It may be the darkest scripture in the whole Bible: “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” My goal last Sunday was to preach it as is — without spoilers about what comes next.
But I couldn’t do it.
I wanted to let this part of the story stand on its own. I didn’t want to soften the words, or cheapen Jesus’ suffering. But I couldn’t let this darkest of moments remain pitch black. I couldn’t just leave him hanging there.
There, at the end of my sermon, I had to throw in a little bit of Easter. Without even a “spoiler alert” I revealed the big surprise: Hope, Triumph, Resurrection.
I’m not alone in this. In my reading about this tough verse, not a single writer was willing to just sit with Jesus’ pain. Nobody could resist spilling the beans about the happy ending that was to come.
Another example — My choir sings a cantata on Palm Sunday every year. No matter how deep into Holy Week the music takes us, the last song — a long standing tradition — is “The King is Coming!” It’s a great song, but I have mixed feelings about it, because of all the spoilers! Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have yet to come, and already we’re promising Easter.
I wonder if a new Christian would find themselves annoyed to have the big Easter Surprise revealed just at this agonizing climax? I know I’d have been mad if someone spoiled the ending of the 6th Sense, or the Usual Suspects, Or The Empire Strikes Back.
Should we treat the story of the cross (and beyond) as a sacred mystery, only to be unveiled on Easter morning? If we did, how would we handle passages such as this?
17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Matthew 20:17-19
Umm….SPOILER ALERT, Jesus!
Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer about how this story ends. In fact, Jesus’ whole life is a spoiler alert. If we pay careful attention to how Jesus lives, we’ll have all the clues we need to find out how he dies. And lives again.
I’ve decided it’s not necessary to just sink into “Why have you forsaken me,” and stay there. The whole point is that Jesus DIDN’T stay there.
He had more to reveal than Keyser Soze, Bruce Willis, and Darth Vader combined.
Have a good week,