Thick darkness covered the whole earth from midday to three in the afternoon when the exchange of our sins with God’s righteousness was taking place on the cross through His Son. Lord Jesus had made the plan of our redemption with the Father even before sin was committed, but the loneliness and the stench of evil heaped on “Him who was sinless” made Him cry out to the Just God. The separation from the Father remained for three hours till the assigned task was ‘finished’ by Him and He could them commit His spirit to the Father. Those three hours were probably the most painful hours spent by Him as man for never had He been separated from the Father. That was the great price He paid for redeeming us from our captivity.
Salvation for the criminal on the cross – Lord Jesus granted eternal life to the criminal crucified with Him whereas he had neither been baptized nor did he repent of his sins. God created man as a spirit with a soul and provided a body to dwell in on the earth and since God is a Spirit, He communicates with man only through his spirit. Thus God’s Spirit speaks to man’s spirit which then connects with man’s soul and through that to the body. Spiritual knowledge from God is essential for the spirit of man to reign over his soul and body and then over every other thing. Disobedience of man led to this equation being turned upside down whereas now the body reigns over the soul, filling it with fleshly desires and the spirit becomes quiet with no communication with God.
Soul is about desires and feelings while mind is about thoughts resulting in the command to ‘love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength (or resources) (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). That is why God declares, ‘I the LORD search your heart, I test the mind (thoughts), even to give every man according to his ways, according to his doings’ (Jeremiah 17:10). The messiah came to reverse everything to bring it to its original position and baptism is a part of that process. “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith…..He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses”. Baptism is not a requirement for God but for us for through this we acknowledge His presence in our lives and surrender to His authority. Baptism makes us stand victorious with the Lord over ‘principalities and powers of evil’ for He made a ‘public spectacle of them on the cross’ (Colossians 2:12-15).
The criminal saw not the flesh of a man like him on the cross but the Son of God and he heard Him forgiving those who had put Him on the cross. Touched by the Holy Spirit instant transformation of the heart occurred and in the last minutes of his life he surrendered to the Lord and He needed no rituals to receive salvation. In our lives, sanctification is the daily process of repentance, submission and transformation and this dying to sin does not end with baptism. Rising out of immersion in the water is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to commence His work in us by bringing our soul and spirit in subjection to His authority. His Divine work revealed the true identity of the Savior to Apostle Peter, who clearly said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Lord Jesus confirmed this by saying, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). We cannot understand anything about God except when it is revealed by Himself through His Spirit and this communication is only through that channel with our spirit, always and every time.
From isolation to closeness – The fourth saying of the Lord on the cross is a cry of despair of one who was always one with His Father in heaven, to feel the loneliness of abandonment. This gets reestablished before long and the Son then ‘commits His spirit to the Father’ after finishing the assigned task. What happened from twelve noon to three in the afternoon in the darkness that engulfed the earth? The first three steps relate to settlement of worldly matters and the remainder four strictly about spiritual issues.
Lord Jesus was crucified at nine in the morning and “from sixth hour (twelve noon) to the ninth hour (three in the afternoon) there was darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Apostle John described Lord Jesus as “life and the life was the light of men” and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5). Greek word ‘phos’ from ‘photon’ is translated as light which is life giving energy and darkness is ‘skotia’ from ‘skotos’ which means spiritual or moral darkness which blocks the light of God. Further, Greek word ‘katalambano’ has three meanings – first, to overtake, capture, appropriate or seize with hostile intent; second, take hold of and make one’s own, win over and the third, learn about something through process of inquiry.
Darkness of our sins was placed on Him from twelve onward causing darkness over the earth – katalambano. In the wilderness also Satan had tried to make Him succumb by making an offer ‘all these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:9). The devil specifically attacks in our weaker moments of body, first in hunger and thirst and now physical weakness on the cross when He had suffered extreme torture and was tied down by nails. In the wilderness then and now on the cross the effort was to exploit and overcome to control.
As a Father He is a loving God and does not leave but being God He is also a Judge and looking on the darkness of our sin heaped over His Son on the cross, His face was turned away. Lord Jesus was fully aware of the whole situation and the cry is not to the Father but He calls out to God to judge Him for His work. The shift from physical to the spiritual was complete and the effect of that weight of the sins of all humanity, not of the past alone but of those living and yet to be born till His second coming, made the Son cry, ‘I thirst’ for He knew that all was done (John 19:28). Why and for what did He thirst? King David had experienced this to wail, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for the Living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). This desperation is expressed again, “My soul thirst for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
The very ‘source of living water’, which is able to create a ‘fountain of water springing into eternal life’ in all believers, was parched while paying the price of our sins (John 4:10 & 14). The fire of damnation that was our due was burning all around Him but He had already cooled another fire when Daniel’s three friends were thrown into the furnace with raging fire. Even King Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, could recognize the fourth man in the fire as “Son of God” and the fire could not even singe their hair nor was ‘the smell of fire on them’ (Daniel 3:16-18; 24-25 & 27). Lord Jesus’ body was exhausted for He had already accepted that the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. His spirit yearns for the Father while God checked the scale to see if all sins of humanity from Garden of Eden up to His Second coming had been placed on Him? When no more of our filth was coming on to Him, He knew it was now over and expressed the thirst of His spirit for the Father. He had already prayed to the Father, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. Now glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:4-5). Time had come for the Light of the world to return from darkness to Light and God the Father opened the way for all of us through Him and the Temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. The separation of humanity from God was finally ended.
It is finished – The declaration of victory was already sounded from the cross and the time of Sabbath had arrived for the King of Kings to rest in the tomb for a while. The plan was revealed long back in another Garden in Eden, “Seed of woman will crush your head and you will bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). God had to give the first chance to the devil who led the Son up to the cross for John the Baptist identified for others the Lord as Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Greek word ‘airo’ is used to define ‘take away’ but it also means to ‘raise, lift up, remove and take away’. But what did He take away or remove? God had warned beforehand ‘from the tree of knowledge of good and evil do not eat for the day you eat of that you shall surely die’ (Genesis 2:17). This death was of the soul which immediately came under the control of the body instead of the spirit & they hid from God and the spirit turned silent while the body died much later.
What do we receive from this? – We are part of a materialistic society that weighs the gains and losses of everything. From the cross, this declaration of the Savior blesses us in many ways – first, blessings of life till eternity. Lord Jesus has promised to all believers, “Ask and it will be given; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7). While on the earth, our prayers are answered and the ‘moksha’ or salvation that all religions seek is assured and provided to us (John 14:2). Apostle John saw ‘great multitudes which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes’. The angel reveals that these are they ‘who have washed their robes white with the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9 & 14).
Two, He makes us righteous before God for all who believe in Lord Jesus become ‘children of God’ and are blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides us to control the bodily desires to live holy and not fear the devil (1 John 1:12). We become God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9) and though ‘made a little lower than the angels, we are given dominion over His creation’ (Psalm 8:5-6). The Messiah Lord not only took our sins on Himself but also transferred His righteousness to us thus restoring our dominion over His creation and we operate in His mighty name (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Three, indwelling Holy Spirit is given as our Counselor and Guide for the flow of blood and water from His side pierced by the Roman soldier (John 19:34) fulfills the prophecy given by God to His prophet (Zechariah 12:10). The out poured blood cleanses while the water becomes ‘springs of water in us’ for the tearing of the four to six inches thick curtain from top to bottom – from heaven to earth – not only facilitates the Savior’s spirit to enter the Holiest area of the Temple but also opens the way for God’s Spirit to come on us (Matthew 27:51-52). Lord Jesus’ declaration of committing His spirit to the Father reveals the restored relationship between them and also with us (Luke 23:46). He hands over His spirit so that the promised Holy Spirit could come to us to make our bodies His Temple (John 14:16).
Four, become source of comfort for others – He intercedes for us before the Father and Satan’s accusations against us are removed (Romans 8:34). In like manner we should also become intercessors for others and pray for their salvation in obedience to the command of Great commission and reach out to them.
Five, our sanctification, which is the daily process of repentance and walk in His power, to face the ‘roaring lion’ and make Him flee. The Holy Spirit helps us in this process.
Six, great welcome in heaven– St. Stephen while being stoned to death, saw Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God whereas the Scripture clearly states that He is ‘seated at the right hand of God’ (Romans 8:34). Lord Jesus gets up to welcome the first martyr of the faith and He has promised great rewards to those who ‘overcome’, even to sit with Him on His throne (Revelation 2 & 3).
Seven, rest in His authority from labor – On the cross our Lord first disarmed and then made a spectacle of principalities and powers and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). God rested on the seventh day and Adam and Eve were to operate in His finished work with power and authority to dominate and subdue the earth (Genesis 2:3). Today we live in rest from our labor in our Lord’s finished work on the cross and are victorious with dominion over everything in His mighty name. We are required to overcome the temptations and trials in His power and claim great rewards.
The three hours from mid day to three probably comprised the most difficult part of Lord Jesus’ existence due to the agony of being separated from God the Father while carrying the deep darkness of our sins. It was only once the task of full payment for our sins was completed, could He reach out to the Father to commit His Spirit to Him. He suffered unimaginable physical, social and emotional trauma of pain and shame from Gethsemane Park onward till the final hour. But can we ever fully comprehend and repay Him for His love for us? Yes! By obeying His command to reach out to others to bring them into the immense orbit of His love!