The story is a familiar one mixed with sadness and joy. My heart never grows weary of reading it and I often place myself in the setting, allowing myself to walk through the last days with the Savior, before His death. There was no other way that it could go … in order for us to have freedom from our sins. It was the only way.
We watch as He agonizes in the garden praying, all the while His friends are asleep. He faces Judas and the betrayal “kiss” while the disciples stand watching. He goes before Pilate and endures a decree that He will be put to death. And He is crucified. Alone … alone … alone.
On the night of the crucifixion, all hope seemed lost. Darkness abounded. An innocent Savior was given up to selfish, sinful mankind, and pain and suffering was His, as He hung on a cross, deserted by His disciples and by His Heavenly Father. It had to be that way. For the sins of men to be covered, for God to have a bridge between us and Him, Jesus had to pay the cost.
Luke 23:43 tells us it was 6:00 and darkness came over the whole land until 9:00, and the “sun stopped shining.” Perhaps you’re like many of us who are living in Minnesota’s dreadful winters. Days go by and the sun does not shine. Night passes its baton to the morning. But without sun, and with snow, it seems dismal as weeks pass into months. During those hours, because a dark veil of blackness signifying death, sin, sorrow, torment and persecution, all hung heavy in the air, in the dark bleakness of something so far more dreary than winter.
Watching His Son die for us, God does not come to His Son’s rescue, for it must be done for us to have eternal life. It was the only way. But God does something wonderful by speaking to us through His beautiful actions regarding the veil in the Holy Temple.
The large blue, purple and scarlet curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, an inner room in the temple that symbolized God’s presence, was the barrier between God and man, and now God tore it from top to bottom (Mk. 15:38). Historians think that this veil was 60-80 feet high.
No man could say that a human had done this. This curtain separated man from God. Only once a year the High Priest was allowed to enter into God’s presence to make atonement for the sins of Israel.
For whatever reason, the words of Christ, before His crucifixion, didn’t seem to be retained in the memory banks of His followers. When He was still with them in Galilee, He told them He would be given up to sinful men to be crucified, and on the third day He would be raised up. They didn’t remember His words, and so they succumbed to the horrific grief of how death holds one captive. Darkness falls to night, and the darkness and nighttime continue for them. There is no hope … or so they believe.
But three days later, just after sunrise, Mary (the mother of Jesus), and Mary Magdalene take spices to anoint Jesus’ body, only to find an angel who tells them “He has risen!”
Darkness is over. Death has been defeated. Hope is restored.
A vertical curtain has been torn and replaced with a horizontal bridge of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord.
What amazing hope … what glorious victory … what wonderful encouragement that things may look bleak at night … but joy comes with the morning!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
(photo courtesy of Alexis A. Iskierka)