Friday, June 17, 2011

The Death of Jesus

James Tissot, "The Death of Jesus"
A Reflection on Luke 23:44-49

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, " Father, into your hands I commend my spirit; " and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, "This man was innocent beyond doubt ." When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.

The sun, the Son! The “Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel,” (Lk 2:32) eclipsed by death at the height of the day, in the prime of life, at the height of His ministry! Just a few days earlier, He had been proclaimed King by the people, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem as they glorified God!
The veil of the temple is torn wide open: God is no longer hidden from man. The Father Himself tore the veil in His haste in running out to meet us (Lk 15:20); He is pleased to give us the kingdom! (Lk 12:32) The Son’s eclipse reveals the Father, to Jew and Gentile alike.  The people whom Jesus excused because they did not know what they were doing (Lk 23:34) are suddenly filled with great remorse at His death. (Lk 23:48) Even the eyes of a Centurion—a pagan, who had surely carried out and witnessed countless crucifixions (the expression, “I’ve done this so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed,” comes to mind)—are opened!
Dearest Lord Jesus, you poured out Yourself completely in loving obedience to the Father. You even gave the Father the moment of your death; it was the only thing You had left to offer Him, making it the last act of submission of Your human will, the final prayer of utter trust and dependence, of unspeakable love You could offer, while You still had the powers of speech that the body He gave you possessed. I cannot fathom how, Lord, after hours of agony on the cross and at the point of death, You had the strength to fill Your lungs with enough air to be able to cry out, let alone utter a sound! How ashamed I am that I often let the least amount of bodily fatigue or stress keep me from just a moment of prayer! It is especially in these moments of affliction that I, too, should be crying out to Him in faith with complete trust!

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