November 16, 2016
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Over the years I have come to appreciate the way the Gospel writers weave their storytelling between the mysterious and the mundane. They do so in such a way that the mysterious is made known through the every day mundane and the mundane gets lifted up into the realm of mystery.
As an example, consider this darkness covering the whole land. Here is the Son of God, the Light of the World, crucified, and the Creation itself comes under the siege of darkness. In what we would call an eclipse, the God of Heaven and Earth reveals the contours of a cosmic war. The mystery of the Cross becomes associated with something as common to our experience as the sun and the moon. Remember those first words of the Bible?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:1-3.
As death defeats the Son of God, darkness seems to defeat the light. The stage is being set for the birth of the New Creation, of something so incredible it never even occurred to anyone to imagine before. Light will defeat darkness once and for all. And on the third day Life will swallow up death in Resurrection.
That’s the mysterious. Now to the mundane. Note how the Gospel writer is watching the clock. We know it was the third hour when Jesus was nailed to the Cross—9am. Today’s text shows us that darkness fell at the sixth hour—Noon. Jesus cried out the Word of God from Psalm 22, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) at the ninth hour—3pm, and the darkness lifted.
The mundane can no longer be mundane because it is infused with the mystery of the Cross. Back in the early days of the Church people began to pray at these hours. They became known as “the little hours.” They became known by their Latin translation. The third hour is “Terce.” The sixth hour is “Sext.” The ninth hour is “None.” In fact, monks were some of the pioneers of inventing clocks so that bells could be sounded on these hours, calling them to cease what they were doing and gather for prayer. On that Good Friday, the “fullness of time” invaded our every day ordinary clocks and we have never gone back.
Every single day, as the clock strikes 9am we are invited to remember Jesus nailed to the Cross. Every single day, as the clock strikes Noon we are invited to remember the veil of darkness descending on the land. Every single day as the clock strikes 3pm we are invited to remember Jesus crying out to God with his final breaths.
It turns out the “little hours” are the biggest hours of them all. To this day, even this hour, the hands of our clocks point to the Cross. And everywhere the bells toll, they remind us he is risen from the dead!
One final word. So many of us find ourselves filled with the faith of the Resurrection yet walking our days in the shadowy season of darkness between noon and three. Things aren’t going well and we wonder if they ever will again. Those three hours can seem to stretch on eternally.
Be encouraged. These days are working something precious and powerful into the depths of your soul. This darkness will pass. Though you may feel forsaken, you are not forgotten. In fact, you are in good company. Though you may not be able to perceive it, Jesus is right there with you. Trust him. Don’t give up. Jesus wins and he is working all things together for our good. These “little hours” may be just what you need right now.
Father, we are in awe of you and of the mystery of your ways. Your ways are all at once exalted and still down to earth. You move the Sun and the Moon and you move the hands of our clocks. Would you move our minds to be shaped by the mind of your son, Jesus, that we might run in the path of his life, death and resurrection. Come Holy Spirit and touch our hours with the every day mysteries of the Cross that our lives might be be marked with the love of Heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.
- What do you think of this connection between Genesis 1 and Matthew 27 with darkness and light?
2. Who do you know that is living right now in that period of darkness between noon and 3pm? How can you encourage them? (No platitudes! ;0)
3. How might you incorporate some observance or remembrance of the “little hours” in your every day life?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.