On a Friday, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in a solitary place called “Golgotha” (literally
meaning “the skull”), the Roman puppets of the rulers of Jerusalem crucified three men.
The pain they inflicted was no different than the hundreds of other crucifixions they had done before. The cries of the men as they sunk the nails deep into their flesh were no louder or quieter than any other crucifixion. The puppets were hardened to the cries, to the bodies writhing in agony, to the repeated requests for mercy. They had to be hard, for it was the only way they could sleep at night, the only way they could look their own children in the eyes and tell them what daddy did for a living. They took pride in the fact that their job was to expunge the filth from their society. Theirs was not to question why, nor to pronounce judgment—that had already been done. They believed that, quite simply, their job was the punishment that the criminals and low-life scum of their city deserved, and that by doing so, other questionably honest persons would know what their end would be if they decided to cross the line. They were setting the example, keeping the peace, and purging the guilty.
On this particular Friday, the speculation surrounding one of the men to be crucified had reached their ears. They tried to pay it no mind, but the thought would swirl in each of their heads: Could the rumors be true? But as fast as the disturbing thoughts came, they were dismissed. Their eyes would not betray them, for before them was a man, just a man, who bled and cried out the same as the others. There was nothing apparently different about him than any of the others. Surely if there was some truth to the rumors, it would visible.
And so in the morning on the Friday just before Passover began, they crucified three men: two criminals on either side of a would-be Jewish trouble maker. This so-called Jewish troublemaker did not say much, but His words, when He did speak, troubled his executioners and would continue to haunt them for a lifetime to come.
The first line came as they were piercing His body with the nails: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) The statement pierced through the hardness of the executioners’ hearts only momentarily as they continued to pound in the nails.
“Behold your son; behold your mother” ( John 19:26,27)
Even the executioners had soft spots for their own flesh and blood, but to take care of your loved ones, even while on a cross, interesting. The thought was fleeting as they gazed steely eyed at the woman; truly, why would such a woman have raised such a criminal in the first place?
The executioners cast lots for the Jewish troublemaker’s clothing; they figured with all the publicity this man created, the clothes would be worth something, and they should get something out of it for their efforts.
But the next statement reverberated throughout the heavens; all who heard it shivered as a long, anguished wail of, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” broke from the dying man’s lips. (Mark 27:46)
The executioners looked up long and hard at the center man of the trio, but made no comment to each other or themselves, each man was lost in his own thoughts.
The statement, “I thirst,” ( John 19:30) again thrust their minds back to the reality of a dying man’s request for drink.
Then the statement of “It is finished,” ( John 19:30) or tetelestai in the original language.
This statement drew not only the attention of the executioners, but that of the entire universe. The world would never be the same again. This was a battle cry, waiting thousands of years to be unleashed. This was a triumphant moment, but it was lost on the observers of that day. Sad to say, today it is still lost on most of us.
The final statement was, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The center man of the trio was gone. Dead.
It seemed astoundingly fast for a crucifixion, so the executioners questioned if he was really dead. One of the executioners grabbed a spear and pierced the dead man’s side to see if in fact he was really dead. The flow of blood and water gushing out of the man’s side spoke again of the fact that this was a mere mortal. They shook off the uncomfortable feelings that threatened to engulf them when they had heard the anguished wail. Even though the executioners did not voice their emotions, their furtive glances gave any interested spectator the impression that they felt as though they were not alone.
They could not know that the heavenlies, both sides, good and evil, had a vested interest in that particular day, that in fact, they were far from alone. But no one, from executioner to observer, was ready for what happened next, no one on the top of that hill would ever be the same again.(1)
The sky darkened for 3 hours, the earth started to shake, rattle and roll as an earthquake shook the ground, tombs broke open and dead people came alive, the 4” thick curtain or veil, as it was known, inside the Jewish temple was ripped in two. This was not the death of any ordinary man.
They buried this man, this Jewish trouble maker in a tomb, sealed it with a guard of soldiers and waited. No person(s) came to steal the body, no, not people at all and yet on the third day, they found the soldiers standing like dead men, trembling in fear and the rock sealing the tomb rolled away. Anyone peering into the tomb could see the grave clothes, but the body, was missing.
“Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised.” Luke 24:4-6
Death could not hold Him, because He is was no ordinary man, this was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Hallelujah – He is not dead, Jesus Christ is alive!
(1) Quote taken from "It Is Finished, Tetelestai, The Most Powerful Words Ever Spoken", Jane Wheeler copyright 2014