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Jesus was crucified at 9 am; at 12 noon darkness came over ALL the land. From 9-12 Jesus hung slowly dying a torturous death. We know that Christ did not dispute or try to fight in anyway this sentence or the way he was treated. However, there were three times during this three-hour period where Jesus broke his silence. 1) Luke 23:34, Jesus prayed for the sins of the wicked men, asking his Father to forgive because they are oblivious to what they are doing. 2) Luke 23:39-43 Jesus broke his silence to give salvation to the repenting robber who was slowly dying next to him. 3) John 19:26-27, He spoke to John and his momma Mary. Telling each of them to care for the other.
At noon begins the last three hours of life for Jesus here on earth and it becomes dark. Darkness came over all the earth, the entire earth became dark. Throughout the OT darkness is used as a symbol of judgement. The Talmud teaches that if the sun were to go dark it would signify judgement of God on the earth for committing a huge crime. I would say that would be exactly what is happening here. Every single Jew would be familiar with what the darkness means.
From 12 to 3 pm, for three hours it was totally dark. Knowing this meant judgement the people must have been terrified, clinging to each other, waiting, wondering what would happen next. Jesus breaks the silence one last time, after suffering in darkness for three hours he finally calls out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” He calls out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.
Every time I read or hear this verse, it breaks my heart. I never want to think that God would ever forsake anyone. The most common used definition of forsake is to abandon, that definition breaks my heart. To think our heavenly Father abandoned his only son is so sad to me. Forsaken also means to give up something valued. Jesus is valuable. At 3 pm on that Passover day, Jesus called out to his father, he was quoting Psalms 22:8 when he said this.
It was at this very moment that our Father had to give up his Son. Jesus was true, pure, holy and completely without sin. God had to give him over to sin. This beautiful spotless lamb had to be covered with the blood of sin, he was no longer pure and spotless. At 3:00 Jesus became sin. He did not just bare sin, he became sin. His Father’s hand was removed from him, he was no longer close to God. Sin separates us from God, when we sin, we separate ourselves from God. When Jesus became our sins, in that moment he was separated from God. Sometimes when we are bearing the weight of sin, we feel like God is not there, it’s because we have allowed sin to separate us.
Jesus was now fully feeling sin. He was now able to relate to the hopelessness that we feel when we are living in sin, what it feels like to live without God in our lives. His anguish here is a good indication to just how horrible it is.
Even though this is a profoundly serious event, people in the crowd still mocked Jesus. In the depths of darkness and despair, some of the people standing there, heard Jesus and decided to twist what he said. One of them immediately ran to get a sponge. They soaked it with wine vinegar, tied it to the end of a staff and offered it up to Jesus. They told him to “leave him alone, let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” Making fun, mocking him even more, treating those who have any sympathy toward Jesus harshly. Clearly, these men do not care that darkness is telling them judgement is coming, because they chose to ignore it.
While they were mocking Jesus, he cried out again in a loud voice. Crying out in a loud voice is yelling, screaming. Jesus screamed out and gave up his spirit. Jesus gave up his spirit. It was not taken from him. He was in control of death and he chose when he would give his life and when he would take in up.
John 19:30 says, Jesus said, “It is finished”. Luke 23:26 adds, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus yelled these words in such a loud and thunderous voice that the earth began to shake. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, starting from the top clean through to the bottom. This curtain was estimated to be 60 feet long and an inch thick. Tearing this veil was no easy feat. At the exact moment Jesus gave his life, at the exact moment sin was overcome the veil tore. The veil is what separated ordinary people from the innermost sanctuary. With this veil now being torn, you now have access to God’s presence. The temple would have been filled with pilgrims, people offering up their sacrifices. And just like that the curtain was torn into two pieces, leaving the inner sanctuary, the holiest of holy places completely exposed to everyone.
At the same time large rocks, boulders were split in half and tombs broke open. The earth experienced a major earthquake, one that caused the dead bodies to raise to life.
Reread vs. 52-53
These two verses are great examples of overlooked scripture. I don’t remember ever focusing on this section. I don’t remember ever hearing a preacher speak on these verses. The bodies of holy people who have died were raised to life when the earth shook, and they ran out of that grave. They ran out of the darkness the moment Jesus was resurrected. Their bodies were raised to life, but they waited for three days until Jesus returned from the grave and then they came out of their tombs and went into the holy city where a lot of people recognized them. These were not spirits, they were not ghosts, they were real flesh and blood humans who came to life after being dead.
So many questions come up with this section. Who are the people and why are they resurrected? Does anybody know? BTW, Matthew is the only one to record this miracle. We know from verse 52 that these are holy people, they are saints. Specifically, people who believed in Jesus, people that Jesus, before crucifixion, forgave them of their sins, people who received Christ before the atonement of sins.
The people who died believing in Christ, before Christ overcame death, are now being resurrected back to life. But why? Because they were given a promise. They believed Jesus to be the Messiah, they believed that through him they would have everlasting life. Once Jesus died sin could no longer keep them in the grave; sin could no longer keep them from God. They walked out of their tombs because payment for their sins had been made.
I suppose you and I could have a similar experience to this if we are not taken up in the rapture. If we die before the rapture, we will be awakened from a long slumber to see Jesus’ glorious return. That is what they got to do, witness Jesus’ return from the grave.
Imagine live bodies walking up out of tombs and marching into the holy city, being recognized by their families and friends. Many of the Jewish people did not believe in resurrection, so could you imagine their surprise when this happened. What about the testimony of the revived saints? This is just so unbelievable, if were not written in the Bible it would be hard to believe.
Matthew does not tell us who any of the saints were, maybe he did not know them personally. But they could be people like John the Baptist or Joseph even. Matthew also, does not tell us what happened to the people after they appeared and visited with their family and friends. I suppose they could have gone on to live a normal life, or possibly when Jesus ascended to heaven they went back to rest until Jesus’ return. The commentaries vary on this topic and so what that means to me is to look at the bottom line, which is they were raised as a testimony to those following Christ that his word is true. That believing in Christ you will not perish but have everlasting life. That Jesus overcame death and you are now free to live and have complete access to God.
Nothing in this setting is normal, its not normal to have the sky turn dark during prime daylight hours and to put the cherry on the top the earth began to quake at the exact moment Jesus died.
It was because of all these cosmic events that the Roman centurion claimed Jesus’ sovereignty. Vs. 54 When the centurion along with all the other men who were stationed there saw and felt the earthquake and everything else that was happening, they became terrified. That is when the centurion declared that Jesus was the Son of God!
Luke 23:47-48 gives an awesome description of what the centurion said. His first response was to praise God. This gentile, this roman was praising God. Isn’t that what its all about? Praising God, he said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.
This is certainly one way to disperse a crowd, remember this crowd was predominately Jewish people who were in the city for Passover. What these cosmic events represented was the vindication of Jesus. The people viewed this as a sign from God that caused them to be very afraid. This fear completely took over and the reality of what they did set in, and they began to beat their chests in agony over this.
The centurion was a significant member of the roman military, this centurion was in charge of the crucifixion and his declaration of Jesus being the Son of God was taken seriously by the crowd.