October 20, 2017

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies On The Cross

Scripture

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:45-54, The Message. See also Mark 15: 33-39, Luke 23: 44-49, John 19: 28-30, John 6: 41-58, Matthew 7: 12.)

Meditation

Dead. He is dead. He has taken his last breath into his lungs. His heart no longer beats. His body is dead. His life is over.

The Jewish religious leaders who have gathered at the cross are satisfied that finally this rebel, this man who refused to follow the laws and traditions that have held the people in check for centuries, is no more. His words are silenced. He won’t be performing any more tricks the people took as “miracles.” He won’t be calling into question the faith of the Pharisees. He is dead. Good ridance.

Jesus was more than just an embarrassment to the Pharisees. He threatened to upset their control over the people of Israel. Without a well-defined balance of power, the people would not know what to do in order to please God. They were sinners even on the best of days. The Pharisees worked hard to keep these people in line, to keep them from saying and doing things that offend God. They provided detailed instructions for the people so they would have no question as to what they were to do.

Then Jesus came on the scene and said, “If you want to please God, follow me. Act toward others the way you want them to act toward you.” This was all well and good, but he went further. “The only commandments you need to remember are Love God and Love Others.” This was dangerous stuff. Without all of the details, how were people supposed to know if they were loving God enough? They needed details!

And then Jesus went completely over the edge. “Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.” What kind of crazy talk was this? It would not have been responsible on the part of the religious leaders to let Jesus continue to mislead the people. They were the responsibility of the Pharisees. It was their duty before God to keep the people from radicals like Jesus. They were doing a religious act by having Jesus put to death. And now that he was dead, things could finally get back to normal.

But what was this? A strange darkness had fallen over the land. It was as black as night. Someone came running from the Temple—the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the view of the people had been torn in half. Then the earth shook violently. What was happening? It couldn’t be this second-rate teacher, Jesus. He was dead. There was no doubt. He was dead.

Someone else came running up to the Pharisees. Graves were opened up in the earthquake, and many who had died were now rising from their tombs. What was this strange magic? What was happening?

One thing they knew: It wasn’t Jesus. Jesus was dead. Finally.

Action

It is not easy to see Jesus as dead. We are ok talking about the trip to Golgotha. We speak of the horror of the crucifixion. Then we want to hurry on to the resurrection. We are uncomfortable with anyone’s death, but especially that of the Son of God. How could God be dead? This is a mystery too much for us to handle. But handle it we must. Take time today to meditate on the fact that Jesus actually died. What all does death entail? How is it we fight so hard to postpone death as long as possible, but Jesus embraced it as his mission?

Prayer

Father, I do not understand how Jesus, very God of very God, could actually die. And yet this was the plan from the very beginning. Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And he died to satisfy the debt I owed but could not pay. As I embrace his death, may I too die so that the life that I live is the resurrected life of Jesus.

Holy Spirit, today may I not rush past the death of Jesus, but ponder it deep within. For until I grasp the depth of what it means for Jesus to have died, I will not be able to rejoice in the resurrection.

Chorus

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Comments

  1. And all of our striving, and all of our efforts, and all of our virtuous works to justify ourselves in the sight of God were put to death, right there with Him.

  2. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to write this prayerfully and carfully. You have blessed my day tremendously. He is risen!

  3. A good meditation as we are now in Holy Week and facing into the Triduum starting on Good Friday.

    Today is Spy Wednesday, so called in Ireland because it is traditionally held to be the day Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin, as this verse quoted in Geoffrey Keating’s 1634 “History of Ireland” attests:

    “Wednesday Judas transgressed his order,
    following demons vengeful-fierce;
    Wednesday he became eager for treasure;
    Wednesday he betrayed Jesus the exalted.”

    May we all receive the graces of this week.

  4. What I noticed was the Pharisees (the church leaders) thought that killing Jesus was a good thing—protecting their flock from being lead astray?
    How often do church leaders still fall into this trap instead of listening and following Jesus?

  5. Praise the Lord for Jesus being risen,