In Mark’s story of the Passion, Jesus’ final words are words of abandonment. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
Mark 14:1 – 15:47
15:25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews’. 27 And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! 30 Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ 31 The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
33 When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ 35 When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ 36 Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink saying, ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ 37 But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Other readings: Isaiah 50:4-7 Psalm 21 (22) Philippians 2:6-11
The part of the story of the Passion of Jesus according to Mark which immediately precedes his death is given above. These verses are punctuated by the evangelist’s references to the time of day. Jesus is crucified ‘at the third hour’. Roman reckoning of day-time hours began with 6 am so this is 9 am. The darkness over the earth begins at noon. Jesus ‘breathes his last’ at 3 o’clock, the traditional time for recalling the death of Christ.
Three groups mock Jesus. Anonymous passers-by taunt Jesus by referring to his words about the temple. The chief-priests and scribes mock Jesus, who ‘saved others, but cannot save himself’. They also ridicule him with his supposed claims to be the Messiah. Finally, Mark tells us that ‘even those who were crucified with him taunted him’. This evangelist appears to know nothing about the ‘good thief’.
Jesus’ final words are words of abandonment. The Son of God, who comes to share our life and give his life for us, drinks the cup of suffering to the depth out of love for his brothers and sisters. And thus he dies.
What are the memorable features of Mark’s story of the death of Jesus?
Take time this week to read the complete story of the death of Jesus as told by Mark.
Let us enter fully into the events of Holy Week so that we may be renewed in Christ’s resurrection.
We pray that the self-giving love of Christ for all will change minds and hearts.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy