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Chapter 9: The Place Where
Good and Evil Cross
“The forces of evil . . .” blared a staggeringly alien voice. The words had exploded like cannons. Deafening. Terrifying. And yet the words that ripped through my ears came with the clarity, and almost the tone, of a trumpet. Never had I heard a voice so majestic, so powerful, so crisp.
My eyes snapped open, but everything was still black. Then I saw what I can only call red lightning. Sometimes it flashed so frequently as to be almost like a dazzling red strobe light.
The darkness, interspersed only by blinding red lightning, made it nearly impossible for me to see. As alarming as this lack of visibility was, I had no desire to see a being that sounded like this one.
I was probably in a sweat, trembling, but the churning within me was so violent that it downed all consciousness of my physiological reaction. I could not have been stunned more if I had been suddenly awoken from a deep sleep by being drenched with ice water, accompanied by a screaming air raid siren placed inches from my ears. The shock alone might have been enough to account for the intensity of my emotional reaction, but mixed with that was a terrifying awareness of impending disaster.
Unable to detect even the direction, much less the distance of the voice, I wanted to remain frozen, lest I accidentally touch the being that had spoken. Nevertheless, I had a disturbing thought that I felt I needed to check out. I lifted a leg. While keeping that leg raised, I lifted my other leg. My fears were confirmed. No part of me was touching anything. I was somehow suspended in nothingness. Not entirely nothing, I reasoned. I’m still breathing, so I can’t be in outer space.
The piercing voice resumed its attack on my senses:
“The forces of evil have mustered,
“Line upon line with murderous intent:
Fiendish myriads with fearsome force,
Aligned in fury against their Foe;
Arrayed to crush the Son of God.
Satan and demons with awesome power,
Hideous gods and hate-crazed ghouls,
Beastly spirits and wicked powers.
Countless fiends take lethal aim;
Flaming arrows of devilish rage,
Amassed to destroy the Holy One.”
I wanted to flee but it felt as if there was no place in the universe in which to hide. It seemed as if some dreadful event was about to shatter every atom not only within me but in every universe and dimension in all creation. Everything – physical, spiritual, corrupt or holy – seemed a hair’s breadth from annihilation.
The voice continued. It was sort of masculine but no man ever sounded like this. I was scared to listen lest there be further ghastly news, and yet I had to find out more.
“From above the Almighty laughs.
He mocks their evil schemes;
Outwits their darkened minds,
Twists their wrath in his plan of love,
And makes them pawns in their own demise.”
Then I was somewhere else. There was quite a murmur.
“What’s happening?” said one of the louder voices. “It’s getting dark!”
“It’s an omen!” said another in an alarmed half-whisper.
“That’s no eclipse! I’ve never seen such a thing,” said an old voice.
“You can feel the evil,” said someone else.
“Darkness falls on the Son of Light,” said another reverently.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloom I could make out some crosses and a crowd of spectators.
“Well may the sun grow dark.” I looked around and it was an angel. It must be an angel, I assured myself. Never have I seen an angel so somber. He was bowed down, his back to the crosses and the crowd. He continued, apparently talking into the air:
“Unthinkable things transpire.
Purity and Corruption trade places.
Innocence and Guilt swap destinies.
The Spotless Virgin raped by sin.
Endless Glory extinguished by shame;
Beloved Son and Father ripped apart.”
A great feeling of dread and horror fell on me. In his haunting voice, he continued.
“Well may the sun grow dark:
The Heavens reel in horror.
The Blessed One cursed;
Immortality surrenders to Death.
All creation teeters.
He who holds the stars
Is now in death’s cold sway.
“Grow dark, great sun.
Weep, you heavens.
Bow down you mountains.
Your Creator dies.”
No one but me seemed to hear or see the angel. I tried hard to pierce the gloom with my eyes to see the distant crosses. Instantly, I regretted it. I am not squeamish. I am not sentimental. But I was quite unable to endure the sight. I would rather have died. I was ever so close to vomiting. What made the sight particularly harrowing was the contrast between the glorious Being I had seen playing with the children and the one drained of glory and in the throes of death. I tried not even to let myself think that this was the same Person I had previous felt so infatuated with that I had been unable to wrench my eyes off him.
Another angel appeared, glanced fleetingly at the cross, then recoiled; horror and anguish distorting his face.
“NO!” His ear-splitting shout pierced me like an arctic blast to my soul. I was shaken as he continued his tirade. “This should never be! Innocence made guilty. The Holy One crushed by sin’s curse as if humanity’s sins were his own! The Pure and Perfect One smeared with humanity’s shame – scorned, spurned, cursed.
“O God, what is humanity that you should suffer this much? Stop! . . . Please! Don’t do this . . . . No one is worth this much agony –” Then, with a blood-curdling scream, he bellowed, “NO ONE!”
I am doing my best to record these events objectively, but my emotional reaction was so extreme that I was pushed to the very brink of my ability to endure. I could find no explanation for the enormity of my inner turmoil. It was as if every word uttered since being here was a sickening body blow. It felt more gut wrenching than merely being a spectator to a grizzly incident of earth-shattering proportions. It was almost as if the intensity of the angelic outbursts were causing me to experience Jesus’ tortuous death, not through a hardened human heart, but through the passionate innocence of angelic eyes and emotions.
An uncomfortable silence dragged on for several minutes.
“My God, why have you forsaken Me?” I assumed the words, barely audible, came from the middle cross. I didn’t want to look up to check.
“God!” shouted the angel, “how can you do this? You hurl upon your darling Son all the outrage ever felt when the objects of your love were cheated, abused, violated. Flaming anger fueled by infinite love – fury so intense that only you can contain it – unleashed upon the Innocent One, instead of those who deserve it! WHY? Why?”
I had sincerely believed I loved Jesus passionately, but at the sight of the grief on the angel’s face I suddenly found myself appalled at how little I loved my Savior. Only then did I realize that my emotional response to Christ’s crucifixion has never been like that the trauma I would feel at seeing a loved one being tortured to death. In fact, until this experience, I think I had been little more moved by Jesus’ suffering than by reading a newspaper account of the death of a stranger.
More silence. At last, more quietly this time, he spoke. “Seconds scream like hours. How long must this torment continue? HOW LONG?” He was back to full volume again.
He looked fleetingly at the center cross, then quickly turned his back again, as if the sight were too painful. “He suffers in silence, but I cannot be still.” Then in what seemed a mixture of anger, frustration, and disbelief he shrieked, “This is no ordinary man!” The words seemed to rip through my insides.
“God, let me intervene. Let me spare your Son – your only Son – your precious Son . . .” Then, he began to sob. It came as no surprise, having witnessed his anguish, but before this I would never have thought of an angel crying so bitterly.
A voice seemed to well up within me,
“Behold your crucified King;
Source of all beauty;
Spring of life,
Tinged with blood,
Upon a sin-stained swamp –
The ruined planet
That was once his precious jewel.
“It’s finished!” said the Man on the middle cross.
Unseen angels began to sing in sober tones:
While they mourned in song, it seemed as if an enormous viper attacked Jesus. I shuddered as it bit with such fury that its entire body trembled. Finally it went limp as though dead. At that very moment Jesus’ head dropped as though he, too, were dead. I looked again and the serpent was a spear in Jesus’ side.
Then, a monstrous scorpion stung the crucified Christ. Its sting was torn off and remained embedded in Jesus’ side. The scorpion died and shriveled up. When I next looked, the sting was a spear that a Roman soldier ripped out of Jesus’ body.
Next, I saw deadly projectiles – darts, arrows, spears, rocks – hurled at the crucified Savior. A multitude crouching directly behind his mutilated body sheltered in safety.
As this was happening the angels sang:
All who cling to Christ are safe;
Shielded by his mangled form.
In him they put their faith;
For them his flesh is torn.
He suffered for their guilt,
The filth they wallowed in.
Deadly darts that enter him
Touch not those who follow him.
“It’s done! He’s drained that dreaded cup.
Not one dreg remains.
It’s paid! Sin’s debts are canceled.
The ransom’s paid in full.
Consumed! Cruel fires burnt out for lack of fuel.
Nothing’s left that isn’t charred.
It’s stilled! God’s wrath is fully spent –
Spewed upon his holy Son.
He’s dead! Hell’s fury at last is ended.
Not one cruel blow has missed its mark.
Twice dead! Dead in body and dead to God.
Naught remains but rotting flesh.
Then, that still-invisible choir began to sing in quiet reverence:
Hell’s power is lost;
Death’s sting has died:
Impaled upon a cross,
Embedded in a bleeding side.
The lion is vanquished by the lamb;
The serpent by the dove.
Depravity quashed by purity;
Hate consumed by love,
At the place where good and evil cross.
On one level I was a spoilt brat who throws a tantrum if his meal is delayed thirty seconds, trying to grasp what it would be like to die of starvation. On another level, I was like an ant on the Statue of Liberty, having no conception of the artistry and meaning of what I was trampling underfoot because I could never get back far enough, nor have eyes strong enough to truly see. The ramifications of what had just transpired were further beyond my comprehension than a four year old trying to grapple with mathematics that confounds the mind of earth’s greatest geniuses. Everywhere I looked I was completely out of my depth.
They pulled the nails and the corpse fell to the ground – a stinking pile of sweat and blood. They heaved the crumpled mass. It flopped onto a sheet. They straightened the limbs, desperately fighting waves of nausea. They lugged the body to a nearby grave, then tightly bound the lifeless shell – head, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, trunk, legs, feet. As they worked on the corpse they found themselves confronting all the unavoidable signs of death – body cold, eyes set, chest silent and motionless; gaping wounds in the head, back, side, hands, feet, all refusing to bleed. The professional executioner had drained every drop with that final thrust and twist of the spear.
They bound with the corpse seventy-five pounds of aromatic spices to fight the stench of death. No need to struggle with the massive stone. An armed squad had arrived to check the body, seal the tomb and remain on guard until relieved by the morning shift.
The ghastly scene finally dissolved.
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