Summary: This message was prepared for a community luncheon on Good Friday. It points to the OT adumbration of both the crucifixion of Christ, and His resurrection.
Last night, our parish observed Maundy Thursday, the first of three Holy Week observances relating to the events surrounding Christ’s passion. Maundy Thursday marks the occasion of the last Passover Christ observed with his disciples, as well as the first Eucharist. And, while a Maundy Thursday service has obvious utility in helping us to remember something important, it is, strictly speaking, not so much a memorial as it is a participation in a feast which began 2,000 years ago and which continues down to this very day.
This evening in our parish, along with many others across the land, we will observe an ancient Christian devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. This service, more than Maundy Thursday, has as its purpose to remember something– to remember something in an especially vivid way, in a liturgical way that allows God’s people to unite with one another in an extended act of remembering the cost of their salvation. In preparing for the Stations of the Cross this evening, I noted that this act of communal remembering has become increasing popular among Protestants. I am encouraged by this, for such a powerful and beneficial act of remembering is not the property of any one segment of Christendom. Indeed, it never has been; for since the Reformation, Anglicans and Lutherans, and even some Presbyterians, have never relinquished the conviction that Christianity is pre-eminently a religious faith deeply rooted in the events of history. Our faith is not a mere moral code. It arises from God’s mighty acts of judgment in the same stream of history we inhabit this afternoon here in Waxahachie Texas. We can go around the world – as, perhaps, some of you here have already done, and see the places where Jesus walked. We can walk the Via Dolorosa, just as Christian pilgrims have walked it for centuries. And, we can do so for the very blunt reason that it all really happened, and it all really happened THERE.
If, perchance, you have never participated in the Stations of the Cross, I encourage you to try it this evening in any of the local churches which observe it. That remembrance does not belong to any of them. It belongs to Christians everywhere. And, Mother Church says that remembering the great events of our Faith is like eating your vegetables: It’s Good For You.
Having said that, I want to raise for our consideration a question about remembering that arises when one reflects on a particular detail which surfaces in the gospel record of Christ’s Crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark note that in the last minutes before Jesus died, he cried out in a loud voice Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani! And, both evangelists note that those who heard this thought that Jesus was calling out for help to the Prophet Elijah.
Ethnic Romans wouldn’t have misunderstood Jesus in that particular way. For one thing, they wouldn’t have had much fluency in Aramaic. Moreover Elijah would be nothing to them, so they would never make the connection the onlookers made between what Jesus said and Elijah. No, the ones who misunderstood Jesus understood Aramaic, and their association with the similar sounding words “Eloi” “Elijah” has the marks of long familiarity.