And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
In Mark’s very brief account of Jesus on the cross, there is a powerful dichotomy between the wonders that occur and the ignorant fascination in the crowd.
At noon, three hours after Jesus is nailed to the cross, darkness falls. This appears to be no natural event like an eclipse or heavy cloud cover. Three hours later, having hung there for six hours, Jesus cries out in a powerful voice. At the point of His death, the curtain in the temple is ripped down the middle. All of this in impressive enough that a guard at the cross declares Jesus to be the “Son of God,” a declaration reserved for Caesar.
In the face of all this, however, the gawking crowd continues to miss the significance of the event. Presumably they were awed by the unusual, supernatural events. But they continue to mock, or at the very least misunderstand every sign. When Jesus cries, “My God” they here “Elijah” and wonder if He will be rescued. After all, they know that Jesus is accused of blasphemy… could they at least be speculating that He was speaking the truth? In the face of the mid-day night and the event at the temple, perhaps they do. It would help explain the events after Pentecost.
What happens next will certainly ignite the cultural explosion to follow…