By Brenda Black
High Noon - The 1952 movie starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly is a western classic. Cooper plays Marshall Will Kane, a lawman torn between the love for his Quaker wife and duty to the town he swore to protect. But he faces the task alone as “cowardly townspeople flee like rats from a sinking ship,” describes one Netflix review. The entire story takes place in only 85 minutes as the clock ticks along toward the showdown at high noon.
The black and white epic is purportedly an icon of western genre movies and critics have heralded its cutting-edge theatrics to be well ahead of its time. Yet the intensity of 1950's Hollywood flick pales to the real life drama historically documented in Luke 23:44-45.
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.” (Luke 23:44-45a)
The expression "sixth hour" refers to high noon! From the time of Jesus' abduction by the armed guard of the Jewish leaders, at about 11:00 PM of Nisan 13, till His final agony on the stake at 3:00 PM of Nisan 14, when He died, there is a total of 40 hours that Christ suffered. He endured 40 hours of imprisonment, judgment, trial, mockery, lashings, beatings, scourging, and painful waiting for final crucifixion.
Josephus, a first century historian, called it "the most wretched of deaths." I can't begin to even imagine it, but a prophet visualized it hundreds of years before it ever happened. “Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--.” (Isaiah 52:14)
Isaiah also foretold of a future crowd's reaction: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Ish. 53:3-5)
In the title song from the High Noon soundtrack, Tex Ritter sings: “I do not know what fate awaits me. I only know I must be brave. And I must face a man who hates me...” Marshall Kane may not have known the outcome of his famous dusty road show down, but the Savior of man knew His destiny at Calvary's crossroads. He gravely anticipated the rejection of friends and His Father's forsaking. He walked the road alone while cowardly believers fled like rats from a sinking ship.
As the Light of the World faded, darkness covered the whole land. The sun hid its face for three hours and the world curled up in stifling silence. The tangible color of black and a muted creation was lit and awakened by one voice of courage and commitment when Christ uttered eight final words.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Lk 23:46b)
Jesus faced his divine task alone. He faced the Enemy and gunned him down by giving His life instead of having it taken. His last words are not a cry of surrender to Satan or the sinful soldiers who gambled and snickered at his feet. His dying statement reveals the authority He held to give himself back to the God who sent Him to fulfill a promise to his creation. He gave away what they thought they were taking away from him, and the whole scene was altered by the One who could see ahead of His time and counted that time by divine calculations. In one moment there was a stand-off in the streets of Jerusalem between the good guy and the bad guy. The next moment Jesus simply opened his hands and dropped his weapon of supernatural status, leaving those who thought they had him red-handed and hung, shaking their heads in awe and wonder.
As the clock on eternity's wall clicks, the One who gave himself for you waits to forgive. He stands in the street alone, laying down his life to preserve yours. Christ proved his sacrificial love on a day when the sun stopped shining so you could experience eternity where night never falls.
This Easter weekend, please remember how Christ fought for you on Good Friday at High Noon.