At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.
We began lent with this profound reminder of our mortality. You don’t have to be a Christian to believe we came from dust or dirt and can’t escape returning to our humble beginnings. Still, I feel the depth of this reminder’s meaning eluding me. Is there not more to me than the dust from which I came?
From dust we came, and to dust we are returning.
On Good Friday, we reflect on the convergence between Jesus’s life and death, his teachings, and his execution. We remember why Jesus was killed, executed by the Roman Empire. And this invites us to think about who else is being killed in this way today.
We might think about Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. and many others who were martyred for their nonviolent resistance. We might think of the many unjustly imprisoned people in the US and the world over. We might think of Issa Amro, who faces multiple convictions, including demonstrating without proper permits and non-cooperation with the Israeli military.
We might also reflect on the final steps Jesus took. The stations of the cross give us vivid detail of one person’s courageous walk with death, a walk of integrity. The Via Dolorosa, Latin for “way of pain” or “suffering,” traces 14 final events in Jesus’ life, after he walked from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, into what is now the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The route travels West through the city and culminates with five stations in the Holy Sepulcher church, where Jesus is thought to have died. Most of the way is lined with shops and often crowded with tourists, buyers, sellers, setting a different mood for the many pilgrims commemorating Jesus’ final moments.
One walking the Via Dolorosa might experience a range of emotions as broad as Jesus did at this point: grief, sadness, anger, loneliness, doubt, self-doubt, regret but also perhaps hope or compassion, or wonder.
In this climactic moment, we see Jesus’ every step documented in more detail than any other time of his life. We also see Jesus when he is most alone. Least understood. Abandoned by some, watched at a distance by others. Yet still crying out Abba Father. Still crying out for justice via forgiveness: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I am in awe of Jesus for continuing to cry out for justice until his final breath.
Even his cry in a loud voice, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” is a call for justice. Jesus is questioning his lot and protesting, in line with many a psalmist’s cry.
May we, like Jesus, walk whatever path our values and integrity take us on, no matter where it leads us. Even in our most somber moments, may we join Jesus in continuously crying out for justice. Not to deny or tolerate injustice, but to overcome it.
May we always hear the cries of innocent people for mercy amidst the much louder voices of condemnation, violence, and mocking. May we not stop calling for justice until our final breath. Tune our ears to your still small voice, crying out in between gasps for air, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Kevin is a Ph.D. candidate in Religion and Society at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he also earned an M.Div. His research focuses on the relationship between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Palestinians with disabilities, and how the occupation produces disability. He is currently waiting to continue fieldwork in Bethlehem until it is safe to do so. In joining CMEP, he is excited to complement his research with advocacy work.
Kevin also earned a BA in philosophy from University of Chicago and has researched how churches can better care for and empower people with various disabilities. He has affiliations with the Evangelical Covenant Church, Vineyard USA, and United Methodist Church. In his spare time, you can find him running, biking, or playing the piano. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.