33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
As you ponder the day/night meaning of this world-changing event, notice there are 3 types of reactions to Jesus’ crucifixion. Some of the bystanders in misunderstanding Jesus’ cry of Eloi, think he is crying for Elijah. In the midst of Jesus excruciating suffering, they are concerned only with themselves. They are hoping for a miracle; the return of Elijah to reinforce their own perceived piety, oblivious to the presence of God in Jesus.
Another then, gets a sour wine sponge, not to taunt Jesus, but to keep him alive longer, so that they might see some miraculous event, perhaps of Elijah taking Jesus down from the cross. The Centurian, on the other hand, is witnessing what is happening and eventually sees what is accomplished by God in God’s son. The Centurian ‘sees’ who Jesus really was and is. He’s a Roman soldier, put in charge of making sure the deed is completed. He’s a foreigner and a stranger who ends up to be the only one modeling “Love of neighbor” by ‘seeing’ who Jesus really was.
On this most holy of days, I invite you to take time, to truly ponder who you see Jesus as. Ponder God’s activity in the death of Jesus; the curtain being torn in two and the eyes of the Roman soldier being opened to the reality and power of God. Ponder God’s love for you, and all those you love and those whom no one loves.