It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (Luke 23:44, 45 ESV)
Supernatural events surrounded Jesus’ crucifixion. It was the day that Hell leveraged all it had to do all it could, and failed. Jesus could, and would be killed, but he would not be stopped. He would not stay dead. His life would be the catalyst for the hope of humanity and his death would be the event that would change human destiny forever.
Darkness covered Jerusalem that day. The huge curtain that separated the priests from God fell into two pieces. Dead people left their tombs and wandered the area. It was a significant day.
Evil things were meant for mankind. Satan’s schemes had reached their apex. Jesus would die. But the apparent victory was actually defeat.
The Father had always known the Son would need to die for humanity. He had ordained it since before the foundations of the earth. He had whispered it into the hearts of prophets for thousands of years.
The light of the world hung upon a cross, and the world went dark. Earthquakes happened. People believed. And people have never stopped believing.
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?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV)
Have you ever felt forsaken? Perhaps you have. It’s that wretched feeling you get when someone you have absolute trust in has abandoned you. But being forsaken is more than just a feeling of abandonment. It is an action. It is being walked away from. It is having someone turn their back on you in a moment of absolute need.
Jesus needed God the Father for instruction, encouragement, and support. But just in the moment when Jesus’ need was greatest God was out of his reach. It sounds absolutely horrible doesn’t it? If that were how the story ended it truly would be horrible.
You see, Jesus became the recipient of all human sin, for every person for all of history—past, present, and future. He accepted all of it onto himself. And then he placed himself between us and God the Father. Being a perfect man, in perfect communion with God, he was accustomed to a direct line of communication with God. However, sin interrupted that. Our sin.
As Jesus took the sin of the world, he isolated himself from the glory of God Almighty. God did not forsake Jesus out of anger, malice, or disgust. And he doesn’t turn his back on you or I when we find ourselves making poor decisions. No, God forsook the sin that Christ had recieved—sin which exacted its price upon the Son of God. Jesus was momentarily forsaken, but he was not forgotten. Today, the children of God stand in a place made ready by the sacrifice of Christ. A place where Scripture declares that we are neither forsaken nor forgotten.
I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (Psalm 22:17, 18 ESV)
so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, (John 19:24 ESV)
One thousand years before the birth of Christ David foretold some explicit details of our savior’s murder. He saw the nature of the bloody scourging which would leave him bloodied and exposed. He saw that the executioners would cast lots for the Messiah’s clothing.
David was far from a perfect man or king, but he was called a “man after God’s own heart.” Not because of his perfection, but in-spite of his imperfections. David was a guy that had the ability to overcome his own hangups and follow God’s will for his life. David wasn’t perfect, but God used him to prophecy about the coming of another king—a perfect king.
David’s prophecies came true. Jesus was scourged until his ribs and bones were exposed. It was horrible. He was killed on the cross, and his murderers gambled for his clothing. And while the specific details of Christ’s death are gruesome and tragic, the end result is glorious, and beautiful. That God would use imperfect people to point ahead to the perfect one, sent to rescue us from our imperfection, is pretty incredible!
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV)
The Romans crucified Jesus with at least two other criminals. One of those hurled insults, but the other recognized his guilt and asked Christ for mercy. Jesus responded by declaring that the man would be in Paradise with him that very day.
When Jesus speaks it is true. The Bible itself is often referred to as the Word of God. Jesus is called at the beginning of John’s Gospel the Word made flesh. Jesus words are always true. They were true when first uttered some 2,000 years ago. They are true today, and still so tomorrow.
When Jesus says “You will be,” then you will be. It’s a certainty. What is it you can hear him saying in your soul?
You will be….
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34a ESV)
“Ignorance is bliss” may be one of the more reckless idioms of this age. But the effects of uninformed action stretch across the destiny of man. Jesus had compassion on his murderers not because of their ignorance, but because of their actions.
Being ignorant, or devoid of knowledge pertaining to something, is not a sin. If such were the case we would all be in a lot of trouble, especially me. But when the lack of knowledge or wisdom carries over to sinful disobedience we are without excuse for our actions.
Jesus prayed a prayer for his tormentors from the cross. He clenched nail-pierced hands and raised his bloodied brow, adorned by broken thorns, to heaven—praying a declarative prayer of intercession. There upon the cross he began the work of interceding on our behalf with the Father.
The sin of man killed Christ. Committing a murder he was born for. And in his death he forgave those who killed him. Because only Jesus could excuse the inexcusable.
A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:29 ESV)
I remember reading the crucifixion story early in my teens and thinking that the executioners had decided to show a measure of mercy to Jesus by offering him wine. Later in life I learned better. That action was not one borne out of kindness, compassion, or mercy.
The Romans had developed a crude system of public toilets, basically just holes to sit on. The poor would capitalize on the opportunity for income by carrying sponges on sticks. They would dip them in sour wine and offer to clean the fecal waste from those using the public restroom for an extremely small fee. This is the same type of sponge which was offered to Jesus.
He came and lived blameless, sinless, and clean. The final hours of his life were marked with horrors, shame, and violence—and one final showing of apparent mercy turned out to really just be a sickening act of disrespect and contempt. No, Jesus was shown no measure of mercy or kindness by his captors.
Not only did Christ take on sin. Not only did he receive a beating, be he was horribly mutilated. He was deeply shamed. He was even force fed the equivalent of ancient toilet water. It was the culmination of all that Hell could muster. An attempt to mire the Son of God in the lowest muck of man. The kindness of Christ crucified by the cruelty of man.
But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” (Matthew 27:49 ESV)
Elijah was an Old Testament prophet that took part in some truly remarkable things. But he was just a man. The second Book of Kings records his story. He had a miracle-filled ministry which only ended when he was called away into heaven by a flaming chariot. Pretty intense stuff.
As Jesus called out to God from the cross he was experiencing a truly incomprehensible moment. It was the only time in the history of the cosmos that God would turn his back on someone. Jesus had taken on all sin, and God couldn’t bear the sight of it. Bus as Jesus called out the people nearby misunderstood him. They thought he called for Elijah.
Why would they make such a big mistake? Was it a language issue, an issue of misinterpreted mission, or something else? I think it was something else.
All along people had misrepresented Jesus as a common prophet who did uncommon things. But he was more. He was God with us. So when he cried out they interpreted his cries with the same mistaken lens through which they had come to believe that he would be a military conqueror. He was speaking of sin and God, and they were concerned with a prophet that had lived nearly 700 years before.
The Jews weren’t really waiting for the messiah. They weren’t ready for Jesus. They were ready for someone that could fit into their well-defined job roles. He never came. So, even as they were crucifying their king—they were waiting on Elijah”