“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” v. 33
… It was as if the gods themselves had stopped running the universe in honor of Yeshua, as if he were one of their own. There we stood wrapped in darkness in the middle of the day! Still stunned by the day’s events, I tried to pull myself together and keep some semblance of order among the onlookers. We hadn’t exactly planned for a night watch at high noon, so there were no torches or firelight. There were just dark silhouettes, shadowy movements, and voices from all directions.
For three confusing hours we stood there standing guard blindfolded. The robe I had won still embraced me. This Yeshua’s death was somehow changing me, but I couldn’t understand why. All I knew was the whole world seemed to be in mourning. So I just stood there clutching the robe as if for dear life, and listened to the voices hidden in the darkness.
A group of women stood behind me trembling with deep sobs. Their pain tore through my armor into my own soul. They just may have been the only friends this man had.
But I had to keep it together, so I fumbled awkwardly away from them making my way closer to the cross of Yeshua. My effort to keep it together was destroyed as one voice rose into the obscure mid-day darkness. It’s sound was more than I could take.
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
The sound of this man’s heart falling into pieces pushed me over the edge and into the abyss of sorrow. I fell headlong into despair and grief. How could a man I had never really known, never spoken to, have such an impact on me?
I had beaten him in the courtyard, dragged him through the streets of Jerusalem, staked his body to a sadistic cross and stood in the dark listening to him die. Before today he had only been the subject of occasional gossip, or the butt of a joke in the barracks. So why, after thousands of crucifixions, was I the one being crucified? It seemed that way.
Why was I standing there, looking like a blubbering clown in a cruel comedy, dressed in armor and a bloody robe weeping for a man dying on a cross in the dark?
I tried again to shift my attention away from Yeshua.
I listened to some bystanders whispering something about a guy named Elijah, coming to take Yeshua down from the cross. So I tried to peer through the murkiness to be sure no one made such a crazy attempt. You never know what a fanatic may do in a situation like this.
I heard the centurion order a few soldiers to make their way to the temple. It seems there was some disturbance there. The massive veil that guarded their holy place had been torn down or something. I was ordered to stay in my position and try to keep order.
How could I keep order when I was struggling to keep myself together?
But I did the best I could. I stood by the cross, weary from this horrific day. I found myself leaning backward up against the cross. I sunk into it hoping to sneak in a little rest. I could hear the broken rhythm of Yeshua’s breathing. The cross vibrated with every thrust of his body, as he had to push himself up on his nailed feet long enough to suck in a mouthful of air then crash back down in pain.
Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The spikes tore into his flesh, exacting a toll for every breath.
Push up. Breathe. Crash down. The weary cross tottered with every movement.
Push up. Breathe. Crash down. Then it stopped.
Silence. Stillness. Darkness. He was gone.
I fell deeper into the splintery cross my sword falling helplessly into a stream of blood on the ground. I was thankful for the cover of darkness at that moment. No one would see this soldier who had been so strong and proud at sunrise, now totally disarmed by the end of the day.
I’ve defeated many a strong man in battle. I always expected to die in a sword fight at the hand of a warrior. But I never expected to be taken out by a dying man on a cross. He had slain me with a strange kind of grace. I was pierced by his wounds. I felt dead, but strangely alive at the same time. I didn’t understand this insanity. All I could do was lean into the cross, drop my weapons of war and rest in the unexplainable warmth of that bloody robe.
After a few moments I heard familiar footsteps. I was shaken at the approaching image of my commanding officer. If he saw me like this I was dead. But somehow it didn’t matter what happened to me. This moment with Yeshua was worth dying for. The centurion walked toward me, his footsteps stopping just ahead. I braced myself for a barrage of curses and threats. I felt his heavy hand on my shoulder with a gentleness I had never expected from him. He said, “Surely this man was the Son of a god.” Then he walked away shaking his head….