Day 18: And Darkness Came Over the Whole Land

Who Was Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was Crucified, Died and Was Buried

READ

Luke 23:32–46

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

MEDITATE

Note both the earthly elements of this scene of crucifixion as well as the cosmic dimensions. Criminals, rulers, soldiers, and “the people” gathered amid taunts, sneers, insults, and gambling. Meanwhile a massive story unfolds in the sanctuary of the skies and in the most holy place of the temple. It is as though the book of Creation and the book of the Covenant convulse in a cosmic conflict. At this sight, at high noon, the God who said, “Let there be light,” allows the land to be shrouded in thick darkness. Simultaneously, the thick dark curtain in the temple separating the people from the “Most Holy Place,” the throne room of God on Earth, rips from top to bottom. As darkness gloats over the land, the glorious presence of God slips undetected into the world to rob the darkness of its victory.

In the midst of it all, the Word made flesh keeps speaking Life. Note how his words form both prayer and answers to prayer. To a thief’s prayer he responds with a promise of paradise. He responds to his tormenters by praying for their forgiveness. With his last words he affirms faith in the reality which long preceded the planet, the union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In these moments, history may record an eclipse and an earthquake. The creed affirms the central event in all of time and eternity.

As an affirmation of faith, try praying these prayers of Jesus from the cross. In the first prayer, insert the word “us” and “me” for Father forgive “them.” Dwell in this prayer until it comes from a place of honesty. Now turn to the prayer, “Father (Abba), into your hands I commit my spirit.”

REFLECT

God allows himself to be humiliated and crucified in the Son, in order to free the oppressors and the oppressed from oppression and to open up to them the situation of free, sympathetic humanity.

—From The Crucified God
Jürgen Moltmann

ASK

Express your questions, doubts, curiosities, and conundrums.

AFFIRM

Write any fresh affirmation stirring in your heart and mind from today.

Now affirm the Apostles’ Creed aloud:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord . . .