A reflection on the Crucifixion by Revd Canon David Baldwin
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’ clock Jesus cried aloud with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, sabachtahani?” that is “My God. my God, why have you forsaken me?”
These words are a citation from Psalm 22 verse one which the Gospel writers quote in Aramaic
In the stillness and quiet of your own home read those words again, what do you feel as you read them, how do you think Jesus was feeling at that moment?
Pain and suffering are stern teachers of important truths which we too easily forget or ignore, mamely that in this world we cannot find that complete unending happiness for which we naturally crave. The experience of suffering, from whatever cause, can often turn us away from looking to the achievements and joys of this world for that satisfaction which we all seek.
For me one of the most moving moments in the Good Friday service is the solemn recital or proclamation of the words spoken by the dying Jesus: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ What darkness of the mind did Jesus know at that moment of excruciating agony on the cross? It was, in part, the sense of apparent total futility and wastefulness of his life’s work. He had failed. He was dying shamefully. And did he know then that most terrifying of experiences, the fear that after death there is nothing, just nothing? Life is indeed meaningless and absurd if its only future is nothingness. The presence of God in his life had gone from Jesus. He felt abandoned; there was no future, no hope, no God. I have known people who have experienced that sense of abandonment for instance the family whose baby son drowned in the slurry pit on their farm.
To enter into a period of intense suffering, such as the mourning of a loved one, great physical pain or deep depression is like going into a dark tunnel. But if we are patient, hang on and accept it in prayer – or at least try to do so – then a glimmer of light will appear. It is the beginning of the end that sense of being totally abandoned. It may only be a glimmer but enough to give to our pain or suffering meaning or purpose. Its meaning may be hard to see, but dimly we may perceive that to be joined with Christ in his Passion is the way to share with him in his resurrection. What does that signify? It is, from the point of view we are considering , the fact that pain and suffering cannot and will not triumph over us.
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
Sounding from the depths of suffering and the victory of faith, somehow prophetic of his destiny, we recognise in Christ’s salvation a light that shines to the Beginning as well to the End.