A few years ago, my friend was in a serious automobile accident. EMS arrived on the scene and they had to call for the Jaws of Life to cut her out of the car. My friend’s wounds were relatively minor in comparison to the wreckage. The seatbelt had cut into her skin, though, and there was blood everywhere. Since EMS couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from, they put a neck brace on her, strapped her to a backboard, and whisked her away in an ambulance.
Once they were at the hospital, the medical staff cut her pants off to find the blood. My friend then said to me, “Jo, there is no dignity when they’re trying to save your life”.
On Good Friday, we are reminded that there is no dignity when Jesus is saving our lives. Darkness covers the land and Jesus cries out in a loud voice. He has been beaten, stripped, and mocked for all to see.
And when Jesus cried out again on the cross, He gave up His spirit.
We can think of it as Jesus sending His spirit out or casting it out from Him. Often, the Church uses this passage to imply that Jesus was separated from the rest of the Godhead. I confess I have even taught this perspective. However, Jesus was not separated from the rest of the Godhead. It’s not theologically or ontologically possible. He is one eternal, indivisible God. He cannot abandon Himself.
The same is true for us. God cannot and will not abandon us. It’s not in His nature. His nature is to love and love means He is sticking it out with us to the end.
It might help us, in our humanness, if we think of Jesus stretching forth His spirit. A few weeks ago, we talked about the parting of the Red Sea. There, Moses records how the sea was rent or torn open. It was divided. It was divided and they passed through the waters.
The gospel writer wants us to make the connection between the parting of the Red Sea and the parting of the Temple curtain. Moses stretched out his hand [staff] and the sea was divided. We identified Moses’ staff as symbolic of the Spirit’s power. In other words, Moses stretched for the Spirit and the sea separated. Likewise, Jesus casts out His spirit as if stretching forth a proverbial hand. And the Temple curtain is separated; torn in two from top to bottom.
At that moment, when Jesus stretches out his proverbial hand, three things happened. First, the curtain was torn. It was torn in two so we could pass through. We can pass through and enter the holy of holies. We can be in the presence of God. The curtain was not torn to allow God into our presence. It was torn to allow us into His presence.
At that moment, when Jesus stretched out His spirit, the earth shook and the rocks split. First, it was Jesus who was crying out. Now, Creation was crying out in response to her Creator. She was singing His praise. Just as Jesus predicted in Luke 19:40
If they keep quiet, then the rocks will cry out!
At that moment, when Jesus stretched out His spirit, a third thing happened. The tombs broke open. They broke open in preparation for what was coming; the resurrection. It’s worded strangely here. But it appears that after Jesus was resurrected, these saints were also resurrected. It was a resurrection, though. It is different from what we see when Lazarus is raised from the dead. Lazarus will die again. But these saints experience the same resurrection as Jesus.
At that moment, Jesus stretched out his hand. And, at this moment, Jesus continues to stretch forth His hand through the power of the Holy Spirit. The tombs are broken open and we live as people who are resurrected (with God’s power).
And we help usher in the Kingdom of God as we wait for the final resurrection of the dead.