Dark & forsaken (Mark 15:33-39)

Last Sunday we did what we do…gathered, grabbed a seat & prayed. (Of course there was the usual banter as folks arrived & got situated too!) And then the first thing we attended to was our check-in, the homework from the week prior — considering if when Jesus speaks to his Mom and a disciple saying, “Woman, behold, your son!” & “Behold, your mother!” he was being kind, cruel, or crass.

One answer was none of the above, just that Jesus was taking care of business. Most thought kind, making sure that his Mother was taken care of in the context of the time and taking seriously his humanity and the fact that he was Mary’s firstborn child. Others even took time to consider how Joseph is not too often mentioned and hypothesized that perhaps Joseph had died and so it was even more important for Jesus to make sure that his Mother was taken care of (and he knew who would be able to do so appropriately, the disciple he spoke to.) There also was a bit of a struggle with even thinking of Jesus (being God and all) being able to even be cruel or crass, unless we are considering Christ in his humanity. As one willing and able to offer a potential different angle, I wondered aloud if Mary especially, sitting there looking at her son dying on a cross might have heard Jesus “taking care of her” as though it was a bit cruel — considering that none could replace her son to her! And this opened some rich conversation, including hearing the gospel writers (this one being John) on their own terms, taking note of what they are emphasizing — for us, we considered hearing John as showing Christ saying this to challenge the understanding of who is family (opening the circle of who we believe we are responsible for taking care of and such) — making it very important that one of the last things that Christ would say would be to consider our responsibility for each other in familiar terms — instead of focusing narrowly on whether the actual utterance from Christ was kind, cruel, or crass.

And the conversation was rich and layered, taking us into much that often we do not have time to consider when talk of the crucifixion is limited to perhaps only one day (Good Friday) — and so the talk is hard and intersects much & we continued on looking a scripture from Mark 15:33-39:

English Standard Version (ESV)

33 And when the sixth hour[a] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.[b] 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[c] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[d] of God!”

Mark 15:33 That is, noon
Mark 15:33 That is, 3 p.m.
Mark 15:39 Some manuscripts insert cried out and
Mark 15:39 Or a son

We heard the text. We sat with it. And then we started sharing what the Holy Spirit drew our attention to. Some mentioned other depictions when there were earthquakes, others how Christ quoted scripture on the cross, others the note on how the curtain of the temple was torn in two — ending the barrier between humanity & God. We even got to hear about how thick & heavy the curtain was — emphasizing that it could not be torn in two — only God could do such a thing. We also pondered how in this moment it was when Christ felt the sin of the world fully & experienced that — making him distant from God! We even noticed an outsider (the centurion) realizing that this was the “Son of God” — meaning even in dying Christ was showing his glory — making God known to the whole world! (Whether the centurion was mocking or not — not everyone agrees!)

But we sat in the conversation & in this text for a bit before landing on the homework for this week:

  • What did the darkness feel like? (The darkness that was present from 12noon – 3PM?) Really think about this, what “darkness” was it? Was it felt by all?
  • Describe “forsaken” to you? What does this word mean, in your own words? Is what Jesus felt different? Why or why not?

Y’all ~ spending time at the cross is necessary & often hard work. In this wilderness season may there be grace in the time we are taking there. May God show up in the hoped for and in the unexpected.

Holding y’all in prayer ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

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