The Eloi

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

— Matthew 27:46

The Lord hides nothing that can be revealed, and will not warn away the foot that treads in naked humility even upon the ground of that terrible conflict between him and Evil, when the smoke of the battle rose up between him and his Father, and for one terrible moment ere he broke the bonds of life and walked weary and triumphant into his arms, hid God from the eyes of his Son. He will give us even to meditate the one thought that slew him at last, when he could bear no more, and fled to the Father to know that he loved him, and was well-pleased with him. The Lord hides not his sacred sufferings, for truth is light, and would be light in the minds of men. Let us then put off our shoes, and draw near, and bow the head, and kiss those feet that bear forever the scars of our victory.

It is with the holiest fear that we should approach the terrible fact of the sufferings of our Lord. Let no one think that those were less because he was more.  These sufferings were awful indeed when they began to invade the region about the will; when the struggle to keep consciously trusting in God began to sink in darkness; when his will put forth its last determined effort in that cry after the vanishing vision of the Father: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Never before had he been unable to see God beside him. Yet never was God nearer to him than now. He could not see, could not feel him near, and yet it is “My God” that he cries.

Trust When All Else Fails
by Dave Roney

"Eloi! Eloi! Lama sabachthani?"

The etymologists have, as it seems to me, missed a profound meaning for inclusion into their definitions of Elohim, in the Aramaic of Matthew 27:46 given as “Eloi.”  I see as implicit in that Name the tacit thought of a God to be reached to.  Consider, for example, the first formal Commandment God gave to men, the 1st Commandment; “You shall have no other Elohim before Me.”  David speaks more clearly to this thought of reaching to God in Psalm 42:1, saying; “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God (O Elohim).”

Is it not herein implied that to have God first is also the desire to reach and have Him most—how else could He be before all others to us except we desire Him more than all of them?  The thought is evident in a hundred places; it is seen in Proverbs 8:17, “those who seek me diligently find me,” and Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to Me all you ends of the earth and be saved.”  Seek Him, turn to Him, reach to Him; this thought must be true; our part in the relationship with God is to reach to Him even as He reaches to us, for the highest best relationships are those of mutual reciprocation, and ideally those of equal return.

What, then, of our Lord's cry from the cross when He exclaims “Eloi!”; is He not reaching through the smothering darkness and veil of His suffering, searching for the Father He can no longer detect, a cry against what He, pushed beyond the limits of human endurance, supposed in His tortured mind and heart to be the Divine abandonment of Him?  “Why have You forsaken me?” He cries out.

What thought intervenes between the Eloi and the final breathing, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit!”  He dies in the inky void which is darkness of unseeing, of perceived estrangement; what is it that kills Him?  It is two things working in conjunction, the latter the ultimate cause.  First it is the hands of wicked men; they have so abused Him, more than any other man, but by their hands alone He could not die, could never be destroyed by anything or anyone in this world; He must will to lay down His life that He might pick it up again.  That which slew Him was the thought, His own thought, that He was separated from His Father, forsaken, forlorn, forgotten.  With that even the indomitable Son of God could not live.  He dies not from outer wounds absorbed but by His innermost broken heart.  What thought intervened?  Only this, and I will quote Job, who in his despair cried out; “Even though He slay Me, yet will I trust Him.”

This is an extraordinary claim: He who has life can never die; He Who is Life can only die because He has the power to lay down His life and pick it up again; no man takes His life from Him.  What is the thought of Christ here?  My supposition is that to Himself He says in effect; “I can live through anything, and suffer all things, yet this one thing I cannot live without, and that is You My Father.  Though I cannot perceive You in this agony, cannot see You through the smoke of battle which separates us as I Atone for sins—yet, even so, with all that is within Me, I trust in You; You are greater than Me, I must now surrender My life, lay it down, I can bear no more, I reach now to You, O My Father Whom I love desperately, will come to You in the moment of My willing death; I die in obedience to You, Father, and trust You even in this darkest hour that You will receive Me.”

“The Lord hides nothing that can be revealed, and will not warn away the foot that treads in naked humility even upon the ground of that terrible conflict between Him and Evil, when the smoke of the battle rose up between Him and His Father, and for one terrible moment ere He broke the bonds of life, and walked weary and triumphant into His arms,  hid God from the eyes of His Son... It is with holiest fear that we should approach the terrible fact of the sufferings of our Lord.  Let no one think that those were less because He was more.”

God had not abandoned His Son—God forbid that such a thought of God should even enter our minds!  Would any good earthly father abandon his son who was being tortured and slain by brutes?  How much less so a good God?—the Father was nearer His Son in those hours than, were it possible, He had ever been; this so even though in His humanity the Son could not understand it.  For, the Father was reaching to His Son to the degree the Son was reaching to His Father.

The power of will can estrange a man from God, or it can serve him well when all else fails.  In the end it was by His will alone that our Lord trusted in God, when the world was dark to Him His thought was “I will trust Him no matter what!”  With that our Lord went to be with the Father He loved and in those dark moments had been reaching for, the Father Who was there, the Father Who was at One with Him, the Father Who loved Him, the Father Who was always and entirely faithful to Him.

In my mind's eye I see the spirit of our Lord in the form of the Child He ever is, little arms reaching upward to His Father Whom He cannot see, can neither feel nor otherwise detect, thinking Himself alone yet never alone, never separated nor alienated from Love Himself.  For God is never “there” but ever present “here,” with us, among us, in us.  We, as Christ in the hour of His death, reach to that which has already reached to us though in our pain, or sin, and by dreadful circumstances we sometimes do not see it so, do not feel it thus.  Yet, as Christ, when all has failed us and we have no light, when even our faith itself wavers and no longer can sustain us, then, as He, our only final and firm bastion is to trust God, to hold to this same thought of our Lord; “Though He slay Me, yet will I trust Him.”  Though we be faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself:

“When we are least worthy, then, most tempted, hardest, unkindest, let us yet commend our spirits into His hands.  Whither else dare we send them?  And shall we dare to think if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, God will not give us His own spirit when we come to ask Him?  Will not some heavenly dew descend cool upon the hot anger?  Some genial rain-drop on the dry selfishness, some glance of sunlight on the cloudy hopelessness?”