JESUS DIES ON THE STAKE
UNUSUAL EVENTS AT JESUS’ DEATH
It is now “the sixth hour,” or noon. A strange darkness falls “over all the land until the ninth hour,” three o’clock in the afternoon. (Mark 15:33) This eerie darkness is not caused by a solar eclipse. Those occur at the time of the new moon, but this is Passover season, when the moon is full. And this darkness lasts much longer than the few minutes of an eclipse. So God has caused this darkness!
Imagine the effect this must have on those mocking Jesus. During this dark period, four women approach the torture stake. They are Jesus’ mother, Salome, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of the apostle James the Less.
The apostle John is with Jesus’ grieving mother “by the torture stake.” Mary watches the son she bore and nurtured as he hangs there in agony. For her, it is like being pierced by “a long sword.” (John 19:25; Luke 2:35) Despite his intense pain, however, Jesus thinks of her welfare. He makes the effort to nod toward John and say to his mother: “Woman, see! Your son!” Then, nodding toward Mary, he tells John: “See! Your mother!”
Jesus is entrusting the care of his mother, who is evidently now a widow, to the apostle whom he especially loves. Jesus is aware that his half brothers, Mary’s other sons, have not as yet put faith in him. So he is making provision for his mother’s physical care as well as for her spiritual needs. What a fine example!
About the time the darkness ends, Jesus says: “I am thirsty.” In this he is fulfilling the scriptures. (John 19:28; Psalm 22:15) Jesus senses that his Father has, as it were, withdrawn his protection so that his Son’s integrity might be tested to the limit. Christ calls out in what may be Aramaic of a Galilean dialect: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some standing nearby misunderstand him and exclaim: “See! He is calling Elijah.” One of them runs and, placing a sponge soaked with sour wine on the end of a reed, gives Jesus a drink. But others say: “Let him be! Let us see whether Elijah comes to take him down.”
Jesus then cries out: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) Yes, he has accomplished all that his Father sent him to earth to do. Finally, Jesus says: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus thus commits to Jehovah his life force, confident that God will restore it to him. With undiminished trust in God, Christ bows his head and dies.
At that, a violent earthquake occurs, splitting rocks. It is so powerful that tombs outside Jerusalem break open and corpses are thrown out of them. Passersby who see the dead bodies exposed enter “the holy city” and report what they just witnessed.
When Jesus dies, the long, heavy curtain that divides the Holy from the Most Holy in God’s temple is ripped in two, from top to bottom. The astonishing event is a manifestation of God’s wrath against those who killed his Son and signifies that the way into the Most Holy, heaven itself, is now possible.
Understandably, the people become very afraid. The army officer in charge at the execution proclaims: “Certainly this man was God’s Son.” (Mark 15:39) He may have been there at Jesus’ trial before Pilate when the issue of divine sonship was discussed. Now he is convinced that Jesus is righteous and is, in fact, the Son of God.
Others, overcome by these unusual events, head to their homes, “beating their chests” as a gesture of their intense grief and shame. (Luke 23:48) Among those observing at a distance are many female disciples who at times traveled with Jesus. They too are deeply moved by all these momentous events.