“At noon darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 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?’ Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, ‘Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.’ Then Jesus shouted out again and he released his spirit. 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, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. The Roman officers 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.’” Matthew 27:45-54It had been a long night. Jesus went from a celebratory meal and time of worship with his apostles to a garden where he prayed urgently and in anguish that God would excuse him from this dreaded task. There in the garden, one of his own gave him up to the guards and religious leaders. His closest friends abandoned him. He was beaten almost to death, tried in a kangaroo court and condemned to death by a frightened and savage Roman official. In all of this, no one stepped forward to defend him. He was very much alone.
And now it has been a very long day. For the soldiers, it has been a day of waiting. Waiting for the men on the crosses to die. Waiting to see what this strange man’s followers will do. For the handful of Jesus’ followers, it has been a day of disbelief and mourning. How could this be happening? Isn’t he the Messiah? The Messiah isn’t supposed to die! For Jesus it has been a day of pain and suffering. Push up against the stakes in his feet to breath, release against the stakes in his wrists in exhaustion.
Suddenly, darkness falls across the land; a strange, oddly quiet darkness that makes the guards uneasy. Just as the darkness becomes unbearable, from the cross Jesus cries out, once and then again. The earth trembles violently striking terror into the hearts of all who are watching. In the distance, the veil in the Temple rips from top to bottom. And then silence. It is finished. For his followers, however, the waiting continues.
Are you in a dark period of your life? Have you been betrayed by a spouse or a friend? Perhaps no one has stepped forward to defend you against a vicious accusation or your own family members have turned against you due to some unfair misunderstanding. Are you in extreme pain, barely managing to take that next breath? You may feel alone, but you aren’t. Jesus has been right where you are. He is with you right now. You are in that time of waiting just like the disciples were on that day so long ago. Are you struggling with your faith? So were they. It’s a dark time. It’s a quiet, reflective time. Hold on. Sunday’s coming!