When the writers of the Gospels, in this case, Matthew and Mark, left something untranslated, it often meant that saying of Jesus was so special, so important, that they wanted to preserve what he said in its original form. In Mark 5:41, there is a little girl who Jesus heals, and Mark records that he said to her, "Talitha koum," which means "get up and walk." And we can see that those words mean much more than that this little girl should get up and walk; they mean that as followers of Jesus Christ, Christ calls us to get up and walk, to follow him in a new life of resurrection and hope. Another phrase that the Bible writers kept in Aramaic was "Maranatha" which means "Our Lord comes!" And we can see that text is the very essence of what we hope for, what we believe in, what we're praying for: Come, Lord Jesus!
So if most of the Aramaic expressions in the New Testament are these profound statements of faith, which were considered so important, so central to the faith, that they were left in the original language of God's people, why does this statement on the cross preserve Jesus's words? This statement, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? That seems to be not a statement of faith and hope, but a statement of doubt and despair? Why is this the only time the New Testament uses a Hebrew name of God?
Maybe it's to show us why some people thought he was calling for Elijah, to show us that the words Jesus used might have been mistaken for the name Elijah. But I don't think that's enough.
I believe that Matthew and Mark used this original language, used the very words of Jesus, because for them, this moment was at the very heart of Jesus's work. Because this moment, when all seems defeated, when all seems lost, when the God of power and might looks like the God of weakness and defeat, this is the moment when God won. This moment is the culmination of all the prophecies and predictions, this is the moment the Jewish people have been waiting for for centuries, this is the moment when El Shaddai, El Olam, El Tsadik, El Roi, El HaShanayim, shows himself to be the greatest power in the universe. God defeats the power of sin and death the moment Jesus died on the cross. This is it. If Jesus will die on the cross, all the sins of everyone who believes in Jesus will be completely erased, the power of evil is utterly and completely broken, and death will cease to have any power at all. God knows this. You know this. I know this. So why isn't Christ rejoicing? Why doesn't he quote some other Scripture, like the one Moses cried out when he marched the people across the Red Sea? Why is he crying out in doubt and despair? Why does he feel abandoned by God?
Because Jesus had to surrender in order for God to win.
Jesus, in his human nature, had to give up. He had to feel totally abandoned by God, totally alone, totally afraid, and trust God anyway. He had to see no possibility for hope, and choose to trust God where he could not see. He had to totally surrender everything to God when he didn't understand the plan. Because God works through total surrender. Total trust. Saying to God, I don't know where this is going, but I know you do. When we quit relying on our own power, our own might, our own plans, our own vision, and surrender to God's power, God's might, God's plan, God's vision, that's when God can do something amazing with us. Like even just in creating this powerpoint for worship, I had problems, I was defeated, I had to call the Geek Squad. So I called the help desk for the worship program, and they said, you know, can you just let us into your computer? And I said, sure, fine. And I had to click on this button that literally said "Rescue Assistance" and Sam, my new best friend, who knows a lot more about the program said to me, any time your computer asks you a question click yes, OK, or "I Agree." And I did this and I watched as, from his computer in Tennessee, he literally took over my computer and fixed it. It was so weird. Somebody else was moving my cursor. Somebody else was typing on my keyboard. But I realized I couldn't do it anymore. I had to let someone else take over. I had to surrender.
Or here's another example I heard on a podcast recently: think about the hummingbird. The wings of a hummingbird beat up to 70 times per second. Seventy times! A hummingbird is constantly beating and beating its wings, constantly working and flapping just to hover and flit from flower to flower, hundreds of times a day to survive. Does that sound like your life? Constantly working? Constantly in motion? Constantly beating your wings?
An eagle is different from a hummingbird. While a hummingbird is constantly fluttering its wings, an eagle effortlessly soars. An eagle can fly up to 32 miles per hour. It's one of the fastest birds, but it barely flaps its wings at all. Why? Because God created the eagle to catch the updraft of the wind and soar. It doesn't have to work as hard because it's able to catch the force of something much bigger and more powerful than itself—the strong winds of the earth will carry the eagle faster than it could ever go on its own power. And that's how God created you and me. Isaiah 40:31 says, "They that wait on the Lord renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall walk and not grow weary; they shall run, and not faint." We were created to be moved by something much stronger and greater than our own mortal ability. We were created to catch the updraft of the God's power and God's love and soar! And we can only do this when we quit fluttering and flapping and beating our wings and surrender. When we click "Yes," "OK," "I agree," and let someone wiser and stronger and better than ourselves take control.
This is true in your life. Whatever you're dealing with, whatever you're struggling with, wherever you need God's power—surrender. Stop fighting and trying to do it your way and listen to what God is trying to tell you. Let the wind of the Spirit carry you through. Let God's power catch your wings and you will soar.
And this is true of our lives as Starr Church. If we keep working and fighting and beating our wings, we'll work really hard just to hover in the air, fighting to stay alive, fighting to stay where we've always been.
But there's another choice.
We can surrender to the Spirit.
We can say to God, yes, OK, I agree.
We can catch the wind.
We can turn to God's power instead of our own.
We can soar.