Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Human Experience Distilled: Jesus' Words on the Cross

I just got a new job!  Thus, working in a classroom all day means I come home pooped.  Hence, it has been a while since I blogged.  So, here we go.

I think we have explored quite thoroughly how Jesus understands us so well, having experienced all of the human realm of loss, abuse, rejection, joy, sorrow and yearning. 

It is interesting to me how Jesus' words on the cross so encapsulate the human experience.  Let us stand at the foot of the cross and listen to His heart-rending words. 

 Let's start with Matthew's account: 

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.”

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. (27:45-53)

Even at Jesus' greatest need, no one really understood Him.  He was truly isolated from the human community at the most vulnerable, most frightening and the most painful time in His life.  He endured mockery from the leaders and some of the people there; someone thought He needed an analgesic; others thought He was calling upon Elijah.

They were all wrong. 

Darkness engulfed the land. Had the mockers and the leaders fled earlier on, as the darkness descended?  Were they now afraid, witnessing something that even they, in all their supposed wisdom, could not explain?  

Jesus released His spirit unto His Father.  The work was done; salvation was secured.  But just like the animal God killed for Adam and Eve's covering, to the many slaughtered creatures in the Temple whose blood covered the people's sins, Jesus' eyes were lifeless.  

But all around Him was life!  The Temple was no longer a segregated place where only certain people could go in; everyone could now approach God because of the blood flowing down from the now deceased Savior.  Light flooded into the Holy of Holies and God's life flowed out, transforming dead humanity into sons and daughters who would dwell with the living God.

The earth seconded this message of new life:  No longer a still silent spectator to the drama on the hill, it quaked and the dead left their newly opened tombs.  Soon like the disciples, who were to tarry in Jerusalem for the bestowal of the Spirit upon them to empower them, the dead also waited until Jesus resurrected, to show what new life really meant:  life here and life in the hereafter. 

With the lifeless Savior placed in a borrowed tomb, He experienced separation from His beloved Father.  Death does that.  It takes away those we love, and creates a never-ending longing for reunion; Jesus faced that as well as did His Father.  

But this despised, lonely, abused and broken Son burst to new life three days later.  Satan could no longer laugh in the cemeteries; he was silenced when that stone rolled away.

The broken One became the Risen One; we too, will share in that part of Jesus' story.  He walked into our story; we will one day walk into that final chapter of His life over death.  We will enter into eternity and worship His Father.   

It is interesting that Luke adds another detail that Mark and Matthew do not: Jesus' death on the cross shows its power already in progress when Jesus invites the believing thief, who has shown an open heart to His message, to join Him in paradise.  If Jesus, even at His most helpless, could offer salvation to a willing soul, how much more now does He offer it as the Son crowned in heaven? 

Even at our most helpless, the Son still reaches out to us thieves, dying of our own sin and desperate to believe in Someone beyond ourselves.

John adds a final detail to Jesus' words on the cross, that ring down through the ages and pulls us out of the miry clay and puts our feet on higher ground: "It is finished."

Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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