Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tuesday of Trinity 16

 Forsaken in Our Place

Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV) Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

The past two Sundays we have had narratives about the prophet Elijah from 1 Kings 17. It is striking that people at the foot of the cross have Elijah on their minds as Jesus’ last hour drew near. The bystanders certainly could have concluded that Jesus was calling out for Elijah because the Aramaic expression, “Eli, Eli” (“My God, My God”), sounds like “Elijah” (Elijah’s name means “The Lord is my God”). In addition, given Elijah’s miraculous raising of the widow’s son (1 Kings 17), his own miraculous assumption into heaven without dying (2 Kings 2), and the Malachi 4:5-6 passage that predicted Elijah’s coming “before the great and awesome day of the Lord,” it is plausible that the people assumed that Jesus thought Elijah would come to save Him.

Yet Jesus was not crying for help from Elijah, for He knew that His only source of help was His Father as He cried out, “My God, My God.” Jesus never lost faith in His Father, even as He underwent the punishment for sins in our place. Martin Luther wrote about “the cry of dereliction” from the cross, “The righteous and innocent Man must shiver and shake like a poor, condemned sinner and feel God’s wrath and judgment against sin in His tender, innocent heart, taste eternal death and damnation for us—in short, He must suffer everything that a condemned sinner has deserved and must suffer eternally” (AE 12:127).

Christ was truly forsaken by the Father for our sake, but He continued to trustingly call out, “My God” to His Father even in the depths of woe, and then He faithfully commended His life into His Father’s hands: “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46), and was raised up on the third day to win eternal life for us!

Prayer (LSB 598):

1. Once in the blest baptismal waters

    I put on Christ and made Him mine;

Now numbered with God’s sons and daughters,

    I share His peace and love divine.

O God, for Jesus’ sake I pray

Your peace may bless my dying day. 


2. His body and His blood I’ve taken

    In His blest Supper, feast divine;

Now I shall never be forsaken,

    For I am His, and He is mine.

O God, for Jesus’ sake I pray

Your peace may bless my dying day. 


3. And thus I live in God contented

    And die without a thought of fear;

My soul has to God’s plans consented,

    For through His Son my faith is clear.

O God, for Jesus’ sake I pray

Your peace may bless my dying day. Amen.

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