Sunday night, along with millions of others, I watched Michael Phelps make Olympic history by winning his eighth gold medal.
Imagine the cheering around the world. Thousands in the stands, and millions watching TV, celebrating one of the greatest sports accomplishments ever.
But the greatest victory of all time was won all alone in darkness with no one cheering.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When Jesus cried these desolate words from the cross he was achieving the triumph of the ages. But he wasn’t in a stadium surrounded by applauding fans shouting for him to go for it. The only similarity to Sunday was that Jesus’ mother was there watching, but she couldn’t see the victory Jesus was winning, for great darkness covered the land, and great spiritual darkness engulfed Jesus’ soul.
His disciples had forsaken him, and Peter had denied him three times. No one spoke up in his defense in the mock trial that condemned him. No one came to rescue him when the Roman soldiers shredded his back with their bone and metal-studded whips. No one objected to them pounding spikes into his hands and feet. No outcry was raised at the injustice of an innocent man impaled on a tree between two criminals. But worst of all, not even his Father would raise a hand to spare him.
Alone in the darkness, Jesus drained the foaming cup of God’s wrath against sin.
Instead of fans cheering him on, the crowd mocked and insulted him. Instead of encouraging him, they spit on him and jeered him. Even the angels of heaven probably watched in stunned silence as the Father crushed his own Son.
And when Jesus finally won his victory, there was no earthly celebration. No shouts of joy. No one pumping their hands in the air or hugging each other. No one screaming, “This is incredible! We’ve never seen anything like this! We’re witnessing history today! This will never be topped!” The only recognition Jesus received came from the lips of a Roman centurion who had rammed a spear into Jesus’ side: “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
But the moment Jesus uttered, “It is finished,” heaven must have erupted in the greatest celebration since Jesus’ birth. This was truly the greatest victory of all time. God’s furious wrath toward his children quenched forever. Millions of saints ransomed. Sin atoned for, ultimately to be destroyed forever. Everlasting righteousness ushered in for God’s children. Satan conquered and his doom sealed for good.
No earthly cheers were heard the day Christ died. But we’ll be cheering forever for the Lamb in heaven:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (RE 5.9-10)
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