THE HOUR IS AT HAND
God’s timing is paramount. He is in control of all things, to secure our salvation.
The United States Constitution designates January 20 as inauguration day for the president. It dictates the hour when the new president is to take the oath of office: noon. The 20th Amendment changed inauguration day but the hour remained unchanged. Such a peaceful transfer of power was virtually unknown in the world at our country’s founding. Another transfer of power occurred by God’s determination , when Christ’s earthly ministry reached its fulfillment, as Jesus spoke His final “It is finished” (John 19:30) from the cross.
At that hour there was a transfer of power: from bondage to Satan to freedom in Christ, from the power of darkness to the kingdom of light, from eternal death to eternal life.
God’s timing is paramount. He is in control of all things in heaven and earth. The viral contagion afflicting our land this day is a reminder by our Lord, who predicted His coming again: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-6). We are a people in the world but not of the world. We have been called to faith by God’s grace in Christ. The perplexities of life we are experiencing is an indication that this world is unstable and our time here fleeting. We must distance ourselves from one another, cover our coughs, wash our hands, and take measures to tamp down this viral pandemic. We have our Lord’s assurance: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20) and His gospel promise: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
Jesus enters Jerusalem riding a donkey, which was foretold (Zechariah 9:9). Our Lord’s timing is impeccable. He knows He rides on in lowly majesty to His death. Yet He is no deterred. As He told Nicodemus earlier, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15).
He is in control and is willing to sacrifice Himself in order to transfer His sinless innocence to us and take our transgression to Himself and suffer on our behalf. Jesus repeatedly spoke of the hour in reference to His suffering and death. At the Wedding of Cana, Jesus says to His mother, “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). In John 7:30 and 8:20, the religious leaders desire to arrest Jesus, but are prevented because His hour had not yet come. After His triumphant entry on Palm Sunday, and in the course of His ministry some Greeks seek an audience with Him, Jesus declares, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays in anguish, that “the hour might pass from Him” (Mk 14:35). As Judas approaches with the religious leaders and soldiers, Jesus declares, “the hour is at hand” (Mt 26:45). After His arrest, Jesus says to the chief priests and elder it is their hour, the hour of the power of darkness (Lk 22:53). Matthew, Mark, and Luke give great detail to the hour of Christ’s death. Mark records that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, 9 am (Mk 15:25). All three gospels describe the darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour (12 – 3) when Jesus finally yields His spirit. The ninth hour is the hour of the evening sacrifice, when the lamb was offered at the temple.
Christ’s death occurs during the Passover feast, giving greater significance to the day and hour of His death, all according to God’s plan of salvation. The evangelists are clear that His death at the ninth hour is no mere coincidence.“The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29) fulfills all righteousness.The hour of Christ’s death is the culmination of the Old Testament festivals, all the sacrifices, and the temple itself. The coming of the Savior is the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9 – releasing people from their debts) and His death, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-28 – Yom Kippur, a solemn day of atonement for all sins). Jesus dies at the feast of Passover, for He is our Pascal Lamb. All the blood shed at the temple altar points to the shedding of His blood on the altar of the cross. He is the eternal temple, destroyed only to be rebuilt in three days (Jn 2:19).
The entire Old Testament, all of human history, centers on the hour of Christ’s death. His death was preceded by three hours of eerie and unexplainable darkness, a sign of God’s judgment and wrath over sin. Then at the ninth hour, the hour the lamb was sacrificed at the temple, when all that was prophesied was fulfilled, Jesus yielded up His spirit. No one took His life from Him, but He gave up His life on His own accord, at that time, at that hour. The hour of Christ’s death is the hour of our salvation. When Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). The inner curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place – the Holy of Holies – signified Christ’s making it possible for believers to go directly into the Lord’s presence. The writer to Hebrews explained: “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23). Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has brought us into the presence of His Father, now When Jesus dies, there was an earthquake. In that hour, the bodies of many believers were raised from the dead. As the centurion witnessed these events he confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mt 27:54). And on the third day, at an early hour, there was an earthquake, “for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone” covering Christ’s tomb, “and sat on it” (Mt 28:2). The saints that were raised from the dead on Good Friday point ahead to Christ’s resurrection and to our own resurrection on the Last Day. Jesus has promised, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and it now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live . . . Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out” (Jn 5:25, 28-29).
The believers raised on Good Friday reveal the purpose of Jesus’ death: to give life. The Law is God’s will for us, but we fail to keep it. It now demands our conviction and condemnation. But now Christ has, by His death in our stead, fulfilled the Law for us. This Gospel is good news. We believers in His name receive forgiveness, reconciliation with God the Father, and restitution to life everlasting. Good News indeed!
The hour of Christ’s death is the hour of our salvation. During this time of Coronavirus, of social distancing, of isolation and a halt to our normal routine, we meditate on our Lord’s Passion. A transfer of power was won for us by His cross. Salvation was won for us by Jesus’ innocent suffering and death. As foretold, our Lord enters Jerusalem on a donkey, His eyes fixed upon the cross. The Hour Is at Hand. This Holy Week we walk the way of sorrows with Him to the very hour of His death, confident His atoning sacrifice redounds to the glory of God and for our salvation.
We praise the Lord for His merciful kindness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.