Mark 15:33-39

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At 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?”

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Mark 15:33-39

Many passages in the Bible bear witness to the power of God’s love, but none more powerfully than this one. Jesus, experiencing the utter absence of God, embodies the pure gracious merciful love of God’s presence. And the first person converted to belief in Jesus is one of the Roman soldiers who killed him.

The curtain of the temple was, indeed, torn in two.

The other time when the Greek word for “torn” was used was back in the very beginning, when Jesus was baptized. Mark 1:10-11, “And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

These “tearings” are the picture frame within which Jesus ministers to the world. Heaven and earth meet, in baptism, in crucifixion, and soon, in resurrection. These are the ultimate images of the “dividing walls” being torn down. The rejected One becomes the focus of all being accepted, just as they are, even a feared Roman soldier.

The last words that Jesus hears before breathing his last are the taunts of the crowd. He is offered a sponge full of sour wine from those who have no idea of the significance of the blood running down from Jesus’ torn up body. Would they act that way if they truly knew God’s love for them?

This weekend we will celebrate All Saints Day in worship. That day took on a special meaning for me back in 2006 when my father died in October. The Sunday when I came back to Houston to worship at Faith Lutheran was All Saints Day. Even though I was well aware of the theological and liturgical significance of remembering the “saints of God of all times and places”, that Sunday became personal.

We are living through a pandemic. Every corner of the earth is being touched with death. We might not live in fear but we are all aware that there is a lurking virus that knows no distinction between people. Millions are grieving lost loved ones who died alone, absent of human touch and consolation. Many are crying out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Today we claim the truth – God has not forsaken us, God is right here in, with, and around us. The dividing walls have been torn apart. Love wins.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, may we always see, in your death, the reality of life. May we see our sin exposed, and forgiven. May we see our hard hearts softened as we join with that unnamed solider in confessing our faith. Truly, you are the Son of God! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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