterance was a sober charge to take care of his mother. These three utterances were made soon after he was crucified at the third hour (9 am). Then at the sixth hour (12 pm), darkness covered the land until the ninth hour (3 pm). It is interesting to note that he said nothing during these three hours. There was a prolonged silence as everyone awaited his death. His long hours of silence is a sign of his submission to God. He patiently bore the pain of his suffering and spoke nothing. In six hours he uttered just seven phrases and that reveals his fortitude (courage in pain or adversity). Our hours of agony would have been characterized by many words which would expose our character. He spoke, only if it was warranted or else he kept his mouth shut. That is a remarkable feat few of his followers have mastered ! Then at the ninth hour, after being on the cross for six hours; when it was time to give up his Spirit, he cries out something that those around him obviously didn’t understand. ‘When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” ( Vs 47) He was probably speaking in an unknown tongue but the Gospel writer Matthew interprets it for us by the Spirit as, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It was more a statement of submission than of unbelief! Those words were the fulfilment of the prophecy made by David in Psalm 22, where a righteous man cries out to God in distress but God seems to be distant and silent. Time seems to pass by slowly! He could have given up his spirit anytime because he had ‘authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.’ (John 10:18). So what was he waiting for? The wrath of God to pass? He was accursed (to be under a curse) ‘because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse‘. (Deuteronomy 21:23) ‘It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer’ (Isaiah 53:10) for ‘God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us …’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ) The darkness was therefore not an indication of God’s sorrow at his Son’s death but rather the wrath of God against sin. Could it be that as he cried out at the ninth hour, darkness left immediately? Thereafter knowing that the God’s wrath has passed by, says: ” I am thirsty”, in preparation for his death, because everything was fulfilled. This utterance on the cross gives insight into Christ’s absolute dependence and submission to God. Later on the Apostle Peter wrote: ‘Those who suffer according to God’s will should submit themselves to their faithful creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19) How our Lord has demonstrated it on the cross! His life simply agrees with his words, as if they are one and the same! Or in other words, his life and his words are in sync, unlike anyone we have known before! He is indeed a leader worth following. His life was a fulfilment of the prophecy made by David in Psalm 22 which is called the ‘Song of the cross’ because it describes the sufferings of a righteous man with no relief from God. It sounds like a mob scene, a lynching. The righteous man’s enemies have him. They surround him, jeering like a pack of dogs! He is helpless and exhausted! All he can do is to cry out to God. He wavers back and forth, first crying out in his misery, then taking stock of God’s goodness. Although, his cry has gone up day and night, God remains silent! A person might read Psalm 22 as an extravagant poetic description of David’s troubles because it doesn’t seem to fit David’s life but it does fit the life of Jesus. Infact Jesus and his disciples saw something more! When Jesus was dying, he had this Psalm on his lips. Afterwards, when his disciples wanted to explain Jesus’ life and sufferings, they turned to it. In it, the disciples saw a pattern and foreshadowing. The pattern is called ‘Redemptive suffering’, where a righteous man goes through tremendous suffering. But that suffering has a purpose. After it and because of it comes victory and power and salvation of the world. Hallelujah! If good men may suffer while God remains silent – if Christ himself knew these pains, though being the Son of God – then no one may be exempt! Scripture says that ‘during the days of Christ’s life on earth, he made petitions with loud cries to the one who could save him from death and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learnt obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:79) This pattern helped Jesus’ followers to appreciate why Jesus, along with his followers had to suffer. Does this encourage us to submit to God today, no matter what! In the end, it will turn out for our good! Amen.

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