“He is not here; He has risen, just as he said…”
The Savior of Humanity hung there, silent. His blood ran down the rough fibers of the cross. It formed puddles at the base.
His muscles were torn under his skin, ripped and shredded by the nine tails. His lungs moved in and out vigorously.
His temples burned with pain as the inch-long thorns drilled into his skull. Blood and sweat mixed on his brow, and streamed down his face. It hit his eyes, burning.
His legs could not stand the tension much longer. The sinews of his arms were about to break apart. The splinters of the rugged wood drove into his back, already raw and minced. His shoulders and his neck stung as he tried to move. He gasped for breath—it barely came.
He could hardly hear the crowd anymore, and the world around him was getting dim. He could hardly see—his eyes had been nearly knocked out of his head. His ears ran red with blood; his lips were stained and bruised and dried. His nose was torn at its crest, and his cheeks and forehead were split wide open.
He looked down to his feet. He was dizzy. There on the ground, his eyes saw something that no man could see. He saw the bowels of earth being opened, and hell below. He saw the deep abyss, and knew that the time was drawing near.
Satan appeared. He came up from the darkness, and the skies became overcast. He began to walk around the cross, surveying the Son of Man.
“Look, look how they hate you!” he said with a sneer. “Did you not understand what I meant when I told you to bow to me? Was it so difficult to comprehend? Well, comprehend this…”
The devil cracked his neck and rubbed the cross, its sharp, jagged edges doing him no harm.
“You come to earth. You take on a rotting piece of flesh as your covering. You join the festering ranks of these worthless, mindless people. You believe that you can save them. Ha! Do you not remember Eden? Were you not there? Did you not see how easily they turned to me? Don’t you see how they love me?”
The Lord said nothing. His lungs were failing. His heart was racing. The devil continues to circle the cross. Sin was there with him, sneering at the dying Savior.
“Then you begin to minister to them. You heal their sick, you cleanse their wounds, you feed their stomachs—and yet they have forgotten you!”
The Lord said nothing. He thought of his home. He missed it. But then he thought of how empty it would be if were not doing this.
“You teach them. You talk to them. They curse you, they shout at you, they threaten you—and now, betrayed by one of your own, who now has joined my presence, you are hanging here, dying for a world that is already dead. Tell me, what were you thinking?”
The Lord said nothing. The blood continued to flow. Sin continued to clench its teeth at him.
“Of all the hair-brained ideas you’ve had, like making men in the first place, this one is certainly the most fanatical, the most incomprehensible. Tell me, have you stooped so low as to lose your common sense? Perhaps you should have let me take charge when you had the chance. I would have made you a prince; I would have clothed you as a regent.”
The Lord looked to heaven, and spoke.
“Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani!”
“He can’t hear you, can he? The Father of Creation has forgotten his own Son! Look! He turns his face from you! Now whom do you have? Your disciples have fled, your children cheer as you slip away, and now, once again, just as in the desert, it is only you and I that remain. You know what comes next. You know where you are going. Come, let us go. Leave them behind! Forget them! They are mine!”
The Lord looked to the sky, and saw that the time had come.
“It is finished! Father! Into your hands I commit my spirit!”
Then he looked down, and saw the abyss, and suddenly, the earth shook, and the world was darkened, and in that moment, in that precious moment, the Lord reached out and took hold of Sin. Sin struggled to be free, but could not pull away. The ground shook all the more, and the Lord stared down at the abyss below, and Hades welcomed him to come forth, and immediately he flew down, at an immense speed, and descended into the heart of hell, as the levels of the world rushed by, and the fog of Time disappeared behind him. Suddenly, he came to a stop, with Sin still in his grasp, and fell hard, striking against the bottom. He looked up, and there was Lucifer, standing over him, laughing hysterically. But he knew not what was to come.
“So, finally came to join me, eh? Look up again! See how your flesh hangs on the cross, lifeless! See how the men do not weep! They have lost all hope! Your body is dead! They know nothing of Zion. They know nothing of this place, but they will; O yes, most certainly they will!”
But the Lord was not deterred. He rose up to his knees, and looked around. The darkness surrounded him, and the beating of Death’s drum rang loudly in his ears. The devil’s scratchy voice rose above the clamor, a menace in the deep. He pranced around, shouting.
“I have won! I have won! See, victory comes to Lucifer this day!”
The Lord looked around. There were many faces surrounding him, many, many faces. He saw the children of the past, who had gone astray and had denied him. They were all shouting for him to save them. He shook his head, knowing that their doom was forever.
Fire and sulfur burned about him. It seared the skin of those standing in it, but never did it consume them. They stood, shrieking, as the flames licked their bodies without pause. They screamed as the whips of fire lashed at their backs and feet. They tried to get out, but they were blind in the flame. They tried to move, but the chains of Hades held them back. They cried out in terror as Satan roared in their faces. He cackled wickedly as he went about, trampling them.
“See, I have dominion over this place, and all who are in it. I cannot be chained!”
The Lord shook his head again. He knew that Lucifer was gravely mistaken, for the day would come when all that Satan would know was the chains that bound him in eternal punishment and misery. But still, the Lord said nothing.
The hours did not seem to pass. The minutes seemed to freeze. The seconds turned to years in that place. In this place, in this ravine of despair, there were no time-outs, no periods of rest, and no room for mercy. But the Lord knew he would soon finish his final work. It was then that he saw him—he saw Judas.
“Lord!” Judas cried, “Forgive me! Forgive me for my sin! Forgive me Lord! Was I not one of your chosen ones? Was I not with you on the mountain, and in the boat, and all throughout Israel? Did I not see your miracles, and marvel with the rest at your teachings? How is it that I am condemned? How can I not be forgiven? Isn’t that what you preached to us? Speak, Lord! Please! Release me from this place! I cannot bear it, O please, dear Lord, I beg of you: release me!”
But the Lord, with sadness in his heart, bowed his head and said nothing. He knew all too well that Judas had made his choice, as all men must. He thought of Peter, and Andrew. He thought of James, and John. He thought of Mary Magdalene. He thought of Pilate. He thought of Barabbas. He thought of Caiaphas. He thought of those yet to come. He thought of Paul. He thought of Barnabas. He thought of Tertullian. He thought of Irenaus. He thought of Constantine. He thought of Mohammed. He thought of Luther. He thought of Calvin. He thought of Wesley. He thought of Washington. He thought of Victoria. He thought of Lincoln. He thought of Moody. He thought of Livingstone. He thought of Stanton. He thought of Nietzsche. He thought of Hitler. He thought of Stalin. He thought of Gandhi. He thought of Graham. He thought of Clinton. He thought of Mandela. He thought of Olsteen. He thought of Hussein. He thought of Bin Laden. He thought of Bush.
He thought of you.
Indeed, he surveyed the vast misery of hell before his eyes, enduring not only the pains of its torture, but also the thought of losing so many sons and daughters to this horrific place. He thought of his children in Africa. He thought of all the wars and diseases they would be stricken with. He thought of his children in Asia. He thought of the terrors of war and corruption they would face. He thought of Europe, and of its sons and daughters, and how hateful they would be towards one another, and how they would continue to walk away from him. He thought of his children in the islands and mountains and villages and city-streets that would live and die without knowing him. He thought of his children in the Middle East. He thought of how they would seek only to kill and destroy and devastate. He thought of Israel, his chosen people of old. He thought of how they would continue to deny him as God’s Son. He thought of America. He thought of how they would take his gift of freedom, a gift that the rest of the world would scarcely share, and abuse it. He thought of how men would distort the truth and call it his own words; he thought of how men would sing from their lips and not from their hearts; he thought of how men would welcome their families but not their neighbors; he thought of how men would seek their own truth and their own church and their own path to him and forsake his truth, his church, and his path; he thought of how men would run from conviction for the sake of convenience, and, as a result, be lost for eternity.
He thought of all these things, and realized that many would fall short and end up in this place. So, while in the tortures of hell, and in the presence of his enemy, he prayed for all mankind, and wished with all his heart that they would love him. He prayed that those who were in him would be filled with his Spirit and with his Father’s power and that they would never forget his sacrifice, but would rather become impassioned to share the good news to every corner of the world, even if it led to their deaths, for then their glory would be complete, and their suffering would be no more, and men from every tongue and every tribe and every nation would come into his presence and behold the Lord’s glory.
Yes, even in hell, he thought of these things.
The devil continued to torment him, but he would not break, nor would he utter one word of complaint. This was his cup to drink, and he would drink it to the dregs, that all men might have the life eternal. He knew they would have to choose him or deny him, and he knew that they would need him to guide them and to comfort them and to strengthen them while they lived on earth. Overwhelmed with love, he praised his Father. Then he looked up, and a light began to penetrate even the deep void of the abyss, and a voice boomed in the darkness from that incredible light:
“This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased.”
Upon hearing the voice, the devil stood still, and slowly and reluctantly looked up. When he saw the light, he shrieked, and fell to his face, and the bowels of hell shook ferociously, and all about him there was a mighty tempest of fire and light, and the light illuminated the darkness, and he shut his eyes in terror. Then all sound disappeared, and Lucifer peered around him. He saw the Lord standing before him, and he realized suddenly that he was kneeling in front of the King of Kings. The Lord stepped aside, and Satan’s eyes beheld what had happened. There, wrapped forever in chains, stood Sin, confounded and condemned by the Lord of Lords. Then the light shone over the Lord, and Satan saw the scars in his hands and feet, and in his side. He looked at the Lord in fear, and bowed low before him. Then, his voice trembling, he spoke.
“Who are you, Lord?”
And the King raised his arms, and the light shone around him, and he looked up and saw the tomb, and the angel rolling the stone away, and as he began to ascend from the pit, he looked down at the devil, and spoke with words of thunder.
“I AM JESUS; BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!”
And the Lord of Heaven and of Earth rose up from the grave, leaving Sin chained in hell behind him, and the light did not cease to shine upon his face. Thus the Lord of Lords arose, and on that third day, claimed the victory…for all of us.
by Ryan Seibert