Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Christ and Absalom: Hanging on a tree between heaven and earth

Christ on the Cross by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Today is Holy Wednesday.  Let us now meditate on the crucifixion of Christ by going back to the Old Testament and read the story of Absalom who mustered a rebellion against his father, David.  As we shall see, there are six similarities between their deaths, so that we can say that the death of Absalom is a prefiguration of Christ's death.

1.  Mounted on a Mule

Absalom was mounted on a mule when he was fleeing from David's forces:
Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants. He was mounted on a mule, and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large oak tree, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule under him kept going. (2 Sam 18:9)   
Jesus was similarly mounted on a colt when he entered triumphantly into Jerusalem:
And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” 34 They answered, “The Master has need of it.” 35 m So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. (Lk 19:33-35)
2. Silver Pieces as Payment for Betrayal

David prohibited his soldiers and servants from killing Absalom:
But the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” All the soldiers heard as the king gave commands to the various leaders with regard to Absalom. (2 Sam 18:5)
But when one man reported to Joab, the commander of David's army, that Absalom caught his hair on a tree and hanging between the earth and sky, Joab replied:
If you saw him, why did you not strike him to the ground on the spot? Then it would have been my duty to give you fifty pieces of silver and a belt. (2 Sam 18:11)
But the man refused to go against David's command.

On the other hand, we know that Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver by the chief priests to betray Jesus:
Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,* went to the chief priests 15 * f and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, 16 and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. (Mt 26:14-16)
Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver* to the chief priests and elders,c 4 saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” 5 * Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. (Mt 27:3-5)
 3. Hanging on a Tree between the Earth and Sky

As we learned earlier, Absalom's hair was caught fast in a tree:
As the mule passed under the branches of a large oak tree, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule under him kept going. (2 Sam 18:9)   
Jesus was also hung on the tree of the cross. Isaiah's prophecy has the image of a tree:
He grew up like a sapling before him,b like a shoot from the parched earth; He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. (Is 53:2)
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27:46)
This is actually the first line of the Psalm of David (Ps 22:2), but we can imagine Absalom saying the same thing while on a tree.

4. Pierced on the Heart by a Lance

Since the man who saw Absalom refused to kill him, Joab went to kill Absalom himself:
Joab replied, “I will not waste time with you in this way.” And taking three pikes in hand, he thrust for the heart of Absalom. He was still alive in the tree.a 15 When ten of Joab’s young armor-bearers closed in on Absalom, and killed him with further blows, 16 Joab then sounded the horn, and the soldiers turned back from the pursuit of the Israelites, because Joab called them to halt. (2 Sam 18:14-16)
 Jesus was also pierced on the heart by a lance:
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, 34 * s but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows* that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe.t 36 For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.”u 37 And again another passage says: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”v (Jn 19:33-37)
5. Cry of the Father

David mourned the death of his son, Absalom:
The king was shaken, and went up to the room over the city gate and wept. He said as he wept, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam 19:1)
God the Father spoke of Jesus as His Beloved Son, such as during the Transfiguration:
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;* then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (Mk 9:7)
Thus, when Jesus died, the Father wept, so to speak, and the heavens and earth were shaken:
From noon onward,u darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 v And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”* which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”....But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. 51 x And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.* The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 y tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. (Mt 27:45-52)
5. Burial on a Tomb

After his death, Absalom was buried on a pit:
They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest, and built up a very large mound of stones over him. And all the Israelites fled to their own tents. (2 Sam 18:17)
For his part, Jesus was buried on a tomb, which is also a large mound of stone:
They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. 41 Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. 42 So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by. (Jn 19:40-42)
 (Word Count: 1174 words)
''A morte de Abxalom'' ilustración de Gustave Doré (Wikipedia)
''A morte de Abxalom'' ilustración de Gustave Doré (Wikipedia)

Absalom, Absalom! The Corrected Text
Absalom, Absalom! The Corrected Text
Is The Young Man Absalom Safe? A Sermon Preached in The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Stoke Bishop, on Sunday, July 19th, 1885
Is The Young Man Absalom Safe? A Sermon Preached in The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Stoke Bishop, on Sunday, July 19th, 1885
Tre Ore: The Seven Last Words of Christ
Tre Ore: The Seven Last Words of Christ
The Crucifixion of Jesus, Completely Revised and Expanded: A Forensic Inquiry
The Crucifixion of Jesus, Completely Revised and Expanded: A Forensic Inquiry
The Shroud
The Shroud

Other Related Books and Films: