Tragedy of Calvary
THE MATTER OF TIME
Before I get into what some would call the tragedy of Calvary; because there appears to be some confusion regarding the matter of time in this story; let’s get that settled first. As we read the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, we soon become aware of the seeming confusion of time. There are two methods of reckoning time: Roman time and Jewish time.
Most of us use Roman time. That is, the first hour is 1 AM. The sixth hour is 6:00 AM. etc.
Jewish time begins at six o’clock in the morning making it the first hour. The third hour would be our 9:00 AM and the sixth hour would be our noon. The ninth hour would be our 3:00 PM.
Both Roman and Jewish time are used to tell the Crucifixion story. When the story takes place in Pilate’s Hall, a Roman Hall, because he is the Roman governor of Palestine, Roman time is used.
Outside of Pilate’s Hall, Jewish time is used. So when Pilate is speaking from his judgment Hall in John 19:13-14, it says it was the sixth hour. That’s 6:00 AM, Roman Time.
In Mark 15:33, we read it was the sixth hour when darkness fell over the land of Palestine. This is noon Jewish time, or six hours since the first hour, 6:00 AM.
Now that we have that settled, let’s get on with the Calvary Tragedy. Though the world would call this a tragedy, we Christians see it as the great triumph of the ages. This was the time that God conquered sin and death through the death and resurrection of His beloved Son Jesus.
The Tragedy is divided into three acts. Act 1 is from the third hour until the sixth hour; that is, from 9 AM until noon.
Act 2 is from the sixth hour to the ninth hour; that is, from noon until 3 PM our time.
Act 3 describes what took place at 3 PM, the ninth hour and following, Jewish time.
Jesus hung on the cross the six hours from 9 AM until 3 PM. That is, from the third hour until the ninth hour, Jewish time.
This was from the third to the sixth hour Jewish time, or from 9:00 till noon.
This act is all about Jesus being crucified. It’s all about the cruelty of the Roman soldiers and the mocking and scorning of the people. The people appear to be in charge in Act 1.
It’s in this first Act that Jesus prays for forgiveness for His enemies. It’s in this act that the repentant thief finds forgiveness of sin and assurance of Heaven shortly before he dies.
It’s in this act that Jesus speaks to his mother, Mary and the disciple John; turning over the care of His mother to John. It’s at this time a little before noon that John took Mary home to His house so that both of them could be spared any further grief watching Jesus die.
This was from Noon until 3 PM our time, the sixth to the ninth hour Jewish time.
Precisely at Noon the sun ceased shining and it became pitch dark all over the land. It was so dark one could feel it. It was as dark as it would be in a mine or a cave with no candles or flashlights or electric lights.
During these three hours the Roman soldiers and the murderous Jewish mob had absolutely no control of the situation. Also during those three hours of darkness, the mocking and scorning of Jesus ceased. God Himself was now in charge. The people were terrified into silence. Whereas the first three hours were all about man’s cruelty and hatred; the next three hours were all about the wrath of God being poured out on His beloved Son, Jesus. as well as the people around Him, were feeling the terror of God.
It was the wrath of God being poured out on Jesus that makes His crucifixion a saving event for us. You see, salvation is deliverance from the wrath of God that we sinners deserve because of our sins. The reason we are saved from that wrath is because it has been poured out on Jesus. Romans 5:8 says that God shows His love to us by executing His holy, sinless Son in full payment of the penalty for our sins.
Throughout the Old Testament, God showed His wrath by bringing thick darkness on people. You may remember that thick darkness was one of the plagues on the Egyptians when God was getting ready to deliver Israel from slavery. All though the Prophets, we read of the darkness of God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord.
In those three hours from the sixth through the ninth hours, the infinite Son of God was experiencing not only the cruelty of man; but the wrath of God, separated from His Heavenly Father. He was experiencing in three hours the Hell that the lost will experience throughout eternity. God the Father literally forsook His beloved Son through those hours so that we could be saved by trusting in His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.
3 pm our time or the ninth hour Jewish time.
At three o’clock the sun immediately resumed shining and the sunlight once more flooded Palestine and the crucifixion scene.
When the three hours of darkness were over, Luke 23:48 describes the Jews as smiting their breasts in grief and terror.
Having experienced hell for three hours, Jesus cries to God, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Now that He had consciously experienced Hell those three hours, perhaps Jesus, as a man, expected the comforting presence of God, His Father. That presence was not felt. Perhaps this is one of final horrors of Hell. God will NEVER be there to comfort. Jesus must feel this fully: the everlasting torment of Hell and the eternal absence of God’s comfort in those six hours on the cross.
Would you also note that this is the only time in the Gospels when Jesus referred to God in any other way but, “Father”?
In John 19:28 Jesus knowing that He had accomplished His work on the cross, said, “I thirst.” The soldiers soaked a sponge in vinegar and wet his lips and throat. Though Jesus had been slowly suffocating to death as He struggled to breathe; suddenly with supernatural strength He raised up on the nails one more time, and shouted at the top of His lungs, “FINISHED!” That shout reverberated throughout the area and everyone heard it. Then He bowed His head in death and committed His Spirit to His Heavenly Father.
What was finished? The full payment for all the sins of the world throughout all the ages was paid in full. Anyone going to Hell, does so because in their pride and self-righteousness, they feel that they are not so bad as to need a Saviour; and thus, they reject God’s gracious Gift of Salvation which has already been paid in full through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross.
What was finished? The Old Testament temple and its sacrifice of animals for sin. At the same instant, the veil in the temple was supernaturally ripped from top to bottom, opening our way into the very presence of God. Can you imagine how the priests reacted to this as they were preparing to sacrifice the Passover Lambs? Can you imagine them looking into the Holy of Holies, a place they had been forbidden to look upon pain of death up to this time?
This was the end of the Old Testament Ceremonial Law system with its laws concerning Sabbaths and Ceremonial Feast Days. No more would the Passover ever have to be observed, for now Christ is our Passover Lamb slain once for all for our sins. See I Corinthians 5:7 on this.
This was the end of the temple worship system. It was the end of the animal sacrifices for sin. Access to God was now directly open through the shed blood of Christ. I encourage you to read and reread Hebrews 10 and let this wonderful truth soak in until you understand it.
One other amazing event took place at 3:00 that afternoon. A great earthquake occurred which broke up giant rocks and boulders. Graves were opened and Old Testament saints rose from the dead and appeared in the streets of Jerusalem. It doesn’t say, but I believe they later ascended to Heaven, a little foretaste of the great resurrection that takes place at the time of our awaited Rapture spoken of in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-58. Ephesians 4:8 may refer to that ascension of Old Testament saints with Jesus.
What took place at Calvary ought to convince any sinner that there is no sin against God that cannot be forgiven. If God could save the thief on the cross and the Centurion and some of his soldiers involved in the crucifixion, as Matthew 27:54 states and if God could save some of the priests later on, according the Acts 6:7; you are not too great a sinner for God to save.
If your trust is in the sacrifice of Christ for your sins, you will never face the wrath of God, for Jesus has already taken that wrath for you. His blood was shed in full payment for your sins. Will you trust Him right now?
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