Waiting for the End - A Meditation for Easter
Pilate was surprised to learn that
Jesus had died so quickly. That was because Roman crucifixion was not
merely an execution. It was a slow death by way of torture, filled
with excruciating pain, designed by the Romans to extend the
amount of time it actually took to die as long as possible.
"Historically the process could take anywhere from 3-4 hours to 3-4
days. And there were reports of people living as long as 9 days on a
cross." The Jewish leaders and Pilate were both expecting it to take
days for Jesus to die as was typical. That's why the Jewish leaders
petitioned Pilate to have his legs broken (John 19.31).
Because when hung on a cross for crucifixion, "Modern forensic research
shows that a person whose hands are
To do so they would have to push their body up with their legs, putting more pressure on their nailed feet, sending more bolts of pain through the body. With the legs broken, the condemned person on the cross would no longer be able to lift themselves up to breathe, thus greatly hastening death.
As I mediated on the events of the crucifixion, it occurred to me that once on the cross, the result was inevitable, and everyone was merely waiting for the victim to die. The Jewish leaders were waiting, Pilate was waiting, those standing around the cross were waiting, the soldiers were waiting. It also occurred to me that the person on the cross was also waiting, fully cognizant of the fact that death was certain and near. It was just a matter of waiting for it to arrive.
Thankfully the United States and all first world countries have outlawed such cruel punishment because: "A real crucifixion would be unimaginable. Crucifixion is one of the worst ways to die. It's a horrible, horrible way to die." says Sarah Stroup,Professor, University of Washington. Thankfully most of us (none of us?) will face a crucifixion. Nevertheless, like those condemned on the cross, we are all waiting to die. As we're reminded in the famous poem, book and movie: "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
The poem points out that death effects everyone through its impact on mankind. More importantly though, it tacitly makes the much more serious point that one day, the bell will be tolling for each one of us. In that sense, each toll of the bell reminds us that like those condemned to death by execution - regardless of the method - we're all waiting to die. It's merely a matter of time.
This would be a rather depressing thought, particularly for an Easter Sunday which is supposed to be joyous, were it not for the message of the cross. The message of the cross dispels the darkness of despair and shines the light of hope and joy into an otherwise grim and hopeless wait for death. What is that light? Christians call it the "blessed hope":
Because at his appearing, Christians know we will be with live eternally with Him, and will soon see the place he has gone ahead to prepare for us:
So for Christians, the wait is not a bleak one. It is full of hope and joy. Of course this hope is only for Christians - those who have received him, believed in his name, and thus have become children of God. (John 1.12) Those who don't believe have no such hope because as atheist and evolutionary biologist William Provine put it:
Doubtlessly someone will ask, why should I believe in this "blessed hope"? What's the evidence? This site is full of evidence for those seeking evidence, but on this day, the day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, I ask you to consider only one piece of evidence: Jesus Christ was crucified, dead and buried. He rose again on the third day and was seen alive by many. With that evidence I ask you to take the Christian hope as your own by accepting his invitation:
Drink deeply of the water of life, for
it will become in you a "spring of water welling up to eternal
life." (John 4.14)
Duane Caldwell | posted 15 April 2017
5. For Whom the Bell
of the famous Ernest Hemingway book, based on the poem by John Donne.
The 1943 Movie For Whom the Bell Tolls is based on Hemingway's
book and opens with the above section of the poem.