darkness has been
waiting for this moment
since the beginning of time.

now, instead of nibbling
away at its meal,
it has swallowed the
light of the world whole—
in one great gulp.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock,
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God,
my God, why have you forsaken me?”
—the dying words of Jesus of Nazareth as he hung on the cross
(Matthew 27:45-46)

Jesus died.

I know this isn’t how a story is supposed to go. The savior is supposed to save. The hero is supposed to win. The good guy is supposed to come out ahead. We know that because we know how stories are supposed to end. So we assume Jesus didn’t really die—maybe he’s in a coma or something, maybe his friends will storm the hill and rescue him at the last minute, or maybe he’ll escape just in the nick of time by using his superhero powers or his utility belt or his multifunction Swiss Army knife. We know he didn’t really die. Not really.

But we are wrong.

He did die. Jesus had no last-second escape. He died for real: “Jesus shouted, ‘Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!’ And with those words he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). Jesus died and darkness covered the sky. A soldier even confirmed his death by sliding the blade of a spear up between his ribs, carving a wound big enough to put your hand into.

In the end, even those watching him die could tell there was something extraordinary about this man. “When the captain of the Roman soldiers handling the executions saw what had happened, he praised God and said, ‘Surely this man was innocent.’ And when the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw all that had happened, they went home in deep sorrow” (Luke 23:47-48).

That day on Skull Hill, the light of the world went out.

Over the years I’ve become more and more wary of people who try to make Christianity sound reasonable. God said his message would sound foolish rather than sensible, that it would be offensive rather than politically correct. The reality of the cross and the naked corpse of God is highly offensive. Until it offends us, we will never believe.

It’s politically correct to say that God is love, but not to say that God showed his love by dying for us. That’s offensive. We want an impersonal and impotent God who never actually shows love, just talks about it. Maybe we think he should just join our circle, sing the Barney song with us, and tell us all how special we are. That’s how little we understand love.

Love sacrifices for the beloved. In this case, God gave his life for us. Jesus chose to offer his life in order to rescue us, his bride.

God’s love is mysterious. Christianity will never make sense to your head. It’s not meant to. But it will make sense to your heart—if you leave yourself open to the mystery of his love.

Our culture seems to think that the open-minded are those who remain indecisive about God and that religious people are close-minded. But in reality it’s just the opposite. Here’s what Paul wrote about people who have rejected God’s story: “Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him” (Ephesians 4:18).

Those who believe have opened their minds to the mystery. Those with closed minds have not. If we’re ever going to accept the mystery of Jesus, we have to open our minds enough to accept this expression of his love: he died to set us free.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 5:6-8

Christianity is not content to say that Jesus was simply a good man, a wise moral teacher, a political revolutionary, or a martyred prophet. He was more. He was (and is) God himself. And so, when Jesus died, God himself died.

Christians believe that God exists in a mystical and powerful union of three personal entities in one unified deity—the Father who loves us, the Spirit who seeks us, and the Son who saves us. There is only one God, not three. Jesus is the one true God. The Father is the one true God. The Spirit is the one true God. Yet there is only one God. It’s a riddle. It’s a mystery. It’s Christianity.

So when the Son died, God himself died.

Nietzsche was partly right—not that “God is dead,” but he was. God died on Skull Hill. And for three hours on a Friday, even the sun hid its face.

winter devoured spring
on a hill far away.
death devoured life
on that cold and chilling day.
the author of the universe,
the poet of the stars,
died upon a rugged wooden cross.
pain conquered joy
when the carpenter was killed.
hope cracked in half
on that crucifixion hill.
the savior we had waited for
the lord we’d hoped would reign.
died upon a rugged wooden cross.
the groom did not complain
as he suffered for his bride
yet the people turned their backs
on the day the prophet died.
the hope of all his followers,
the dreams of all mankind.
died upon a rugged wooden cross.

All the cosmos shook the day God died. Earthquakes, a solar eclipse, graves spitting out their dead. Our world was never designed to withstand the death of its maker. The earth and sky and sun and stars all shuddered and tried to close their eyes and look away. A chill ran down the spine of the universe.

What else would you expect at the death of the Creator? Hopelessness climbed up from the grave, up from the depths of hell, and took over the world the day Jesus died. Creation has come full circle. The darkness that had lived with God from the beginning of time swallowed up the sky.

Leave it to humans to snuff out the light of the world, to kill the man who had come to be their Savior. “Every day I was with you in the temple courts,” said Jesus when the priests had come to arrest him, “and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53 NIV).

Darkness reigned that day. And Jesus died.

touching the unseen

sunlight wrestles
with the rising night,
but it is tired.
hope is dying around me.
meek and worn, fading into

darkness

without a groan.
without a peep.
then the coffin of darkness closes
and i am inside it
when the light goes down, dead
into the grave.

crossroads.