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


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,


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More Lerts

More Lerts

A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.–Acts 20.9

“Be A Lert!  The World Needs More Lerts!”

Funny stuff, no?  That was a poster in my bedroom as a kid.   It was from the back of a Mad Magazine.  And it’s amazing how little my sense of humor has developed since that age.  I still think it’s hilarious.

I feel sorry for Eutychus, though.  There was no Alfred E. Newman around back then to teach him these important concepts, and it burned him.  Twice.

The first time Eutychus failed to be alert was when Paul was speaking to those gathered there.   Paul was leaving the next morning, and he had a lot he wanted to share.  It was a lot of material, and long about midnight, Eutychus just drifted off to sleep.

Hey, it happens to the best of us.   As a pastor I’m always aware when someone in the congregation drifts off in the middle of a sermon.   Most of the time, I let them sleep, unless they’re snoring!  I do wonder what it is that’s caused them to be not-so-alert.   Did they not sleep well?  Did they have a big night last night?  Is my sermon painfully boring?  It may be a variety of things–and Lord knows I’ve drifted off at my share of sermons, lectures, and presentations as well.   I wanted to be alert, but I wasn’t up to the challenge.

The second time Eutychus failed to be alert, it almost cost him his life.   It was a crowded room where Paul was speaking, and the young man found an open spot to sit–on the ledge of a window.  He didn’t just fall asleep.   He fell three stories down.   The good news is that he didn’t die after all.   Paul ran down and checked him out and said, “There’s still life in him!”  I can picture his mom scolding him later…”what were you thinking, sitting in an open window?”

Unfortunately, that happens to the best of us, too.   We put ourselves behind the wheel of a car when what we really need is 40 winks.  We find ourselves in tense work situations we can’t navigate because we’re distracted by a thousand other things.   We want to make good choices, but we’re not clear-headed enough to do so.   When you’re not alert to the world around you, life can become a constant worry.

Being A Lert is a challenge in this world.   Too much coming at us, too much to process easily.   The truth is, God needs Lerts, for the world.  That’s not something Alfred E. Newman reminds us, but something Paul and Jesus were very clear about.    God needs people who take care of themselves and focus themselves and are prepared to give God and the world everything they’ve got.

Being A Lert means being up for the task of discipleship.  It means that if you find yourself in a precarious place — even perched on a third story window, you can say, wide awake:

“What, me worry?”

Have a great week,