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Hope in the Heartland

(Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series leading to Easter.)

Pastor of Peabody Bible Church

The outcry from Jesus pierced the darkness, each word penetrating like a sharp sword slicing through a thick, black curtain. Quickly the midafternoon sunlight reappeared in full radiance … and the darkness was gone.

Some in the crowd heard Jesus and said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

The soldier noticed that Jesus was struggling to catch shallow breaths, as one does when death is lurking near. But finally, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

The soldier watched a bystander push a dripping sponge onto a stick and raise it to the mouth of Jesus. People in the crowd yelled, “Get away from him. Let us see if Elijah comes to take Jesus down from the cross.” The man withdrew the sponge and backed away.

Then the exhausted, yet triumphant voice of Jesus loudly announced, “It is finished.” Jesus gasped for one more breath, raised his face to the sky and shouted, “Father … into your hands … I commit my spirit.” Then Jesus bowed his head, closed his eyes, and released a final breath. And as quickly as the extraordinary outburst began, it was over. Jesus was dead.

Suddenly the soldier felt his body trembling and heard the shrieks of others as the ground quaked with violent spasms and large rocks in the hillside were broken apart. Then the earth stopped shaking, and the frightened soldier heard his commander say, “Surely, this righteous man was the son of God.” They both watched as howling people pounded their fists against their chests and staggered back toward the city.

To be continued …

Last modified March 11, 2010

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