From hope for a stubborn fantasy, to dread, to dispersal in terror. Disciples hope for the rise of another David — a warrior king who would scatter enemies. The fantasy that was always lurking there among the men in spite of their rabbi’s teaching to the contrary (It was a woman who first acknowledged that death was his path, and women who stayed with the body when the men fled).
Even in opposition to power, they could only see power as an answer; and their rabbi warned them again and again that to worship power is to worship the Tempter, the Accuser, the Adversary, never denying that “the Satan” held power in this kosmos —in this world.
Right up until he was raised on the executioner’s cross, they waited for legions of angels to ride in with swords afire.
They’d seen the healings, the fishes and loaves, the transfiguration, the raising of Lazarus.
They’d delighted in the prophetic mockery of a royal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey colt as Pilate’s legions paraded warhorses across town in the annual show of force to deter Judean nationalists, provoked to rebellion each year by the celebration of Passover.
They’d roared their approval of his casting the money changers out of the temple. It was all a big build-up to them.
All that was left was the win and the victory party.
Surely, they were terrified, then, as he was hoisted on the crossbar and his ankles were nailed to the post . . . as he slowly suffocated. Where were the legions of angels? Where was the miracle? They looked around, and the triumphalism of preceding days dissolved into heart-gripping dread.
When he uttered the words, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbachthani,” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? . . . when he took his last breath, and the soldier pierced his side, all but the women scattered in terror.
It was over. The movement had failed. The might of Rome and its Judean colonial surrogates had prevailed, and they were now all outlaws to be hunted. As they escaped, they surely passed hundreds of crosses planted along the Roman roads, where decaying political criminals hung for the eyes of would-be rebels . . . and for the crows.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet —
I can count all my bones —
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.