The Cry from the Cross

by Apr 6, 2012

Most of us have heard the Easter story many times before. It’s familiar. Predictable. Maybe even boring.

But we can’t allow the beauty and horror of this passage to get lost just because it’s so familiar to us.The king of the universe … was killed! This humble, compassionate servant was executed.

When the gospel writers tell the story of Good Friday and Easter, they don’t just want to convey historical facts. They want us to feel the weight of these facts. They want us to see the eternal significance of these facts.

A Day of Darkness

In Mark’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus, it says, “When the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” (Mark 15:33)

All the most important events of the death of Jesus take place in the dark. Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the dark. He was put on trial in the dark. Now Jesus is being crucified, and it’s dark again … in the middle of the day! Just when the sun should be shining the brightest.

Darkness has always been associated with the judgment of God. In the time of Noah, the sky grew dark with clouds when God brought the flood that destroyed the earth. In the time of Moses, darkness fell over Egypt for three days – that was the ninth plague on Egypt.

And the prophets foretold a day of darkness that was coming. Joel said, “The earth will quake, the heavens will tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark. Zephaniah said, “The day of wrath is a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom.”

When the sky gets dark, it’s because God is judging someone. But who is God judging in this story?

Mark continues: “At the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Jesus bore the wrath of God for our sin

The heartbreaking revelation is that God is judging his own son! His love and his tenderness toward his son are gone. They’ve been replaced by wrath and judgment… toward his own son. For three hours Jesus took the full wrath of God. The pain he had felt from the whips and the nails were nothing compared to the pain of his father’s judgment.

Jesus has been completely forsaken by his father. We can’t even imagine the horror he feels at this moment. He’s been intimately connected to the father for eternity, and now that relationship is gone. That’s why he was sweating drops of blood the night before: he knew how horrible this would be. He asked the Father to remove this cup, to change the plan, because he didn’t want to be forsaken by his dad!

Plenty of people forsake us in life. Friends move away, and relationships drift apart. That hurts, but the pain gets infinitely worse when a spouse decides to leave. The relationship was deeper, and the love was stronger.

Now imagine a perfect, loving relationship that lasted forever. Imagine that person turning his back on you. Imagine how horrifying that would be. What we’re seeing on the cross is a preview of hell. Being abandoned by God. Losing God’s comfort. Losing his compassion. Losing his grace. That’s what Jesus is experiencing right now.

And this was foretold by the prophets. Isaiah 53 says, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; his soul makes an offering for guilt.” Jesus was crushed for our sin. He bore the wrath of God for me!

Jesus died to reconcile us to God

Mark continues the story, “And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down. And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:36-38)

The curtain in the temple was not light and thin, like the one you might have on your window. It was very heavy and very thick, more like a wall. It was there to separate the room called the holy of holies, where God resided, from the rest of the temple. This curtain separated the people from his presence.

There was only one man on earth who could enter the holy of holies, the Jewish high priest. He could enter this room once a year, and he had to bring a blood sacrifice, to pay for sins. The curtain was there to show that no sinful person could enter God’s presence.

But now, that curtain has been ripped open! It hasn’t been torn from bottom to top, the way a person would do it. It’s torn from top to bottom, to show that God did it. The death of Jesus has broken down the barrier between God and man. Anyone can come to God, and anyone can connect to God.

This couldn’t be accomplished by the death of a regular person. If I died on a cross for you, it wouldn’t do anything for you. You might be inspired, but you wouldn’t be saved. You wouldn’t be reconciled to God. Only the death of God himself could accomplish this.

Jesus is the Son of God

The story concludes, “When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).

Roman centurions were the most brutal soldiers in the Roman army. They were officers who had risen up through the ranks in the army because they were cold-hearted and bloodthirsty. They had seen many deaths. They had caused many deaths!

This centurion has probably witnessed hundreds of deaths in his career, but he sees something different about this death. He sees something different about this man. The humility of Jesus is something new. The compassion of Jesus is something new.

Jesus was punched, and slapped. He was spit on. He was mocked, He was whipped. He was crucified. … But he never retaliated. He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And this bloodthirsty soldier was astonished.

In Mark’s gospel, he is the first person to proclaim the full identity of Jesus Christ. He’s the first human to call him the Son of God. Which is meant to show us that you can only understand the identity of Jesus by understanding the death of Jesus. When you see how he died, you realize who he really is.

And you realize that he has the power to forgive your sins and the authority to rule your life.

Don’t let the familiarity of the story steal away the mind-blowing, universe-shattering power of the truth behind it.