“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Who is speaking? It could easily be so many people in so many different times and places, including the Israelites suffering under Moabite oppression (the first reading), the author of Psalm 22, or the strange Jew—Jesus—who’s the focus of Matthew’s story.
Matthew’s brief notes (vv.51-54) tell us that this is an unusual death, prompting God to start the General Resurrection early. And, as Luke tells the story, after Jesus is raised the disciples ask “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” A reasonable question, and a question that implies other questions, e.g., method.
Ehud’s story (the first reading), a scatological tale the first hearers must have relished, suggests one method. And there are so many so richly deserving Eglons out there—in most times and places, and so many means of assassination. Jesus parries the question, handing the task of the continuing discipling of the disciples to the Holy Spirit: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses…”
Ehud was the “deliverer” God raised up, but Ehud chose the method, and the editor of Judges omitted the customary “and N judged Israel for X years.” (Would you have brought your case to Ehud?) And, despite Jesus’ consistent example and teaching, method remained an issue (“Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” [Lk. 9:54]; “They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough’” [Lk. 22:38].)
Method remains an issue. Everything we say and do witnesses to some kingdom. May we continue seeking to allow the Spirit to teach us to witness to Jesus’ kingdom.
Shifting gears, some acknowledgement that the Lectionary has begun leading us through Acts seems appropriate. “When God wants to change the world”—recall “My God, my God…” above—“he doesn’t send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the mourners, those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice, the peacemakers, and so on” (N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus p.218).