Six Hours One Friday: The Ultimate Sacrifice is Made
- 2005 13 Dec
Editor's Note: "Creed" is an ongoing article series that discusses the core beliefs of Christianity as expressed in the Apostle's and Nicene creeds. Links to other installments are listed at the end of this article.
Much had occurred since Jesus had dined with His disciples for that final Seder meal, a meal we commonly refer to as “The Last Supper.” In a matter of a very few hours, He’d been arrested, taken to the Sanhedrin, talked to Pilate, hauled off to Herod’s, and then returned to Pilate. He had been questioned, mocked, beaten, and brutally tortured. His beloved Peter had denied even knowing Him, much less following Him.
More importantly, He had been rejected and condemned to die. After being led up to a hill known as “The Place of the Skull,” He was crucified between two thieves with only a handful of His loved ones about Him, mostly women—including His mother, Mary. The only one of The Twelve who’d followed Him up to Calvary was John. (Sometimes I wonder what the moments after John reunited with the remaining 10 was like, don’t you?)
Six to Nine
All the before mentioned occurred between the very early morning hours on Friday and 9 a.m.. According to John’s gospel, Jesus was condemned at 6 in the morning (19:14). Three hours later, He was nailed to a Roman Cross. Mark’s gospel says: It was the third hour when they crucified him. (15:25) It was now 9:00.
This is significant. According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, 9:00 was “the time of the daily sacrifice of the morning, at which the priests ought to have been; and the time when the Sanhedrim usually began to sit.” (emphasis, mine.)
And so, at 9 on that Friday morning, the ultimate sacrifice began. This was no ordinary sacrifice. This was God sacrificing Himself in order to bring His creation back to Himself.
Nine to Noon to Three
According to Matthew, after Jesus experienced three hours of suffering and dying, the world began to grow dark. From the sixth hour to the ninth hour, darkness came over all the land, his gospel reads.
Why? Because the “Light of the World” was dying.
Genesis 1:3 tells us that God separated the light from the darkness, creating the first day. Yet it is not until the 14th verse (and the fourth day) that God created the sun and the moon. So then what (or who) was the light?
John opens his gospel with these words:
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 men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (Emphasis, mine)
There is little doubt, even with only these two sections of Scripture, that the Light of the World is Jesus, Himself. The Light was dying. And so, darkness filled the earth, which fulfilled the prophesy found in Amos 8:9: And in that day-[this is] the declaration of the Lord God-I will make the sun go down at noon; I will darken the land in the daytime.
Can you imagine those three hours? We know what it’s like to have a dark cloud suddenly enter our sunshiny world in the middle of a glorious afternoon. Everything grows dark and—usually—windy. It’s as if God has hidden His face. Now imagine that same scene, but this time picture yourself near the cross, watching your Beloved die.
Every second must have seemed an eternity.
Eternity was suspended in the balance.
Nearing the 9th Hour
Three hours of darkness. Six hours of agony. And one magnificent moment was about to occur. The temple veil, which had separated man from God’s Holiness, miraculously tore from top to bottom.
The NIV Life Application Bible has the following explanation: This significant event symbolized Christ’s work on the cross. The temple had three parts: the courts for all the people; the Holy Place, where only priests could enter; and the Most Holy Place, where the high priest alone could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the people. It was in the Most Holy Place that the Ark of the Covenant, and God’s presence with it, rested. The curtain that was torn was the one that closed off the Most Holy Place from view. At Christ’s death, the barrier between God and man was spit in two. Now all people can approach God directly through Christ (Hebrews 9:1-14; 10:19-22).
Matthew gives us an even more vivid description of Jesus’ final moments on the cross: Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. (27:51)
Jesus, weak beyond measure and standing at death’s door, draws up enough strength of shout, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” With these words, He breathed His last breath.
The Son of God, as a human being, had died.
Life Application Bible New International Version, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois AND Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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