Print this Page

the point of it all

(A) Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (B) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (C) And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” (D) And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. (C) But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” (B) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (A) And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Matthew 27: 45-50
 
Around BC 800 the poet Homer used a chiastic structure when composing both the Iliad and the Odyssey. May of the writers of the books in the Bible also used that structure. It works like an arrow.

The writer starts with thought A then proceeds to thought B and then to C and finally to the main thought D. Immediately the writer goes back a thought similar to C, then to B and then finally to a thought similar to A again. The central purpose and the most important of the writer is thought D. 

Matthew, Jesus’ first century biographer, used this chiastic or arrow structure when he described the actual final dying moments of Jesus on that Roman stake outside Jerusalem around AD 30. A B C D followed by C B A.  

 
The first point A was this. "From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour."Jesus has been nailed to the Roman stake. The soldiers are watching him die. Darkness comes at 12 noon and it’s still dark at 3 o’clock. 

‘There is no greater darkness than the ignorance of God.’ (John Calvin, French pastor, 1509-1564) 
Matthew than goes to point B. “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” Jesus has been left totally alone by his father in heaven above. He wanted his father to be with him all the way through death. But no, that was not to be.

What was Matthew’s point C? It’s this. “Some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”” Actually, the spoken word “Eli” is a call to El – to God above in the Hebrew language. But it’s also the start of a man’s name – Elijah.

Now, what about Matthew’s D? His main point. He wrote, “One of the bystanders at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and, putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink.” Someone – only one person – an unnamed human being - gave Jesus his last drink. That was Matthew’s main point.

Mathew then moved back to his second point C. It’s this. “The other bystanders said, “Leave him! Let’s see if Elijah does come to save him.”” Virtually all those around at the exact moment of Jesus’ death were “wait and see” people. Let’s not do anything about Jesus.

Then Matthew’s next sentence was of course a second B. “Jesus, crying out again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.” This matched the first B when he first cried out about being forsaken by his God above.

 
So, finally, of course, Matthew wrote the second A. “Look and see, the curtain of the temple was split in two, from top to bottom, the earth shook, and the stones were split.” 

‘No one could ever have found God: he gave himself away.’ (Meister Eckhart, German philosopher, 1260-1328) 
Think then about the two As – darkness at noon, earthquake, temple curtain split, rocks split.

Then the two B’s. Jesus called out because God had forsaken him. And then he called out immediately before breathing his last.

Then the two C’s The bystanders think he’s calling for Elijah and not to the God who’s left him totally alone. And they decide to do nothing about Jesus except to wait and see what happens. 

But Matthew’s key statement is the D. “One of the bystanders immediately ran, took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Jesus to drink.” Why did Matthew adopt this chiastic structure to describe the defining fulcrum of world history?
 
Sinner Syvret

Email this newsletter to a friend
*All mandatory fields must be filled in

Friend`s name
Friend`s email address *
Your name
Your email address *
Message

Send comment
*All mandatory fields must be filled in

Your name *
Your email address *
Your comment *