From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
– Matthew 27:45-54
“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses with God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”
– C. S. Lewis, Four Loves
Rather than a full discourse, I’d like to reflect, sort of bullet points, so that we might have our minds enter whatever channel God chooses.
- Billy Graham said that the cross was offensive. The Romans designed it to be offensive so that people would be afraid of the Romans.
- The Romans may have invented crucifixion or perfected it, but Jesus came to earth in the short period of history when crucifixion was used. Jesus’ death on the cross fulfills many Old Testament prophecies.
- God knew the hearts of man and knew when Jesus would die and rise again before the dawn of time. It is mapped in the stars. There was a blood moon as the moon appeared that Friday, as prophesied by Joel and affirmed during Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Truly, C. S. Lewis is correct in saying that there are no tenses with God.
- In a training exercise, I was tortured in a similar fashion to crucifixion. Nothing lethal, just having my arms over my head in a fixed position for a long time so that I would have difficulty in breathing. C. S. Lewis described it well with “repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops.” In my case, shifting to allow air into the lungs meant other forms of brief, sharp punishment were administered. A choice: Sharp brief pain or slow suffocation, just as Jesus faced. Jesus’ death was quickened by the beatings beforehand.
- On that first Good Friday, the Scripture above says that darkness came over all the land. Many have said that God, the Father, could not bear to look at Jesus with all the sins of the Saints upon Him. Outside of scientific explanations, in a Spiritual sense that could explain the darkness.
- The last verse of the Scripture is telling. Centurions and Roman guards do not frighten easily. Yet, they are frightened and claim that Jesus really was the Son of God.
Jesus paid the penalty for my sin and yours while He hung there in the dark. He asks only that we believe and trust Him with all our heart, mind, and soul in return.