Today’s reading: 15:21-39
Recall the backstory of the Gospel of Mark. Remember that Mark was not an Apostle, but rather the companion/secretary of Peter. Mark’s Gospel in a recording of the preaching of Peter to the Gentiles, most specifically the Romans. Today, the passages contain some clues that corroborate that history.
Thus, when Mark records Jesus’ words in Aramaic from cross, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?”, Mark translates them for his readers who as Romans might not have been familiar with Aramaic. Mark writes, “which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. Note that Jesus’ words from the cross are the first line of Psalm 22. The people who heard Jesus would have recognized the reference. Just like if I would say to you, “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” or “Here’s the story of a man named Brady…” you immediately know what I am referencing. After hearing this first line of Psalm 22 most ancient Jews would have likewise immediately recognized the reference. Try reading Psalm 22 now, it is haunting. It is clearly prophetic.
Jesus’ choice of the phrase also has another interesting aspect. John Henry Newman, the great Anglican theologian who became a Catholic cardinal, speculated that at some point while on the cross Jesus foregoes his omniscient nature and truly was alone without the Father and the Holy Spirit. Newman reasons that if the entire time on the cross Jesus as God knew that this condition was temporary and that he would soon be resurrected that, in a manner, diminishes his suffering. Therefore, he reasons Christ must have in some way given up his divine certainty of the outcome of his crucifixion. Note, Jesus would still have possessed absolute human certainty of the outcome. This shows us that the human certainty of faith is more than enough to get us through. Note, that this is not explicit Catholic teaching, but whether or not this happened, to what extent and how it would have worked are excellent meditation for prayer, especially during Lent and times of suffering.
Further, we see that it is a Roman centurion who speaks at the highlight of the narrative.
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!
This is consistent with the gospel being written for a Roman audience. It is also consistent with Peter having gone out to preach the gospel to the gentiles. It is a Roman centurion, the pride of all the citizens of Rome, who articulates on of the climatic lines of the Gospel. Further, the Roman soldier can be seen in all of us. Salvation is now available to anyone who recognized Christ for who he is.
Finally, recall what we learned about the fourth cup. In the Passover ceremony, the fourth cup closes the Passover meal. Mark tells us that they offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh but he refuses it. However, we see that just before Jesus dies he thirsts and he is given a sponge soaked in wine to drink. This finishes the Passover meal that was started the night before in the upper room at the Last Supper. Again, one should try to conceive of everything that happens from the Last Supper until Jesus death on the cross as one singular event. It is the new Passover, with a new lamb being sacrificed.
Tomorrow: Mk 15:40-47