Casting ShadowsFiction by Nathan Mates
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour - Luke 23:44, NIV
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Those were the first words we heard as we arrived on the scene. The speaker was in the center, with a plaque posted above his head. The words were directed at a common criminal to one side of him. Those that needed to hear those words were some of the crowd already present-- mocking the speaker.
The speaker was the King of the Jews, and dying because of that. Jesus, the Son of God was in the center, nailed to a cross. His back, already shredded by the brutal whipping-- not the 40 lashes minus one of the Jewish custom, but the savage beating from Roman guards without limits. Jesus had survived that, unlike some others this punlishment had been dealt to. His back, scraping painfully against the wood as he struggled to force air into his lungs.
We could see those standing around mocking him, calling on him to work another miracle and save himself were slightly disappointed but greatly satisfied. Greatly satisfied that Jesus, who had said so many things against their friends, attracted huge crowds, did miracles, and caused much trouble in their Temple this past week, was before them, powerless and dying. Slightly disappointed that they'd never get to see any miracles from him. But, they'd heard his claims to be the Son of God, rejected them as blasphemous. Who would know better than them, the religious experts of the day how their Messiah would come?
Jesus's head, caked with blood from the crown of thorns that had dug into his flesh. Covered with bruises in other areas from the beatings he had received at the hands of these religious leaders, the experts in the law. From the hill of Golgotha, one could see the top of the temple on the other side of the city.
Further away stood some some disciples and Jesus's mother. The son angels had said to her would sit on the throne of David. The son she'd conceived miraculously. The son who'd done great things. Through her tears, the blurry outline of the cross pierced her eyes and her soul.
The hours passed, and while we could hardly stand the sight of Jesus's death, we could barely turn our gaze away from the son of God dying in front of us. The weight of the sins of all of mankind were on him. Being one with God before time began, that bond was breaking. There is a joy a new believer feels as they enter into God's love. This was the reverse, magnified a million times as Jesus felt the enternal separation from God that would be our punishment, but he took instead. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" cried out. He was dying.
Near Mary was a disciple, John. He'd returned after fleeing from the garden of Gethsemane. We saw that John's feet were once again dirty after the trip to the garden, the flight from it, the finding of Mary, and the approaching of the cross. His feet had been cleaned hours before, as Jesus showed him and the other disciples how to act. But now, they stood in the dirt and dust, with mud forming around where the tears fell.
The hands which had so lovingly washed the feet of the disciples were now outstretched and almost immobile. A carpenter's hands, no stranger to wood, were nailed to this tree. Not through the palm of the hands, where one could pull away from the nail, but through the center of the wrists. The Romans had perfected this method of execution long before, and this was merely a routine killing in a backwater town by hardened troops.
Finally, we heard the ending words: "It is finished." His life was over. He had taken the sins of the world, and paid the price, even though he was an unblemished lamb. His spirit was in the hands of God, and his body would lie in a tomb. Yet his grace in dying and his actions on the cross made another early convert: the Centurion, the Roman commander of 100 troops, and the overseer of this crucifixion.
The Centurion was battle hardened, and had killed hundreds, if not thousands, as part of the occupying army. He was no stranger to death, and he'd seen it all. He'd been brought up with the Roman pantheon, with the capricious Gods and Goddesses. Yet he knew something different from any previous crucifixion had happened, and his lips confessed the truth: "Truly this was the Son of God!" One Son, of the one God, and he'd just watched him die.
This was the one event of this Earth worth watching before it was destroyed to make way for a new Heaven and a new Earth. In many ways, it was the only event on this Earth ever worth watching. We were not used to being in midair, but it was not a problem. For we had been caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air. Not on this day, but on a day far in the future. A day we'd be entering paradise. And we understood why Jesus wanted to bring us back from meeting him in the air during the rapture to watch his crucifixion-- so numerous were we that we filled the sky, casting shadows.
[Disclaimer: there is no such Biblical evidence for this idea of timetravelling back from the rapture; that's why I labeled this piece as fiction above. The sun going backwards (2Ki 10:9-11, Is 38:7-8) is the closest to timetravel that I could find. But, I thought visiting the crucifixion was a cool idea to use as a framework, and once I had the last paragraph sketched out, the rest fell into place. Maybe I should read fewer Science Fiction novels or something.]