It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.
nine in the morning
might as well be midnight
light shines on
morning noon night
there is no basket here
to cover this candle
cast into a very dark place
alive though beyond hope
I told you I would rise
you could only get to death
which you soundly rejected
but of rising there is no end
Mark appears to be using a formula to measure out the day that emphasizes time as a symbol rather than clock-time. We have cock-crow, sunrise, sun half-way up in the east, noon, half-way down in the west, sunset, night.
The Greek reads, “third hour” (three hours after sunrise). The day is going along as expected. Nightmares have moved from present to past. The day’s work is well underway—nails have been pounded.
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, in Anderson38, attends to the narrative structure of Mark and comments:
The more detailed setting of scenes in time and space of the Markan passion narrative is the implied author’s plea to the implied reader: slow down; take this in; to understand anything of the story you must understand this. It is another form of urgency.
Instead of a general time frame of “morning” in earlier sections of Mark, we are now given more specific designations. Though this chapter is shorter than the first 14, time is slowing down. We hustled through the teachings and healings, moving quickly from one to the next. Here it feels like time is constricted in a way that only great pain or great love can. Each moment extends past a normal passage of time—we’ll never get better; may this never end.
The simple statement “the crucified him” is repeated from the previous verse. It now lodged in the reader’s mind and can be present, without being said, in each subsequent verse.
Each time it comes around there is a choice to be made about our desensitization, after all this is just a story, or re-traumatization at each succeeding glimpse of a crucifixion’s progress and processes.
These same choices, plus whether we will intervene or not, come to us in every news-cycle that carries somewhere within it another scene of crucifixion of another Child of G*D or group of Children of G*D. We might well wonder where we were at “nine this morning”. Whose crucifixion did we attend to or avoid?