Jesus crucified and buried . . .
Finally, the procession reaches the top of Mount Calvary--Jesus and two criminals are to be crucified. Jesus is stripped naked, his bruised and bloodied arms outstretched on the rough wood--a five-inch long, three-eighths-inch square nail is driven through each of his hands--actually, more the wrists. Crucifixion is meant to be humiliating beyond compare, excruciating without equal, as each painful hour drags by before death by suffocation eventually occurs . . . it is horrific. The soldiers bend Jesus' knees, place his feet flat against the wood, and drive a nail through each foot. At high noon, the soldiers raise the cross, and position its base in the hole, and drop it in with a jarring thud.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness comes over all the land. The Light of the World is about to be extinguished--the darkness is a cosmic sign--though it is midday, the sunlight is blocked, perhaps a reaction to the Son of God being put to death. About the ninth hour, Jesus cries out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?"1 (My heart aches at the incredible alone-ness Jesus experiences, as God the Father has to look away from him and he becomes our sin.)
When some of those standing there hear this, they say, "He's calling Elijah." Later, knowing that all is now complete, and so that Scripture could be fulfilled, Jesus says, "I am thirsty." Immediately, one of them runs to get a sponge. He fills it with wine vinegar, puts it on a stick, and offers it to Jesus to drink.
When he has received the drink, Jesus says, "It is finished." "Tetelestai!" Jesus calls out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
"Tetelestai!" He utters, and then draws his last breath. It was a Greek expression, but everyone standing within earshot would have understood what Jesus was saying. " It is finished." Tetelestai when used in accounting, meant "paid in full." In fact, archaeologists have found papyrus tax receipts with the word written across them . . . interesting. With Jesus' dying breath, our sin is paid in full--our debt is cancelled.2
Our Lord died on the cross; and then, he was buried. A man named Joseph (of Arimathea), a member of the Sanhedrin, went to Pilate and asked to care for the body of Jesus. He took a big risk in doing so, because he obviously 'came out' in support of Jesus by making such a request. All of the disciples, except John, had fled the scene, concerned that their close relationships with Jesus might find them imprisoned or worse, executed. It was not a safe time to make a show of support for Jesus--too much risk, too much unknown. So it was particularly unusual that Joseph and Nicodemus (a Pharisee and Jewish ruler), requested to take Jesus. Besides, this was no small labor; the burial spices that Nicodemus brought are believed to have weighed 95 pounds. The women also brought spices with which to wrap the body--so, really--with all that they were doing, do you think they trusted that Jesus was going to be resurrected? Were they even thinking about it? I just can't imagine that they were.
I remember when my father died, in 1998; I had been en route to my oldest son's high school basketball game, when I got the call. I turned the car around and headed for the hospital morgue. I told Dad 'good bye' that day, face-to-face, but his body had already begun to set, and he was no longer my dad. When a body has drawn its last breath, rigor mortis begins to set in--first in the smallest muscles such as those in the face and hands, and then extending to the muscles in the limbs, causing them to stiffen-like my dad's-the mouth is slack and seems to freeze while agape. In our culture, we do not typically handle our loved one's lifeless bodies--certainly not in preparing them for burial; but families and loved ones in Jesus' day did so. When Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross, they rubbed his stiff arms to remove the rigor mortis (which kept them in a V-shape), and then carefully washed his bloody, bruised body. Then they anointed it with oil and wrapped it in one long linen cloth. They tied a separate napkin under his chin to keep his mouth from falling open after the muscles loosen.
Next, they wrapped his body from head to toe in long strips of linen, using spiced resin and seventy-five to one hundred pounds of heavily scented spices to offset the smell of decomposition, a common practice for the Jews. The men worked quickly to be sure that Jesus was in the tomb by nightfall, as they wanted to keep the Sabbath day sacred. Further, the Law required the body of someone who had been executed to be buried that same day.
"Dear Lord, revisiting some of the details you suffered is incredible. When you hear the word 'Calvary', Jesus, do you wince? And when you look at your hands, do you rub them? And, in view of these things, how then shall I live?"
Child, Jeremiah captured the passionate question that burns in my heart, "Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" Will you? Be devoted to me-that is my highest desire-love me, spend time with me, set your life on a course of obedience. Amen."
1 - -fulfillment of David's words in Psalm 22:1.
2 - Scripture from Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19~