Mark 15:33-41 33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” 40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
How easy it is to understand what is written in the Bible? For many people they think it is just an interesting collection of history, poems, and statements about the Jewish and Christian God. They simply take it as an old book of folklore and never once consider its claims to be the inspired Word of God. But this is the wisdom of wicked man who intentionally tries to deny the Truth for if it is indeed the inspired Word of God then there is a requirement to submit to its authority of which the unbeliever has no desire to do. There is a bias in their minds preventing them from accepting the Word of God for what it really is:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Then there are others who claim to believe in the authority of Scripture but who misinterpret it. The Jews not only recognized the blessings of having the oracles of God given to them directly by God but they also knew the Scriptures very well. The Old Testament Scriptures were continually studied and taught before all the Jewish people in the days that Jesus walked upon this earth over 2,000 years ago. And yet in the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus there is an interesting contrast between the bystanders who thought Jesus was crying out for Elijah as He was dying upon the cross as compared to the response of the Roman centurion who had no knowledge or respect for the Scriptures and who was at the crucifixion because it was his job.
First, why did the Jewish bystanders think Jesus was calling for Elijah in verse 35? Because as Jesus said, “Eloi,” meaning “My God” as He was crying out to His Father, they thought he said “Eli” which is short for Elias or Elijah. There are only two people in all of history who never died. Enoch and Elijah. There is little describing the events surrounding Enoch going up into heaven:
Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
But with Elijah there was a great scene as described in 2 Kings 2. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire led by horses of fire! But it is the prophecy associated with Elijah that led to the Jewish bystanders thinking that Jesus was calling out Elijah’s name. Because Elijah did not die and because of this prophecy it came to be that it was a common belief among the Jews that the Christ would not be revealed until Elijah had returned to Israel in the flesh:
Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
But he had already come. Jesus earlier made known to Peter, James, and John that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Elijah’s coming:
Mark 9:11-13 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
It is hard to comprehend how blind anyone can become in believing a misinterpretation of Scripture. Any of us are capable of falling into this same trap of claiming that the Scriptures must say something that they do not. In spite of all the miracles that Jesus performed, in spite of the amazing manner in which He preached and revealed the Word of God, in spite of all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, in spite of the many many times that he absolutely made it clear that He is the Son of God in the flesh, these Jews would not believe that He was the Christ unless Elijah came before Him. But it is the events surrounding the crucifixion that make their misinterpretation of Scripture even more condemning. As Jesus died upon the cross, darkness covered the land from noon until three becoming darker and darker until Jesus breathed His last and then suddenly light of the sun was restored. As Jesus breathed His last there was also an earthquake, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, and many tombs among the Jews were opened. (These were Old Testament believers who were raised from the dead following Jesus’ resurrection on the Lord’s day as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection beyond the grave (Matthew 27:51-52)). None of these miracles or events would convince these Jewish bystanders who had hardened their hearts into believing that Elijah had to come first and yet the Scripture had been fulfilled exactly as God intended.
What a contrast with the Roman centurion who did not believe in the authority of the Word of God at all. He was just there doing his job making sure that this person condemned to death did not somehow escape or that a riot did not occur among the people. But in the events surrounding the crucifixion God had removed his spiritual blindness. The hardness within his heart to believe the Word of God as given to this little nation that had been conquered by the great Roman empire had been removed. There was no stumbling block with him to believe that Elijah had to come first. He knew nothing about Elijah. The Roman centurion had been drawn to Jesus Christ. He looked at Jesus with astonishment as He died. He was able to see that the Christ could suffer and die. There is no doubt that the centurion did not yet fully understand what he had witnessed and yet he believed. He did not yet understand about the resurrection and yet he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Is there any misinterpretations of Scripture that are preventing you from seeing Jesus for who He really is? Are you still waiting for Elijah or can you say in your heart, “Jesus is the Christ?”
Pastor Murray Hack
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.