Good Friday

    Good Friday

It wasn’t supposed to be this way?

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

Genesis 1:31 and 2:1-2

Found in Matthew 27:27-61, Mark 15:16-47, Luke 23:26-56 and John 19:17-42

 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.” Mark 15:16-20

YHWH Jesus King God

“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle”. John 19:17-18

“ …Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene…” John 19:25

She was there when He took His first painful breath, the heaving rise and fall of frail infant lungs filling with the stable-livestock stench of no room at the inn. The Breath of life breathing in the inhospitable scent of poverty and want.

And she is here now as He takes His last painful breath, the heaving rise and fall of tortured, bloodied lungs filling with the violent stench of human betrayal and rejection. The Breath of life breathing in the inhospitable scent of the treachery of His creation.

And her heart, all hollowed out by grief, her heart all shredded in threads and aching shards is matched and fathomed only by the grieving heart of God. Her tears mingling with tender tears of Heaven.

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She was there when He took His first painful breath, and she is here now for His last. But it is not because He is her son that He now hangs suspended between Heaven and Earth, but because He is God’s. 

God’s only beloved Son. 

In Whom He delighted.

Abraham was spared this grief, on the mountain in the region of Moriah, the grief of finding your heart all hollowed out by loss. Mary was not.

God was not.

In the same region God spared Abraham’s son, He chooses now not to spare His own¹. His only Son in whom He delighted now hangs limp on a tree He formed, pierced by iron He wrought, as human will beats nails into the flesh of Him who made them. 

And who does YHWH grieve more for this day? His Son who bears the weight of the world or His children who hurl that weight upon Him?

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No angel stayed the hand of Rome this day. This day the clouds gathered and thunder rolled and darkness covered the sun. This day Creation finally turned on its Creator. This day He hangs suspended in the no-mans-land between Heaven and Earth, crushed in the war between the darkness and the light. This day His love ran down and puddled in the dust.

This day He has been walking towards since before all time began.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews.

Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” John 19: 19- 22

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He rode into Jerusalem just a week ago as a King. Because He was one. And Pilate’s actions now proclaim it in every language of that region. Pilate who had said “What is truth?” now declares the truth of who He is. And in this Pilate, unknowing, is simply playing his part. 

There is a larger story at work, a longer story, a story older than time, and deeper than deep-space. Underneath all the noise of human circumstance there has always existed this one storyline thread. A thread that began before human existence. A thread that ends long after this world’s time is done. All the weavings of this world come and go, knotting, tearing, unravelling. But this one thread remains: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth²’, ‘and in the end He shall stand upon the earth³’ as its redeemer. Having bought it back. From the dark.

Pilate writes as an act of war to shame and subjugate the people. Jesus dies as an act of war on a darkness larger than Rome.

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There was no other way to understand it. He rode into Jerusalem that day as a King. Because He is one.

But what sort of King allows Himself to be strung up on a cross? 

Every person a week ago waving palm branch hope now slinks silent into shadow, sliding into despair as hope drains out through the cracks in their belief. This man wasn’t the first to rise and He won’t be the last4, messiahs come messiahs go and the world spins on regardless, whirling on its apathetic axis in the dark. Another prophet crushed, another revolution quelled. Another hope deferred sickening the heart.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They thought. 

As the darkness closes in.

Peter had fought. At first. He’d followed as he said he would. To the end. Of his courage. But in the night His fears betrayed him. Betrayed Him. And all his hope turned to ash around him like a Kingdom burning down. Three times he disowned Him. Three times he failed to stand. Failed to stay. With Him in the dark. And then a cock began to crow (John 18:27) ringing in Peter’s ears, and a despair began to rise, swamping all his hope. 

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And now he is nowhere to be seen. 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He thought. 

As the darkness closes in.

All the other disciples had fled and fallen and failed to stand their ground. Losing ground, losing heart, losing their bearings. Losing the path they thought they were on as it turns to dust beneath their feet blown away in the breeze. Now in hiding they curl up in foetal ball grief in the dark. Only one of Jesus twelve disciples will be with Him til the end. The end that none of them saw coming. 

The end He had repeatedly told them would come.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They thought.

As the darkness closes in.

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:33-34a

They do not know what they are doing. 

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The first humans, they did not know what they were doing, on that first day when they reached for the fruit forming poison in their veins. And these humans now, they do not know what they are doing, numb to the toxins coursing within. It seems normal, death, when we’ve only ever breathed its stench. It feels normal, darkness, when we have never known the light. And It’s so hard to see in the dark.

They do not know what they’re doing. As the darkness closes in.

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them

    and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did. John 19:23-24

They divide Him up like the spoils of war. A war between the darkness and the light. And it looks like the darkness has won. Again. It looks like the might of Rome and the will of religious pride has overpowered the Light of the World and darkness is all that is left. All that is real. A darkness that can be felt. 

It’s so hard to see in the dark. 

They do not know what they’re doing. As the darkness closes in.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!’ In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, “I am the Son of God.”’ In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”  Matthew 27:39-44

“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:35

“He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!” Mark 15:31

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And every insult they hurl at Him as ‘proof’ that He’s a fraud, is in truth the evidence of who He truly is. 

There is a larger story at work and all the passers by, Chief Priests, the Teachers of the Law and the Elders unknowingly play their part. A larger, longer story. A story older than time and deeper than deep-space. Unfolding beneath all the throws of human activity lies the true storyline thread, the story of God quietly, firmly revealing who He is and enacting all He is doing. The story of God declaring war on the dark. By moving towards it. As the Light.

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They sneer ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days5as God’s dwelling place on Earth, the temple of Him, is choosing to destroy Himself before them. For them. As they stand blind to His presence. It’s hard to see in the dark.

Like puppets on inky strings they hiss “If you are the son of God..” echoing the voice of Satan6 as Jesus the one true Son of God, gives up His life. For them. 

They mock Him saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah”. While it is because He truly is God’s Messiah that He will not save Himself. 

‘He cannot save Himself’ they scorn, as He hangs there saving them.

They don’t know what they are doing. As the darkness closes in.

And there’s one theme running through all their taunts, assuming one reality, the reality that they themselves have lived: the reality of Self- Self interest, self preservation, self first- “Save yourself”7. The temptation to put oneself at the centre rather than the will of God.

Just as there were three elements to the temptation Eve and Adam succumbed to in the first Garden8, and three temptations Christ faced in the desert9, here three times10 Jesus is invited by jeering voices, whispering hiss-on-the-wind voices, calling Him to save Himself, prove Himself, rescue Himself. And He could have11. He could have reached for His life, at the expense of ours. But He didn’t.

Just as Jesus’ temptations in the desert were preceded by attempts to undermine his identity as God’s Son12, each temptation on the cross does the same:

 “If you are the son of God…” (Matthew 27:40) 

“If you are the Christ of God…”( Luke 23:35,39) 

If you are the King of the Jews…” (Luke 23:37 )

But instead of food, power and significance, these temptations have one simple enticement:“come down from the cross” , “come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40, 42)… “Save yourself!”  “Save yourself!” “Save yourself!!!” ….(Luke 23: 35,37,39, Matthew 27:40).

Save yourself.  

Don’t die. For humankind. 

Who don’t even know what they are doing. 

Save yourself. 

As the darkness closes in. 

Save yourself. 

After all. It’s not meant to be this way.

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But though the cross is where Jesus’ war is won, it was not where His battle was fought. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane He’d already handed His life over to God, praying “yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Mark 14:35, Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42) once for every temptation of humankind in the first garden and once for every temptation now on the cross. 

It was in the Garden Jesus set His course and made His choice, and now on the cross He simply lives it. Dying.

Where Eve and Adam had lived ‘Not your will but mine…’ He now lives the opposite, pressing Himself down under the weight of all of humanity’s darkness, to give humanity the chance to choose the light. When Jesus gave Himself over fully to the will of God. He nailed His will fully to the cross.

While religious leaders stood by mocking Him, not knowing what they were doing. 

While His friends abandoned Him, because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

While Pilate washed his hands of Him, knowing He was innocent. 

While Roman soldiers jeered at Him, assuming they held power.

While darkness closed around Him, presuming it had won. 

While she, His mother stands nearby. 

Unable to save Him. 

From His choice. 

To save her. 

To save them. 

To save us. 

To save every human being that ever walked the earth.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19: 25-27

She was there when He took His first painful breath and she is here now for His last. His last breath filled with the pain of a broken world; breaking His body, breaking His heart. Breaking the law of sin and death. Breaking the chains of darkness. Breaking the veil between Heaven and Earth.

Here she stands- as His life ebbs away, her mothers heart holding memories of angel’s messages, shepherd’s stories and Wise men’s gifts- and all the hopes she’d had that she would never see this day. 

No parent wants to bury their own child. First.

She was there when He took His first painful breath, and she is here now for His last. But it is not because He is her son that He now hangs suspended between Heaven and Earth. But because He is God’s. 

God’s only beloved Son. 

In Whom He delights.

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). Mark 15:33-34

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She watches His last attempt to speak. As He, the water of life. Thirsts. She watches His last rise and fall of lungs as He, the Breath of Life, struggles to breathe.

And His words sound like the words of a child lost in the dark. The words of defeat, longing for comfort. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’. It sounds like abandonment. It seems like despair. As Jesus’ life drains out, has His hope seeped out also? Does He know what He is doing? 

And dark clouds smother the light of the sun, and tears fall from heavens heart, as Creation crucifies its Creator, as all is lost in grief and despair and darkness. It looks like darkness has won. Again. It looks like the might of Rome and the will of religious pride has overpowered the Light of the world. And darkness is all that is left. All that is real. This darkness closing in. A darkness that can be felt. It’s so hard to see in the dark.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. 

Was it? 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 Why are you so far from saving me,

 so far from my cries of anguish?

 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

 by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the one Israel praises.

In you our ancestors put their trust;

they trusted and you delivered them.

To you they cried out and were saved;

in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,

scorned by everyone, despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

they hurl insults, shaking their heads.

‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say,

‘let the Lord rescue him.

Let him deliver him,

since he delights in him.’

Yet you brought me out of the womb;

you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.

From birth I was cast on you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me;

strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions that tear their prey

open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water,

and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;

it has melted within me.

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.

Dogs surround me,

a pack of villains encircles me;

they pierce my hands and my feet.

All my bones are on display;

people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my clothes among them

and cast lots for my garment…

Psalm 22:1-18

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They didn’t know what they were doing.

But He did.

They thought it wasn’t meant to be this way. They thought they were in control. They thought they could see, in the dark. But there has always been a larger story at work than any human being there that day could comprehend. A longer story. A story older than time, deeper than deep-space. The story of all that God was doing and all that God has done. 

This Psalm (Psalm 22) quoted by Jesus from the cross, describes Jesus’ experience from the inside. But it was written centuries before this day, centuries before Roman occupation, centuries before crucifixion was practiced. Psalm 22 sang the song of this moment long before this moment dawned in time. And this song, it doesn’t end in the dark, but concludes with the description of a battle won, a triumphant cry and a people yet unborn being told the news. The news Of a Kingdom. The news of a King. God is King once more. On Earth as He is in Heaven!

“….All the ends of the earth

 will remember and turn to the Lord,

and all the families of the nations

 will bow down before him,

for dominion belongs to the Lord

and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him –

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!

Psalm 22: 27-31

He has done it. Just as it was written, centuries before. Just as it was sung, from then until now. 

They didn’t know what they were doing. 

But He did.

It was always going to be this way. 

Jesus’ death on the Cross is God’s triumphant act of war confronting the principalities and powers of darkness in this world13.

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When God said in the first Garden ‘if you eat of this fruit you will surely die’… we did, in the end. But He didn’t say what it meant for Him… He didn’t say that He would also surely die. With us. For us. When we took our life into our own hands, we took His life into our hands. His life. He didn’t speak about how His hands would gash wide open nailed to our wilfulness. How our freedom would drip red from His side. He didn’t say what it meant for Him. He didn’t say that it was personal. To Him. 

And yet He gave it freely: our free choice, our volition. 

And His life. 

The life of His beloved Son. 

This is what it meant when God bound Himself to humankind with a promise. This is what covenant faithfulness means. This is what love means. This is what love costs. 

He has always and only every been the lamb who was slain before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8) the giver of grace before all time began (2 Timothy 1:9).

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It wasn’t just nails that held Him to the cross. He chose it; Choosing us. 

If God was to keep His commitment to bless humankind in the first Garden, He had to release us first from the curse our choice to walk away from Him forged in that first Garden, and every garden of decision ever after. We lost our way, lost our place, lost our humanity to the lie that we were not enough without more… more of everything we reach for that is not Him.

Within humanity’s curse that day in that first Garden long ago, there had been a hidden message. Folded into the words of loss were hid the words of hope…

‘So the Lord God said to the serpent, 

“Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock

    and all wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly

    and you will eat dust

    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.

Genesis 3:14-15 (emphasise added)

The word ‘offspring’ also means seed. Buried in these words of loss lay a seed of hope planted from before all time began, a holy seed that would one day become the shoot of a sawn off stump (Isaiah 6:13), a tender shoot growing in dry ground (Isaiah 53:1-3). A seed that will fall to the ground and die (John 12:24) and in doing so create abundant new life (Matthew 13:31-32). A seed that will suffer and be struck on the heel by death (Genesis 3:14-15) only to turn death on its head, undoing its power (Hebrews 2:14) and freeing all who were bound by it.

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To be the one to stamp on the serpent’s head, He had to be the seed that falls to the ground and dies. And the shadow of the serpent lurks in the darkness now. raising its fangs large to gash Him wide open, as the Prince of Peace goes to war on everything that binds us. By dying. 

It was always going to be this way.

“This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled…”John 19:24

“knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled” John 19:28

“These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled” John 19:36

We didn’t know what we were doing. But He did.  

The author of the Gospel of John, repeats it again and again like a refrain, so we won’t miss the point, “so that the scripture would be fulfilled”. It was always going to be this way. 

He knew. The story Jesus lived was written down from before time began. The story He lived that makes sense of every word He spoke, every action He took, and every nail that split Him open. We are all part of an old story, older than time, deeper than deep-space, wider than a Universe of light. 

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He is the lamb replacing Abraham’s son…

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son…’ 

…So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:8,14

He is the blood of the Passover lamb over Israel’s doorway to freedom…

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 15:13

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” 1 Peter 1:18-20

He is the blood of the covenant sprinkled on the people…

“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Exodus 24:8

“so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him.” Isaiah 52:15

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28

“Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24

He is the blood of the sin offering redeeming Israel from their iniquity (Leviticus 4)…

  “and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin…                                             

…For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.   

Isaiah 53:10 and 12

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.” Romans 3:25

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He is the suffering servant of whom the Prophet spoke…

“Surely he took up our pain

    and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

    stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.” 

Isaiah 53:4-6

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It was always going to be this way.

More than 15 prophecies foretold it.14

Countless Biblical stories foreshadowed it.15

Eleven Psalm references described it.16

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The tear began there, in the first garden, the moment humankind chose to remove YHWH from the throne of their hearts allowing every form of darkness to rush into the void, and ended here, at the foot of the cross, where human will fuelled by darkness removes God incarnate from the earth, finishing the job they began at the beginning of time. 

But God’s love for us did not begin at the beginning of time. And did not end when we dethroned Him in our hearts. And He did not give up on us when the darkness flooded in. He knew what He was doing. Before the genesis of our breath He had planted His feet ready for impact and planted grace before all time began (2 Timothy 1:9). Before the darkness fell, before we fell, His arms were ready, wide open to catch us. Just as they are this day as He hangs on the cross. As far as the east is from the west…

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

Psalm 103:11-12

While we didn’t know what we were doing.

Before time began. Before humankind began. Grace was there waiting for us because the cross was there waiting for Him.

The long story of this spinning world is the long story of God’s purposeful walk through the deserts of time to this moment. This moment where love and justice collide. We don’t understand God’s love and we don’t understand God’s justice until we understand the cross as the direct result of humankind’s forsaking both, and the direct result of God’s passionate unending commitment to the restoration of humankind. Jesus’ death on the Cross is God’s confrontation with all the darkness in this world that binds us17. And His victory over it by taking in onto Himself. 

 It was always going to be this way.

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With His death Jesus now bears the unfathomable burden of every sin that every human being has ever committed or ever will commit; the murders, the genocides, the holocausts, the abuses, the corruption, the greed, the selfishness, the little white lies. He will become it all. He will become our sin. For us. In exchange for us. Just as the ram was given by God replacing Isaac on the alter; Just as the blood of the passover lamb protected Israel from death; Just as the offerings in the temple became the sins of the people, ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He who knows no sin became our sin and in so doing became separated from God. God rejecting His beloved Son. Whom He loves. So He can welcome us. 

While we didn’t know what we were doing.

And Jesus, He feels it all now like a weight, like a world on His shoulders, bearing down on Him with all the sin and shame of all that we lost when we reached beyond Him for our own desire, for our own will. 

For our own destruction. 

For His.

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“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining”. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last”. Luke 23:44-46 

“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Mark 15:37-38

Darkness closes in, a darkness that can be felt, a darkness now covering the ‘the whole land’ just as it had in the beginning (Genesis 1:2). 

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At three in the afternoon, when the Temple sacrifice is being carried out, the Breath of life breathes out His last.

He has done it. It is finished. The curtain in the temple separating God and human beings is torn from top to bottom. This inches thick barrier that separated the Holy of Holies from humankind, separated God and human beings; this curtain originally woven with the cherubim18 like the ones guarding the Garden of Eden19 where humans had once dwelt intimately with God. This curtain is torn in two. From the top down. The way back to intimate friendship with God is opened.

Jesus long walk to the cross is done. 

He has done it. It is finished.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. John 19:28-29

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”” John 19:30

This statement “It is finished” is just one single word in the New testament scriptures (teleō). It is a word often written on an invoice after it had been paid in full20 but it also carries the meaning ‘it is fulfilled’, ‘it is accomplished’ or ‘It is completed’21, very similar to the old testament word (Kalah) used to describe the completion of God’s work long ago on day six of the first Creation week .

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Genesis 1:31 and 2:1-2

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The author of the gospel of John had begun his Gospel with “In the beginning..” as though it was the creation account all over again. 

Because it was.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

On that sixth day of the creation week in the garden long ago, God’s love had led Him to spill Himself over into mud, to pour His life, His Breath into the mud of us. We breathed in His Breath and lived for the first time on the sixth day, in that garden long ago.

And on the sixth day God’s work was finished. He had completed all His creation work. And He rested. On the seventh day. In the beginning.

And now darkness covers the earth, as God incarnate is lifted up on the cross. 

And He, through rasping lungs once more says He has finished His work. On this Good friday. The sixth day of the week. 

It is the sixth day of the week. Again. And God’s love has led Him to spill Himself over into mud, again; to pour out His life, His Breath out for the mud of us. 

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

Silence fills the air, no longer filled with His rasping breath. Darkness fills the sky as the light of the sun stops shining. And the Light of the world extinguishes.

Silence. 

Like the day we began. 

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The authors of the synoptic Gospels write of this moment using common phrases used to describe the moment of death. But John doesn’t. 

In writing “gave up his spirit.” John uses the verb “paradidōmi” which we translate ‘gave up’. But more fully this word means to ‘hand over’ and nowhere in Greek literature is it used to refer to death (paradidomi to pneuma). The verb paradidomi doesn’t mean to give something up so much as to hand something over to a successor22, to ‘give into the hands (of another)’ or to ‘deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of’ or ‘manage’.23

John writes that Jesus handed over His Spirit to a successor. He gave His spirit. 

The word translated as ‘spirit’- ‘pneuma’24 also means breath.

He gave His Spirit. Again.

He gave His Breath. Again.

Just as He had. In that Garden long ago. 

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There was a silence when we began. The quiet rise and fall of lungs filling with air, the whispered hush of a breath drawn in and a breath exhaled.

We didn’t begin with a loud bang. We didn’t begin with a “Let there be- and it was so”. We didn’t begin with words at all. 

We began with mud.

And breath.

And the intentional heart of God.

The cross wasn’t the end of Him. 

It was the new beginning of us.

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On this new sixth day, the future of humankind is being re-claimed and re-formed out of the mud we’d let ourselves become.

From the moment He spoke light into the dark, from the moment He spoke life into the world, from the very first breath He put in human lungs, this moment was always going to come. The moment Creation would turn on its Creator. The moment the Creator would turn our betrayal into our redemption. The restoration of our Breath. His Breath. In us.

The same Breath that whispered the Universe into existence, the Breath that first breathed our limpness into life, filling our emptiness with fullness, our asphyxiation with air; that Breath once given at the beginning of all things, is now twice given at the beginning of new things. 

That same Breath that birthed stars into being, heaved out hard through burning lungs at Calvary, now breathes brand new His breath in you, and you have the choice to live. New. You have the chance to be. New.

His broken heart became the restoration of yours and mine.

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” John 19:31-37

Everyone involved in His death this day, Pilate, the soldiers, the Chief Priests, the Teachers of the Law, the Elders…they thought they had taken His life from Him. They thought they were in control. They thought they knew what was going on.

But they didn’t know what they were doing.

They didn’t know what He was doing. 

They thought they were taking His life from Him, they didn’t know He gave it freely: His Life, His Breath, His Spirit.

Just as He did in the beginning.

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Mary, She was there when He took His first painful breath, and she is here now for His last. And her heart, all hollowed out by grief, her heart all shredded in threads and aching shards is matched and fathomed only by the grieving heart of God. 

It was not because He was her son that He hung suspended between Heaven and Earth, but because He is God’s. 

God’s only beloved Son. 

In Whom He delighted.

Given for us. 

This is how we know Him, this God. This is how we see His face. Not just in the might of the whirling stars, not in the thunder of the raging storm, not in roar of the ocean waves, but in this moment. This moment in time when He broke Himself for us. In this act we know the face of God, we recognise Him for the first time.

This God who became known to us by the breaking of Himself for us. 

Here on the cross we see God’s face and know His heart more intimately and transparently than in any other moment of history and more completely than in any other message of Scripture. 

It was personal. To Him. Always was. 

This is the face of God. The face of the One who loved the world so much that He gave…a whole Universe of light…and His only Son. God’s face looking for ours. 

From the cross.

“Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! 

See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, 

the Root of David, has triumphed. 

He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, 

standing at the center of the throne, …

 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

    and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

    and with your blood you purchased for God

    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests 

to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 

Revelation 5:5-6, 9-10

He has done it.

It is finished.

It has begun…

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves”. 

Colossians 1:13

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Journey Further

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness

and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves”. 

Colossians 1:13

What does your heart want to say to God?

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References Notes and Credits 

1 Genesis 22:2 Isaac was offered in sacrifice on a mountain in the region of Moriah. Jerusalem was built on mount Moriah (2nd Chronicles 3:1) in the same region. 

2 Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’

3 Job 19:25 ‘I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.’

4 There were ‘numerous popular messianic movements’ in this period of Jewish History. Wright, Tom, ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ SPCK 1996, Part 3, Chapter 11 ‘Jesus And Israel: The Meaning of Messiahship’ pg 482

5 Matthew 27:40

6 Matthew 4:3

7 Luke 23: 35,37,39, Matthew 27:40

8 Adam and Eve, they had let the darkness in, pulled by the threefold enticements of their hunger for beauty, their appetite for good food and their thirst for the subtle power knowledge brings. (Genesis 3:6) “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

9 Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13

10 Luke 23:35, 36-37 and 39, Matthew 27:39, 42 and 43, and Mark 15: 29, 31 and 32. 

11 Matthew 26:53-54

12  Matthew 4:3,6 and Luke 4:3,9

13 Colossians 2:13-15

14 Betrayal and Crucifixion references in the Prophets: Zechariah 11:12-13,12:10  Isaiah 50:6, Isaiah 52:15, 53:7,9, 5-12 

15 Biblical Stories that foreshadow the Cross: Genesis 3:14-15, Genesis 22,  Exodus 12:46, Exodus 24: 8, (The story of Jonah) Matthew 12:40, (there are more).

16 Betrayal and Crucifixion references in the Psalms 22:1,7-8,16,18; 41:9; 34:20; 35:11,19;  69:4,21; 109:4

17 Colossians 2:13-15

18 Exodus 26:1,31 and 36:8,35

19 Genesis 3:24

20 Wright, Tom, ‘John For Everyone’ SPCK

21 Renn, Stephen D.“Expository Dictionary of Bible Words”, Hendrickson Publishers 

22 Burge,Gary M., ‘The NIV Application Commentary’, Page 529, Zondervan 

23 The Blue Letter bible using Strong’s G3860 – paradidōmi

24 The new testament word ‘pneuma’ is the equivalent of the old testament word ‘Ruah’ and can mean spirit, life or breath.

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

All photos are taken by myself (Liz Campbell) unless otherwise specified below.

All photographs of some baby lambs in green pasture  by Simeon Evenhuis

All photos of stars and galaxies are used with grateful thanks to the NASA,  STSCI, Hubble Heritage, ESA and AURA Team. Use of these images is in the public domain. Hubblesite.org

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