Passion Week XXXIII

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46 NASB)

One of places all of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion seem to agree is the timing.  Except for John, who leaves the timing out completely, all the Gospel accounts seem to agree on the timing based on the darkness that covered the earth.  From the sixth hour until the ninth, darkness fell over the earth.  Only Luke, of the three, attributes this darkness to an eclipse.  He actually uses the technical term for it of his day.

A solar eclipse occurred as Jesus hung bleeding on the cross.  There have been many things written on the significance of this.  The position I have taken has been that Jesus had to suffer death in the form of separation from God as the penalty for sin for all mankind.  But I have also believed that this happened when He breathed His last, and lasted for the three days He was in the tomb.  Now, I’m not so sure about that timing.

What does the darkness mean?  Considering that the Creator of the universe set that date and time in place as He created the universe, as it was marked by an eclipse, the timing must be important.  Jesus lives through it, and breathes His last on the other side.  Or does He?  Luke says that the veil of the temple was torn, then Jesus cries out, committing His Spirit to the Father, then dies.  The other Gospels include only one other detail, Jesus asking why He has been forsaken.  Other than that, they agree, which presents an interesting option for timing.

It’s possible that Jesus breathes His last, and then the eclipse concludes, revealing the sun once more.  Consider the dramatic conclusion to this life, that, as He breathes out, the sun slides from behind the moon to illuminate his Creator’s body suspended in death upon a cross.  Why the sun now of all times?  Why not the darkness from that point?  But the  image translates what was considered a defeat into the illumination of a victory.  Jesus says Himself, “It is finished.”  And so the sun can, once more, reappear to reveal the body of his Creator.  Only now, that body is all that’s left…for now.

So, while Jesus hung for those three hours of darkness, what was happening?  At the end of them, Jesus cries out asking why He has been forsaken, and the temple veil is torn from top to bottom.  He commits His Spirit into the hands of the Father, and dies.  Although, I believe that, even though He breathed His last at the ninth hour, Jesus dies at the sixth.

What is the penalty of sin?  According to Romans 6:23, sin earns death.  According to Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities have caused a separation between us and God, and He hides His face from us, and does not hear.  In the Garden, God tells Adam that the very day he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will certainly die.  Yet, the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, and have children.  Did the “wages” change?  It could be important that the banishment from the Garden is the last recorded communication between Adam and God.

The impression left from this cursory examination of sin may redefine death.  Jesus, in order to pay this penalty for sin, would need to suffer that separation from God.  God would have to hide His face and not hear Jesus.  And this would be in keeping with God’s definition of death.  The problem of Jesus’ deity aside, the payment remains the same.  Just as the Trinity, the triune nature of God, is inexplicable, so too would be how Jesus could pay this debt.  Regardless of how, He did.  And so, I believe He did so, and as He does so, the sun is hidden behind the moon.

I believe Jesus dies in the sixth hour, is separated from the Father for three hours, and then breathes His last.  And is then joined by the criminal in paradise?  So it would seem.  Wouldn’t it be supremely ironic if, as Jesus breathes His last, He lives again?  The sun reappears.  For those at the cross who witness Jesus’ last breath, it’s over, and He dies.  But for the Father, that isn’t necessarily so.  The reunion of Spirit and body hasn’t happened yet, but does Jesus’ connection with the Father resume when He breathes His last and the sun reappears?  Or is the sun’s reemergence a promise of the hope to be revealed in three days?  Does the Father foreshadow Sunday on Friday?  I’m not sure.  But that day Jesus stands with a redeemed criminal in paradise.

What’s your view of Jesus through your knothole?

Advertisement

Passion Week XXXI

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.  And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  (Luke 23:33-38 NASB)

All of the Gospels compress details about the crucifixion.  To understand what was meant by the term, crucifixion, the execution techniques of the Romans would need to be studied.  The point of the writers is not in the details of what Jesus suffers, but how He suffers.  The general approach, He was crucified, He was mocked, His clothes were divided among His executioners, all provide a picture of how He suffers.  He forgives.  Even as He is being tortured, He forgives.

Luke, with the other writers preserves the irony of the mocking, that He saved others, but now can’t save Himself.  The reality that Jesus is dying to save the whole of humanity draws these comments from the ignorant people He’s dying to save.  He suffers that too.  He is suffering to save them, the ones mocking Him.  And, in their mocking, dare Him to come down off the cross, an action that would have prevented their salvation.

The Romans put signs above those being executed listing their crimes.  This was to be a deterrent to others who would commit the same crimes.  Above Jesus’ head was “The King of the Jews”.  It was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  No one visiting for the festival could miss it.  There, at the Passover, the pilgrims would know their King was being executed.  And He was being executed because His people rejected Him.  The Romans couldn’t care less, Jesus was just one less member of an unruly troublesome people.  And so, they joined in the mocking of the condemned, the One dying for their sins.

The soldiers at the foot of the cross, the crowd witnessing the torture of the Son of Man, the ones looking on either close or from afar, it was for these Jesus dies.  It was for the ones before He suffered.  It was for us He was tortured to death.  And still the world mocks.  Where, among the crowds, are we?  Weeping from a distance?  Standing near enough to hear in shock?  Or are we hiding our faces from what is happening?  Are we in a room in Jerusalem as Jesus hangs on a cross, atop a skull, outside the walls?

Where are you?  I’m weeping, but that’s what I do, I weep in His presence.  It’s how I know I’m there.