Count back with me, numberless days to the dawn of time, when endless love spilled out of the infinite void and formed the words Let there be light. Close your eyes. Breathe. Deep gulping breaths that fill your lungs to capacity. In. Out. In. Out. Let the Word saturate your being as He hovers over the water, as you stand, naked and unashamed and beloved, before your God.
Count back with me, to that fateful moment, to the time of ultimate testing – and failure. Bear witness as you reach out to grab that which you were never meant to have, as you shake your defiant fists at the heavens, seizing autonomy, sinking your teeth into the seductive fruit of rebellion, of pride, of self-rule.
Count back with me, through the clouded mists of history to those early days of darkness. See yourself as you raise your knife (or your words or your contempt) against your brother in jealousy and spite. Watch as you stack your pride brick by brick, higher and higher until it leaves a jagged tear across the sky. Feel the waters rise, swirling around your ankles, your knees, your waist, here to clear away the filth of your life and the lives of everyone you know – yet ultimately unable to wash away the filth inside your hearts.
Count back with me, nineteen hundred years to a land of slavery, of oppression. Weep, for the evil one rules with an iron fist, demanding what you cannot give, delighting in your pain and your suffering. Cry out under the weight of the lash, under the horror of what you must endure, you who were meant for the Garden, you who were created for love and life and light. Rail against the darkness and pray for the dawn.
Count back with me, fifteen hundred years to a sacred meal, to the body and blood of a lamb. Taste the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, the sweet wine of freedom. Fill your senses with these new symbols of deliverance. Dance and rejoice as you leave the land of suffering, as you pass through the waters to the mountain. Stand, trembling, at its base, well aware of the presence of the Almighty. Look up in awe. But then – then, distraction beckons, temptation looms, and you taste that bitter fruit again as you fall back into the old, comfortable patterns of destruction and ruin.
Count back with me, one thousand years to the glory of the kings, to the golden days when God smiled upon you and you dwelt within the promise. Bask here, for a moment – but only for a moment, because soon, it will all crumble to dust. Soon, you will forget. He accepts your praise, sheds grace upon your land, though He knows what you do not: hidden within your sincere desire to worship the one true God, there lies an ugly undercurrent, a fatal tendency to be swept up in the pull of the crowd of nations around you.
Count back with me, seven hundred years to the prophet, him of the bushy beard and wild eyes, him with his visions of thrones and suffering servants. Your own voice rings in your ears, rough with anger as you cry out against him, as you follow in the footsteps of those around you, refusing to heed, refusing to hear.
Count back with me.
Count back with me, three years to the prophet, him of the bushy beard and the wild eyes, him with his locusts and his honey and his clothes of camel hair. His voice rings in your ears, calling you to repentance, calling you to prepare the way as he plunges people beneath the water of the Jordan. Will you heed? Will you hear?
Count back with me, five days to the glory of a king, to the golden hour when He rode through the city streets and you thought you were seeing the promise fulfilled before your eyes. Bask here, for a moment – but only for a moment, because soon, it will all crumble to dust. Soon, you will forget. He gazes at you with tenderness, accepts your praise with grace, but he hears what you cannot: hidden within the sincere cries of “Hosanna!” there lies an ugly undercurrent, a sibilant whisper, swept up in the pull of the crowd around you: crucify.
Count back with me, eighteen hours to a sacred meal, to the the body and blood of a lamb. Taste the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, the sweet wine of freedom. Fill your senses with these old symbols of deliverance, made strange and new by unfamiliar words, by a breaking of the script. This is my body. This is my blood. Sit, trembling, here at this table, well aware of the presence of the Almighty. Look at Him in awe. But then – then, fear beckons, disaster looms, and you taste the bitter fruit as you fall away, scattered like sheep as they take your Shepherd to face destruction and ruin.
Count back with me, twelve hours to a room of trials and oppression. Weep, for the one who should lead God’s people chooses instead the path of wickedness, making a mockery of justice in the dead of night, delivering the Holy One over to those who rule with an iron fist. Cry out as He buckles under the weight of the lash, as you witness the horror of what He must endure, He who is the glory of heaven, He who is love and life and light. Rail against the darkness and pray for the dawn.
Count back with me, six hours through the clouded mist of agony to those early moments of darkness. See yourself as you raise the hammer to drive the nails home, jealousy and spite powering your swing. Watch as you stack your pride brick by brick, higher and higher, as the jagged shape of a cross tears across the sky atop Golgotha. Feel the murmurs and the hatred rise, swirling around your ankles, your knees, your waist, as you look upon the Man, sweeping in and battering against him from the filth inside your heart.
Count back with me, mere moments to a time of ultimate testing. Bear witness as you hear your mocking voice call out with the crowd, shaking your defiant fists at the Man suspended between heaven and earth, daring Him to seize autonomy, to sink His teeth into the seductive fruit of rebellion, of pride, of self-rule: If you are the Son of God, come down. You who would save others, save yourself. Come down, and we will believe. This time, though – this time, the Man passes the test. As He did last night in the garden, as He did three years ago in a land wild and waste. This time, evil does not win.
And now, we are here. At this moment, a new dawn. Let the Word saturate your being as He hovers between heaven and earth, as He hangs, naked and ashamed before you. Watch as He breathes, His eyes closed. Shallow, gasping breaths, all His compressed lungs can take. In. Out. In. Out. Listen, and hear, and believe as endless Love spills out and crosses into the infinite void, as He gasps the words
It is finished.