Red Letter Year: 3/4

Mark 15:33-47

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.

42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.


Despite what you may have heard (in a Carman song perhaps) or seen  in (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.

This is the word of the Lord for you today – you have not been forsaken. 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) I’m not just saying, “Oh, don’t worry about how you feel, that’s not real, God’s really with you, just hang in there.” What I am saying is that forsakenness that you have felt, that you may be feeling right now, is something Jesus completely identifies with. It’s not just that you have experienced it, like David, and Job, and Elijah, and so many of us – it is that God himself has felt this too. Jesus knows what it means to cry out to God even when the circumstances say that God is not there. But he cries out because God does hear. And we follow him and cry out as well. And the Lord hears our cry and just as Jesus is raised from the dead so the power of God comes into our lives and does the impossible.

(These comments are part of a sermon I preached at my church, years before I became its pastor. You can read the whole thing here.)

New Living Translation (NLT)

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

Red Letter Year: 2/4

Mark 9:1-13

Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”

11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.”


Now this is what the Pharisees were demanding (back in ch. 8). This is the sort of sign that would have fit their criteria (maybe). But Jesus only took three people and told them not to say anything until after his resurrection. Moses and Elijah appear, demonstrating that the Law and Prophets point to Jesus, have led up to Jesus, must be understood in relation to Jesus. The three with him don’t know what to do or say, they are terrified and babbling. But Peter was right, it was good that they were there, or we wouldn’t know anything about it, missing out on two key lessons. When the kingdom comes in power, two things happen: 1. Jesus is glorified, lifted up, revealed for who he is; 2. the people who witness this power are encouraged to listen to him. Some things may come that look powerful, but if they fail on either of these points, something is lacking. I pray that today as you read this passage, Jesus will be transfigured in your thinking, made more glorious than your imagination has yet conceived and that the metamorphosis of how you picture Jesus would encourage you to listen to him more intently than ever.

New Living Translation (NLT)

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