Forthright Magazine, Uncategorized

Seven Sayings of Jesus (4)

Pointing to Prophecy, or Praying in Despondency?

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you left me?’” (Matthew 27:45-46, CEB).

It seems to us of little practical value trying to decide who is correct relative to Jesus’ fourth word from the cross.

For some, to suggest that Jesus – The Divine – is somehow not in complete control of this situation is anathema. So, this phrase is interpreted as our Lord making the most of a teaching opportunity. Thus, it is a Pointer to Prophecy.

For others, to suggest that Jesus – the man – is somehow in complete control of this situation is equally anathema. If Jesus’ cry does not reflect a sincere expression of bewilderment, how can He sympathize with us? Thus, it is a Prayer of Despondency (it has been classically referred to as, “The Cry of Dereliction,” or “Desolation”).

Must we choose?

Perhaps both are correct.

Consider that, simple as the statement appears to be, upon further examination, we perceive within it a complexity that defies a singular label.

Perhaps this is the precisely the point. Perhaps the well is deeper than either side imagines, and we should meditate more on that.

The divinity and humanity of Jesus is so enmeshed as to be beyond our capacity to fully separate. As Jonty Rhodes put it, our Lord did not embody His humanity by subtraction, but by addition. Efforts to plumb some of our Lord’s words result not so much in further clarity, as deeper poverty. Wayne Jackson remarked:

I believe there is more in that anguished cry than any mortal person can hope to fathom. When we have analyzed it a dozen different ways, we will come away feeling empty.

And it is not only this saying from the cross, but all 7 sayings, and not just those, but all His sayings – from the Temple at age 12, to the Mount of Olives moments before He ascended.

In the aggregate, Jesus’ words land on 5th grade reading comprehension level, yet, and though we have dispatched signals for 20 centuries, no sonar has ever sounded their depth.

This article is part of a series. Previous article here. Following article here


Rick Kelley
Latest posts by Rick Kelley (see all)