“45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” Matthew 27:45-46
Today’s Lenten devotional reading is taken from Matthew 27:1-56, in which Jesus is apprehended by the government, questioned, and crucified.
The book of Matthew was written about the days of Jesus’ life on Earth. This reading can be divided into the death of Judas, Pilate’s court, the soldiers mocking Jesus, the Crucifixion of Jesus, and the Death of Jesus. We are all very familiar with this story, and know all too well how saddening it can be to read the sufferings our Lord faced for our salvation. The sacrificial nature of Jesus is one of the foundational aspects of Christianity and is what makes us Christians.
As I was looking into an application of sacrifice into our own lives, I came across a story about two men named Gareth Griffith and Michael Costello. While on vacation in Florida, Gareth had decided he would try skydiving; Michael was a skydiving instructor. They were in a jumping tandem with Michael on top, and Gareth strapped below him. Unfortunately, something went wrong. The main chute failed to open as did the backup. The two men went into a violent spin plummeting to the ground, and at the last second, Michael turned them around so that he was on the bottom and cushioned his student’s fall. Gareth survived, but Michael wasn’t as lucky — he sacrificed his own life to save Gareth.
In this incredible situation, Costello thought to save his student over himself, but there are many differences between this story and the story of Jesus’ sacrifice. For example, since Costello was the instructor, he may have felt obligated to save his student. Jesus wasn’t obligated at all to save us– He was completely innocent. Jesus’ sacrifice is so meaningful for this very reason.
Matthew begins this chapter with a recounting of Judas’ suicide after he found that Jesus would be crucified due to his betrayal. An important thing to note is Judas was full of remorse but not repentance; he was not forgiven for his sins. Jesus is then taken into trial to be judged by Pontius Pilate and the people of Jerusalem. Pilate asks the crowd who should be set free: Barabbas, a man guilty of murder and being involved in violent riots, or Jesus. The crowd shouts for Jesus to be crucified, even after Pilate challenges them by asking “Why? What crime has he committed?” (Matthew 27:23). But the crowd gave no answer and continued to shout for Jesus to be crucified. Jesus is then taken by soldiers where He is mocked with a red robe and crown of thorns. He is beaten and spat at. He is then taken away to be crucified.
The soldiers then make Simon carry the cross and crucify two rebels on either side of Jesus. Those who walk by mock Jesus for not saving himself. This is one of the most saddening parts of this whole story because as we all know, Jesus could have saved himself but chose to save all of us instead. Jesus then cries out to God “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46) which is a very powerful statement as it demonstrated that even Jesus has doubts in certain situations. Jesus crying out in this way shows that though He is fully God, He is also fully man.
As we all know, this is not where the story ends. Jesus is resurrected and ascended into heaven to be with His Father. He lives on, and this Lenten season, it is important that we continue to keep in mind His sacrifice, and how our Savior thought of us as He died on the cross.