Threads of Scripture - Calvary

This is the final part of a multi-part series looking at creation and re-creation through the lens of mountains in the Bible.

Though Mount Zion in the new heaven and new earth is the final mountain of God, our path to that holy hill must first make its way to Mount Calvary. But before we do that, we need a lesson in language.

The gospels tell us that Jesus Christ was crucified at “the place called Golgotha” (Mk 15:22). That was the Aramaic name for that site. To help their readers who may not have known Aramaic, the evangelists tells us that the Greek name of this site was “Place of a Skull.” The Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Bible, translated the Greek word for “skull” (from which we get our English word cranium) with the word calvaria, an uncommon Latin word. Since the Vulgate was the starting point for some English translations of the Bible, Calvary entered into the Western vocabulary rather than Golgotha.

That being said, how is it that Calvary fits into our thread of Scripture that has been tracing the idea of mountains and (re-)creation? In the first place, the very name suggests that the location of Christ’s crucifixion was a hill of some description. One may object that a hill does not a mountain make but consider that the height of a mountain suggested nearness to God. Calvary did not need to be so tall, though, because God had already come down.

There is also a connection with the creation theme as well. Remember that de-creation was associated with most mountains. The flood preceded Noah’s trip to Mt. Ararat. The destruction at the Red Sea preceded Israel’s trip to Mt. Sinai. Sacrifice was closely associated with the tabernacle and temple.

Furthermore, with many of the previously encountered mountains, a re-creation occurred as well. At Ararat, creation was renewed after the flood and Noah was reissued the creation mandate. At Sinai, Israel was created as God’s chosen people and treasured possession. At the tabernacle and temple, Israel was re-created each year on the Day of Atonement.

At Calvary, we see hints of de-creation. There was an unnatural darkness over the land for three hours during the crucifixion (Mk 15:33). Moreover, the curtain of the temple was torn in two at the time of Jesus’ death (Mk 15:38). Given that the temple served as a mini-mountain of God, the tearing of the veil hints at the unwinding of creation as the people knew it. Though subtle, there are hints at de-creation present at Calvary.

More positively, Calvary marks a great re-creation that surpasses everything that had happened on all of the previous mountains of God. Why? Because at Calvary, “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19), and this had the effect such that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

All of the prior mountains of God were pointing to Calvary. Since the Fall, each re-creation marked by the mountain-top experiences of Noah, Moses, and Israel revealed something new, but each experience also only served to highlight the fact that Paradise was still lost. Each mediator upon the mountain failed in some way, prompting God’s people to look forward to a new and final mountain-top experience. At Calvary, the hopes of God’s people were realized as Jesus Christ received in our behalf the de-creative judgment of God and effected the full and final re-creation of all things.

Though Christ has made you a new creation, he is still making all things new. While we have received new life in Christ now, we have not yet experienced the full and final re-creation that awaits those who are in Christ. The whole creation is still groaning as it awaits a greater day, the day of resurrection, of which Paul says,

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."

"O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

On Calvary, this great work of re-creation began; in God’s good timing, it will be completed on Mount Zion.

Covenant Presbyterian Church

291 Parsonage Hill Road

Short Hills, New Jersey 07078

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