For the past three hours, the earth had been bathed in an eerie black darkness. The awful smell of death hung thick in the dark silent air as the man hanging on the middle cross struggled to gasp small gulps of hot dry air. With each desperate gasp, the muscles in his taunt legs knotted in excruciating cramps. The nerves of his feet and wrists, exposed and ravaged by the Roman spikes that held Him impelled on the executioner’s tree, sent searing pain not only through His dehydrated body, but also through His tortured brain. The pressure in His chest continued to build as the fluid collecting in His lungs slowly and methodically smothered Him. The hollow rapping of death’s knock was becoming clearer and closer.

In this sunless gloom, another transaction was transpiring. Experiencing for the first time in His eternal existence the awful aloneness of total separation from intimacy with His Father, He drank deep from wrath’s cup. Now under the cover of creation’s shame, He bore not only His own body’s crushing weight, but also the suffocating shame of all humanity’s sin placed on His back by the unseen hand of Heaven’s Great Judge. “It now pleased the LORD to crush Him, to bruise Him, making Him sick” with our sin (Isaiah 53:10). The struggle was so intense that all heaven bowed its head and looked away in horror.

And then, in a moment it happened, without warning an abominable change occurred in the face and the broken body of the Son. Pure, holy, and undefiled, the Beloved One ceased to simply bear man’s sin; He now became sin. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin…” (2 Cor. 5:21). Unable to bear the utter despair of that solitary moment, the only begotten of the Lord, cried out for the first time not “Abba,” but “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Forsaken, broken, bruised, despised, and fully crushed, the Son bore our deadly iniquity alone on the cross.

As the eternal seconds slipped slowly into history, with the last ounce of His waning strength, His regal body straightened and with arms outstretched like a conquering king instead of a dying criminal, His voice, rich and deep, rolled forth into the depths of hell’s abyss and up into the heights of heaven’s paradise with one defining word, “Tetelesti.” It is finished! The eternal transaction was paid – paid in full! And then His head dropped, His body sagged, and He died, alone on the cross.

Three days later, Jesus Christ would emerge victorious from death’s fist with the keys of hell and death. No longer would sin reign unchallenged as king. Today we celebrate in reverence the grace, the mercy, the righteousness, and the life purchased in the pain of Golgotha’s Cross. Today we celebrate the Risen Savior who took our forsaken place in the darkness and so that we could live forgiven in the Light.