Red Letter Year: 6/11

Matthew 27:45-65

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

55 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

57 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, 58 went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. 59 Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. 60 He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. 61 Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

62 The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. 63 They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ 64 So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

65 Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” 66 So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.



Despite what you may have heard (in a Carman song perhaps) or seen  in a (Mel Gibson) movie, Jesus was not forsaken, he was not abandoned. The Father didn’t go anywhere. The Holy Spirit did not leave Jesus. We have to know this, because we know Jesus is God – there was no time when the Trinity was short a member. Jesus was not expelled from the divine community. On the contrary, Jesus brought death, suffering, abandonment, and forsakenness into the life of the Godhead. This was too much for death, of course, it could not remain in the presence of so much LIFE. Jesus destroyed death precisely by embracing it, by bringing into the life of God. Death had no power there, and was rendered powerless by Jesus.

Jesus was not forsaken, and neither are you. You have not been abandoned. You have not been forsaken, you are not being forsaken now, and you will never be forsaken. This is what the Lord told Joshua who had gone off alone and afraid before the battle: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Josh. 1.5) This is what we read in Ps. 22: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Ps. 22.24) This is what Paul tells us in Romans: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8.38-39)

This means that atonement theories (see yesterday’s post) that try to explain Jesus’ forsakenness in terms of God’s redirected wrath against humanity are wrong and give people a wrong understanding of God. Jesus did not die on the cross because God was angry with you. Jesus died on the cross because God loves you.

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.