This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline form world news:
New English Translation (NET)
33 Now when it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 Around three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down!” 37 But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last. 38 And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
This is the moment towards which Mark’s narrative has been heading from Chapter 1 verse 1: this is the “beginning of the good news of Jesus Messiah the son of God”; this is the meaning of “you are my son, the beloved, in whom I am delighted.” This is the moment in which the human son of God finds the truth that has embittered the hearts of all honest believers in all times: God does not rescue; the US cavalry stays in its barracks. This is the reality proclaimed by the cloud above Hiroshima and the train terminus at Auschwitz. In this world, God does not rescue.
This is a truth which should be spoken in the ears of all pious people who say that God has cured their illness or found them a parking space. God does not rescue. And there is a corollory: God desires that there should be rescue in this world provided by his human children, He inspires them to find the cure for illness, to abandon nuclear wepaons, to prevent holocausts and crucifixions. If we thought God might intervene, we would not take up these tasks. As it is, God has shown us in his true son how to take a stand on the side of life, how to ignite an explosion of love in the midst of the world’s evil and death, how to make the great refusal in the face of everything nd everyone that tells us we are no more than selfish genes. But the human love that rescues knows that even the bearer of such love will not be rescued by supernatural means and must experience the bitterness of death. The eternal God, in his dear son, knows the taste of mortality.
That’s the supreme revelation of God’s nature and the ultimate declaration of his love. The curtain of the temple concealed the holy of holies. Mark tells the reader that in the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain is torn open. The holy of holies is there for all to see in the torn-open body/temple of Jesus. This is the end of religion, of glimpses of God which can be manipulated and controlled by priests. The offensive truth is laid open: God is with us; here God is. No room now for spiritual ecstasies, awesome displays, perfect liturgies, snake-oil salesmen and all the hocus-pocus of piety. These are shown up for the tawdry shows they are by the sober faith of a jobbing executioner, “Truly, this man was God’s son.”
No supernatural rescue in this world, no, but is there another world perhaps? Mark’s astonishing gospel is about to deal with this question also, as we shall see.