At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34)
Up to this point, the narrative of the crucifixion has focused on the physical sufferings of Jesus: the flogging, the crown of thorns, and his immolation on the cross. Six hours have now passed since the nails were driven home. The crowds have jeered, darkness has covered the land, and now, suddenly, after a long silence, comes this anguished cry from the depths of the Savior’s soul.
The words are an Aramaic-tinged quotation from Psalm 22, and although Matthew and Mark both offer a translation for the benefit of Gentile readers, they clearly want us to hear the exact words that Jesus spoke. At his lowest ebb, his mind instinctively breathes the Psalter, and from it he borrows the words that express the anguish, not now of his body, but of his soul.
He bore in his soul, wrote Calvin, “the terrible torments of a condemned and lost man” (Institutes, II:XVI, 10). But dare we, on such hallowed ground, seek more clarity?