If you worshipped with us on Sunday you know that our service did not include a sermon due to unexpected time constraints. During Holy Week, we will be posting a series of three reflections on Luke 23, the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion, that was intended as a Palm Sunday message. We will look at these passages through the lens of our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, particularly the final phrase: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.”
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Luke 23:44-49 (ESV)
When we think about the glory of God and the kind of glory that belongs to God, we can think of the sun. It’s this brightness that we can’t look at, that we are totally dependent on, whose size dwarfs us to the point of total irrelevance. We don’t have a lot of things available to our eyes that give us an easier analogy for God than the sun.
We can also think about the Holy of Holies in the temple, this place where the glory of God is revealed. It’s too big, too bright, too awesome for us to look at directly. It has to have that curtain to separate us.
And yet, look at the death of Jesus as Luke describes it. Everyone recognizes the glory of God, but only when the sun’s light has failed.
Luke 23 has been teaching us that the way we see kingdom and power and glory have failed. Our vision of them might work well enough when we look at the triumphal entry, but it doesn’t work here in the sixth hour on the hill called The Skull.
The veil is torn in two, the light of the sun has failed. The only image of glory we are left with is nailed to the hard wood of the cross, hanging up there in darkness.
There on the cross this man whose kingdom was never threatened by the voices around them. The man whose power never intended to save himself. And whose glory is found in darkness.
And the end of this passage shows us one more thing. Notice that those who were gathered around Jesus were there to see a spectacle. Literally, the word is associated with a theater performance. And his followers are all well back at a distance as this is occurring.
During Holy Week, we must not come to the cross for a spectacle, and we must not stand at a distance out of shame or skepticism. Instead, you are invited to stare into the darkest moment the world has ever known and see in it the foundation of a kingdom, the redefinition of power, and the beginning sparks of a glory beyond all imagining.