Jesus, not another like him, number twenty-five.
With Simon carrying the cross, one beaten, weakened Jesus reaches the top of Mount Calvary. A criminal on each side, our innocent Messiah is to be crucified. Mostly naked from being scourged, his bruised and bloodied arms are stretched out on the rough cross beam. . .his deeply lacerated back raw against the rugged wood. . . seven-inch long, three-eighths-inch square nails are driven through each of his wrists. The soldiers bend Jesus' knees, place his feet flat against the wood, and drive in another nail. At high noon, the soldiers raise the cross, and position its base in the hole, and drop it in with a jarring thud. Ohhhh....
Crucifixion is humiliating beyond compare, excruciating without equal. Painful hours drag by before the lungs collapse and death by suffocation eventually occurs . . . it is horrific.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there is darkness in Jerusalem--a cosmic sign that the Light of the World is about to be extinguished. From the cross, Jesus says seven telling things:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” — Luke 23:34
Now this is crazy--I guess some would call it crazy love. Jesus is asking God to forgive those who are killing him. But it does not go unnoticed, even by the criminals on the crosses on either side of him, as one realizes Jesus surely must be who he claims to be, the Son of God, Messiah. He asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom... and Jesus replies:
“Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” — Luke 23:43
Jesus in his great love and mercy made salvation so simple, so accessible, so attainable.
[Asked to do a short video capturing these words, I took to my backyard with my hens afoot, put my phone on a tripod and had this take on these merciful words of Jesus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eo-lzp2Rj8].
Up til we draw our last breath, Jesus extends his hand--no matter what we have done or who we have been before. The culture cries for social justice - huh, this is not justice, this is love and mercy; this is unadulterated grace.
At this point in his dying, I do not know how much Jesus could have moved his head or looked down at those around him, but he knew his mama was there, saying:
“Woman, behold thy Son.” — John 19:26
Jesus commended her into the care of John. Thinking of it just now - again, this is strange--Jesus had brothers who could/should take care of Mary, but it is John the beloved friend and disciple, John the gospel writer, John who will later write Revelation - it is John Jesus presses into service to take care of Mary. Hmmm...
And then as the awareness of God turning his back oh him consumes Jesus--even as our sins are upon him--the agony of his abandonment, his total alone-ness hits and Jesus cries:
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” — Mark 15:34
“I thirst.” — John 19:28
When Jesus said, “I thirst,” from the cross, He was alluding to a prophecy in Psalm 22.15: “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” There were at least 20 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the 24 hours surrounding the death of Jesus.*
“It is finished.” — John 19:30
"It is finished." "Tetelestai!" He calls out in a loud voice. " Tetelestai is a Greek expression, but everyone standing within earshot gets it--"It is finished."
You see, 'Tetelestai' when used in accounting, meant "paid in full." In fact, archaeologists have found papyrus tax receipts with the word written across them. With Jesus' dying breath, our sin was paid in full, and our debt was cancelled.
And then simply, Jesus was gone:
“Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” — Luke 23:46
Joseph of Arimathea asks for Jesus' body, and along with Nicodemus--yes, the Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin, of the Jewish aristocracy, the Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night, to whom Jesus stated you must be born again**-- they take Jesus' brutalized and blood-soaked body down from the cross. They rub his stiff arms to remove the rigor mortis, wash and prepare his body with 75+ pounds of heavily scented burial spices, wrapping it carefully in layer after layer of linen cloth. A separate napkin is carefully tied under Jesus' chin to keep his mouth from gaping after the muscles begin loosening. They work quickly . . . Jesus has to be in the tomb by sundown for two reasons: to keep the Sabbath and because the law required the executed to be buried the same day.
Apparently, this is the end of the rabbi from Nazareth. Could it be? How else, could it be, based on all that is happening?
A massive stone is rolled in place to cover the open tomb; a cord pulled across, stamped with the ominous Roman seal. A Roman guard - not one man, but 16, four who stand guard for the duration of a shift, with the remaining 12 sitting in a semicircle around the four. There is no getting past these men---their lives depend on them following their orders exactly. The tomb was not to be disturbed.
The end of Jesus for sure . . .
Except, it is not. Death does not have the final say.
In the early morning light on Sunday--what the Bible calls the third day--the women bring burial spices to finish caring for Jesus' body. However, when they get to the garden tomb, it is empty. Amazingly, the gigantic stone has been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, and even more amazingly, Jesus is gone. They are shocked. Worried and frightened, they tuck their garments around them and run to tell the disciples that the Lord has done what he said he was going to do--he has risen from the dead!
The women . . . last at the cross, and first to the tomb. Peter and John run to see for themselves and indeed the official Roman seal has been broken and the stone rolled away . . . and Jesus? He is not in the tomb. Apparently, he has risen from the dead!
Hope springs eternal! You and I would not be having this discussion if that Jesus had not emerged from the tomb . . .
If Jesus did not do what he said he would do.
The End? Of course not.
Just the beginning of eternal life ~ for you, for me.
Because Jesus rose from the grave,
death was not, is not the end.
Death will not have its hold on you or me either, Christian!
Best news ever!
** John chapter three