Death of the King

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 27:45-56, “Death of the King”

It would seem to be an ironic passage to study on Father’s Day.  On the day we remember the love and devotion and sacrifice of our earthly dads, we look at that one act that would seem unthinkable for the best Father of us all: the day He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for us.  After all, fathers generally protect their children – they do everything they can to keep them safe from harm.  They certainly don’t send their children into harm’s way, and turn away from them in their hour of need.  And yet that is exactly what God the Father did when Jesus went to the cross.

It’s not that God didn’t truly love His Son – heaven forbid we would even think such a thing!  The Father loves the Son more dearly & more deeply in ways we cannot possibly imagine.  But there came a moment in which God the Father had to do the unthinkable: pour out His holy wrath upon His Son, and then turn away from Him in the midst of it.  Jesus had to be forsaken, and Jesus – the eternal holy Son of God – had to die.

The land went dark as the Savior suffered & people continued to mock Him, and at the moment of His death creation mourned for its Creator and gave witness to what had just happened.  Even in His death, our Lord was victorious – and although unknown by the people around Him, His death gave hope to all the world.

Matthew 27:45–56
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

  1. Matthew clues us in on a bit of the chronology of the day when he writes of “the 6th hour until the 9th hour.”  It’s not that Jesus hung upon the cross for three hours only (Mark says Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour – Mk 15:25); but that that is how long darkness covered the land. (Technically the term “land” could be translated “earth,” but “land” fits the context and idea better.)  Some have wondered if there is a discrepancy here between Matthew & John, as John records the trial of Pilate still going on at the 6th hour.  There’s no contradiction; only a different way of counting time.  The Jews counted their hours in the day starting from 6am – thus the 6th hour of the day would be noon, and the 9th hour would be 3pm.  However, John writing much later would have easily adopted the Roman method of counting time, and the 6th hour would be 6AM in the morning.  Considering the late-night mob arrest of Jesus, and early morning illegal trials of Jesus (while it was still dark), an early trial from Pilate is not unreasonable at all.
  2. Chronology aside, the far bigger idea here is the supernatural darkness.  Considering the timing and the context of the gospel writers, there is no doubt that this is something far more than a bit of cloud cover.  This was a supernatural event in which the creation recognized what mankind could not: its Creator was hanging upon the cross.  Question: couldn’t this have been a lunar eclipse?  Absolutely not.  Passover is specifically given by God in the OT to be timed with a full moon, and although a lunar eclipse is sometimes possible during Passover, a solar eclipse is not.  The moon is literally on the opposite side of the earth during the phase of a full moon, and a solar eclipse is physically impossible.  There is a secular history source that labels the darkness as an eclipse (Phlegon, 13th book, quoted by Eusebius), but although he accurately records the event of darkness, he is incorrect in regards to the cause.  So then – if it wasn’t an eclipse, what was it?  This was a supernaturally caused darkness, along the lines of the Egyptian plagues.
    1. The darkness of the land mirrored the darkness of the hour.  There had never been a time so bleak as the hours when the Creator God hung suffering upon the cross.
  3. The darkness is more than trivia about Jesus’ crucifixion – it’s a visible indication of the physical mourning that surrounds Jesus’ suffering and death. Do we mourn our sin that sent Jesus to the cross?

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

  1. It was 3pm when Jesus cried out the opening words of Psalm 22.  At this point, even gathering enough breath to barely mutter a few syllables would have been agonizing – to cry out in this fashion would have required immense pain.  Interestingly, Matthew & Mark are the only writers that record this, and they both leave Jesus’ words in the Aramaic (Mark moreso than Matthew).  Hearing Jesus’ own voice here not only sets the stage for the misunderstanding of His words (vs. 47), but it also allows us as readers one of the few times to hear Jesus’ words un-translated.  We can almost hear our Savior’s voice crying out in pain and anguish – the very words reflecting the torment of His body and soul.
  2. Actually, it’s Jesus’ soul that is more in view here than His body.  Much has already been described about the physical sufferings of the Son of God, but here we see the mental and emotional anguish that Jesus endured.  To be sure, Jesus’ sufferings upon the cross were a direct fulfillment of prophecy, and much of that prophecy was contained in the description of Psalm 22.  Hundreds of years prior to crucifixion being modified and used by the Romans, King David wrote of it in immense detail, specifically showing many of the events that surrounded Jesus’ personal execution, unique to Him.  That Jesus would quote this particular psalm, out of all the psalms that He could have quoted is certainly an indication that Jesus did so purposefully, with an intent of having His disciples connect the dots as to what was taking place. That said, do not get the idea that all of this was academic for Jesus.  This was no poetic statement, nor some objective dispassionate theological lesson Jesus was passing along.  Jesus truly suffered upon the cross, and He truly felt abandoned by His Heavenly Father while hanging there.  Although it is a mystery to us how it could take place, the God the Son was temporarily forsaken by God the Father.
  3. Take a moment to get a glimpse of the significance of this.  In the workings of the eternal Triune Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have always had perfect fellowship.  They have always existed together as three Persons in one God, and there had been no separation between them.  The Son is begotten of the Father, and has always existed with the Father – as John writes, he was with God, was God, and was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)  There has never been a closer and more intimate relationship between father and child than between God the Father and God the Son.  That relationship is absolutely perfect.  It was unbroken from before even the beginning of time itself.  And then in one sweeping moment, the Son of God finds Himself utterly alone.  For the first time (ever!), God the Son is forsaken by God the Father and Jesus is alone.  Even when Jesus became incarnate, He was never alone!  He always did the things that pleased the Father, and had the assurance that His Father heard Him whenever He prayed (Jn 11:42).  The Father had even manifested His voice on several occasions to support and praise His Son (Mt 3:17, 17:5, Jn 12:28).  But not now.  Now Jesus is alone.  He has become the sin of all history, and the Father has to turn His back on His Child in order for justice to be done.  We can barely begin to grasp the grief that Jesus endured in this moment.  Surely this was the most terrifying aspect of the crucifixion to Him, out of everything that He would endure.  No doubt the reason Jesus sweat great drops of blood the night before was not because of the physical torture (though it would be awful & unrestrained), but because of the spiritual torture He would endure by having the wrath of His own loving Father turned upon Him, and then having His Father turn away in the process.
  4. And yet it had to be done.  God is rightly angry due to sin.  Sin caused the entire creation to fall – sin brought death and suffering into the world.  Sin has murdered every single being in all history, and it is outright rebellion against God’s authority & an assault on His perfect glory.  Sin upset the order of all creation, and it HAD to be made right again.  Even if only one human being ever received the forgiveness that Jesus offers, God would have still have sent Jesus in order to make right what sin caused to go wrong.  It is an infinite offense against an infinite God, and an infinite payment needs to be made.  Only infinite God (God the Son) can make that payment – and it was made when Jesus went to the cross.  This was the propitiation of God – this satisfied God’s holy anger towards sin, and fulfilled the infinite wrath that we deserved. … And that is why the Father forsook the Son at the cross.  It was unprecedented & unheard of & undreamt that the Son of God would become the payment for the sin of all mankind – that He Himself would be the sacrifice slain for our sin – and yet that is exactly what happened.  Jesus endured the forsaking of His Father in order that you & I might be saved.
  5. There’s another aspect of Jesus quoting Psalm 22 that we often forget.  Although the first half of the psalm speaks of the terrible suffering of Jesus upon the cross, that’s not how the psalm ends.  The 2nd half speaks of the incredible victory and blessings of the Messiah during the Church Age and the Millennial Kingdom.  David’s psalm began with an anguished question of why God had forsaken him, but it turned in hope to the assurance that God eventually answered.  Psalm 22:24, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard." []  DID the Father forsake Jesus?  Yes – but that forsaking did not last forever!  God would demonstrate His answer to Jesus’ cry three days later when Jesus rose from the grave!  The cross is a cruel instrument of death, but it is also today a wonderful symbol of hope because we understand there is victory over it.  Jesus died upon that cross, but the cross did not keep Jesus down.  Jesus was forsaken on that cross when He became sin, but the Father received the Son back to Himself, and today after Jesus’ physical resurrection from the grave, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father in glory & power!
  6. We understand this looking back, but in the moment Jesus’ cry was misunderstood.  See vs. 47…

47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”

  1. Whether the bystanders honestly misunderstood Jesus or they purposefully twisted His words is left unsaid, but the end result was that they didn’t understand Jesus calling out to God.  Instead, they believed (or told themselves) that Jesus was crying out for Elijah.  Certainly that was one reason both Mark & Matthew left the Aramaic for us to read, because the confusion becomes easy to understand.  “Eli/Eloi” would sound very similar to “Elijah,” especially coming from a tortured voice upon the cross that had grown dry through His sufferings.

48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.

  1. In the midst of all of this chaos, one person seems to have pity for Jesus and gets Him something to drink.  Some have suggested that this person meant to mock Jesus, but the text implies otherwise.  (1) The sour wine was the normal drink that was available for the Roman soldiers.  It was common to drink weakened wine (or wine vinegar) instead of water, in that the alcohol would be safer than impure sources of water. (2) Jesus was indeed thirsty, and although He refused the wine mixed with gall as an anesthetic, He did drink the sour wine that was given to Him right before His death (Jn 19:28-30). (3) There is a hurriedness that Matthew writes of here that befits a mission of mercy rather than an attitude of mockery.  This person “immediately…ran” and got the drink for Jesus.  A person who’s looking to force Jesus to take something He doesn’t want to drink surely wouldn’t be so quick about it – but rather take his time to call as much attention to his actions as possible.  The person who wants to help tries to get the aid to the person in need as quickly as possible.
  2. In Matthew’s telling of the crucifixion, this is the only act of mercy extended to Jesus all day long.  He has been rejected and tortured and mocked by every group imaginable – His disciples have abandoned Him – even the person who carried His cross had been compelled to do it (it’s not like Simon volunteered).  Now at the end, after hanging upon the cross for six hours does a single person finally offer a bit of compassion.  (It doesn’t speak well for human nature, does it?)  Even this was interrupted…

49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”

  1. The crowd couldn’t stop the unnamed person from giving some drink to Jesus, but they certainly didn’t want him/her to do so.  No doubt, they batted the sponge out of the way as soon as they could.  They wanted to continue their mockery, trying to feel smug and superior over their crucified Messiah – this time clothing it not so much in false piety, but sheer spectacle.  They wanted to see if Elijah would actually show up.  If that meant Jesus needed to suffer even more, then so be it.  In their minds, if Jesus was calling for Elijah, perhaps if Jesus hurt badly enough, maybe they would see some fireworks of their own.
  2. Keep in mind that the Jews readily expect to see Elijah.  Elijah is the unseated guest at every Passover meal (a chair is left open for him), and the OT closes with the promise that Elijah will come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal 4:8).  Of course, a prophet DID come in the role of Elijah (John the Baptist), and Elijah DID personally come during Jesus’ ministry (the Transfiguration), and most likely Elijah WILL come again as one of the two witnesses in Revelation.  Of course, the Jews who are jeering and mocking Jesus at the time obviously did not see Elijah at the Transfiguration, nor did they apparently believe the message of John the Baptist (otherwise they would have turned to Jesus in faith).  So they were actively expecting to see Elijah at any time.  There were thoughts among rabbinical circles that Elijah might show up to help someone in their time of need, and apparently the people thought this might be one of those times.
  3. None of this was borne of faith; it was all spectacle.  If the bystanders next to Jesus’ cross truly feared God and were waiting for Elijah to appear at any moment, then that means they would have been expecting the Day of the Lord (Judgment Day).  Certainly if that was the case, they wouldn’t be spending their time mocking a Righteous Man suffering upon the cross (even if they did believe Jesus was deluded).  No – the bystanders were using the promises of God for their own entertainment.  They wanted a miracle to appear simply so that they could be impressed and see a magic show.
    1. People need to be careful they don’t do the same thing today.  Sometimes skeptics take the same attitude as these bystanders, or as King Herod, when they want God to perform tricks for them – as if He is some sort of circus animal.  “Just do XYZ for me, and then I’ll believe in You!  Prove to me that You’re real!”  News flash: God doesn’t work that way.  God has given us all the proof that we need in abundance.  We’ve been given evidence of a Creator when we look at creation.  We’ve been given evidence of righteousness when our conscience strikes us when we sin.  We’ve been given evidence of Jesus through the historical record of the resurrection.  If that were all of the evidence God ever gave (and it’s not), then that would be more than enough!  Ultimately when skeptics demand proof from God, they don’t want God to prove Himself true; they want an excuse for their continued sin & unbelief.  They want to remain the god of their own life, and not have the True God at all.
    2. Even Christians can get caught into a similar sort of mindset.  There are some Christians that get caught up in all of the “flash” of spiritual gifts.  Instead of seeking the Giver, they seek all of the emotion & power & excitement of supernatural things.  Pretty soon, the established spiritual gifts of the Scripture aren’t enough to satisfy them, and they start looking for more and more signs & wonders that have nothing to do with the Bible.  Like the bystanders at the cross, that has everything to do with entertainment, and little to nothing to do with true reverence and worship.  We need to be careful to keep our eyes upon Jesus, and seek Him more than anything that we believe He might provide for us.

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

  1. It’s ironic that for such a momentous event in the history of the world, Matthew spills so little ink here.  Drink in the reality of what we just read: GOD. DIED.  This was no ordinary execution.  Out of the billions of humans who have died throughout the millennia, there has only been one instance such as this.  It was miraculous enough that the Creator of the universe clothed Himself in flesh and dwelt among us as a Man.  It’s beyond comprehension that this God-Man would die.  After all, in our mythologies, don’t our heroes always live?  Aren’t the super-beings virtually immortal?  Sure, they might go through hardships, but in our stories All-powerful beings simply don’t die.  Yet in historical reality, that is exactly what happened.  Jesus – the Son of God, God the Son – fully God & fully Man – endued with all power but Whom merely set it aside for a time – died.  After a night of sleeplessness, stressed to the point of capillaries in His scalp breaking – after multiple beatings – after the Roman scourging – after having thorns shoved into His forehead & having His beard ripped from His face – after having nails driven into His hands & feet, being hoisted on a cross & dislocating all His bones – after suffering for 6 terrible hours in this condition, with every breath and word being laborious pain – finally, Jesus’ heart ruptures and the King of kings dies upon the cross.  Matthew doesn’t give us the details here, but John tells us of how the Romans verified Jesus’ death by stabbing His heart with a spear, when it appeared that He had died.  The so-called “blood and water” that flowed was a mixture of blood & pericardial fluid – a typical accumulation for someone who was enduring the type of shock that Jesus was, especially when combined with a cardiac rupture.
  2. Interestingly, Matthew never uses the word “died.”  Obviously Jesus’ heart did stop beating, His lungs stopped breathing, and He was truly dead when the soldiers finally took Him down from the cross.  (And the evidence for this is overwhelming, despite the objections from Muslims and others who insist that Jesus was alive.)  But Matthew doesn’t use the word “died,” or “killed,” likely for good reason.  When a person dies, that’s something that happens to you.  But this didn’t happen to Jesus the same way it happens to us.  When someone dies today, we often say, “Cancer took him…a heart attack killed her, etc.”  We can’t say the same thing about Jesus.  Jesus willingly gave His life.  He was sovereign over the entire event.  John 10:17–18, "(17) “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”" []  Death could not take Jesus, because death had no claim upon Jesus.  He is righteous in every respect, and He is God with power over death. When Jesus’ heart stopped beating, it was not because Jesus was a victim of death; it’s because He willed to enter it.  Jesus “yielded up” His spirit – He released it/sent it off.  He cried out as the work He had come to do was completed, and then actively entered death fully sovereign – still fully the King of kings.
    1. That Jesus was in full control over His death ought to give us confident assurance when it comes to facing our own.  Jesus has paid the price for every single Christian.  John records His last word as “Τετέλεσται,” “It is finished.”  He carried out the work – He brought it to completion – nothing was left undone.  Death has been fulfilled when the Lord Jesus died, and no believer in Christ need fear it.  John 11:25–26, "(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”" []
  3. Keep in mind, all of this was absolutely necessary.  Jesus’ death on the cross was not an option.  Some might wonder, why Jesus’ suffering wasn’t enough?  Jesus had to die, because the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:13).  Of course, Jesus is without sin, but we aren’t – and that is the problem.  Man’s sin & death goes back to the very 1st man.  Before Adam ever sinned, God had warned him that if he did, Adam would surely die…and that was exactly what happened.  Adam died spiritually the moment he ate of the one tree he knew not to eat from (out of the many he could have eaten from), and eventually he did die physically, which had been completely unnecessary.  Adam died – and he wasn’t the only one.  Everyone else dies as a result.  Sin has murdered every single human being throughout all history.  That was because of the first Adam.  The last Adam (Jesus) intervened in the midst of it all when He entered death.  Because Jesus died, all might live.  Romans 5:18–19, "(18) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous." []  The first sin brought in the first death which turned the world upside-down.  The death of the Son of God rights what went wrong. The most tragic event in all history makes the most glorious news in the earth possible: mankind can live again, and creation will be restored.  The curse that occurred back in the Garden of Eden is undone, and the death and resurrection of Christ is the promise of it.
    1. That is true for all the world – and it is available to every man, woman, and child on the planet.  The question is: have you received of this promise?  Jesus has already made every provision.  He’s given the gift of life and righteousness when He gave His life for you & for me.  But just because a gift is given does not mean that a gift is received.  Gifts can be rejected or ignored, which is what many people do with Jesus.  Don’t ignore the gift!  You can receive it today, and you’ll have the opportunity.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

  1. There were three supernatural events that Matthew lists that witnessed to the death of the King.  Witness #1: the veil of the temple was rent.  Some debate which veil this actually was, whether the curtain that led the way into the temple or the veil that was actually inside the temple itself that was the single separation between the holy place, and the holy of holies in which the Ark was kept.  The argument is that the exterior curtain would be visible to the people of Jerusalem – but the text itself makes it pretty clear that this is a reference to the inner curtain.  The word used for “temple” here is not the generic word used of the building complex, but the technical word used for the inner holy place.  The fact that it was in a physical location that would have only been seen by the priests is not a problem as a witness.  For something like this to have taken place, surely word would have travelled quickly!  It would have only taken a few Levites or servants overhearing the words of the priests for the news to spread, and obviously it did.
  2. Much has been written about the curtain itself.  (Vincent) “According to the Rabbis this was a handbreadth in thickness, and woven of seventy-two twisted plaits, each plait consisting of twenty-four threads. It was sixty feet long and thirty wide. Two of them were made every year, and according to the exaggerated language of the time it needed three hundred priests to manipulate it.”  Exaggerated or not, this was not a fabric that would have easily been “torn in two.”  Sometimes when thinking of this event, we imagine a thin curtain & it being ripped just as easily as someone would rip a t-shirt.  Not so!  This curtain could not have been torn by human hands – it would have taken a massive amount of force to tear this curtain without it first being cut.  And not only was it torn, but it was torn “from top to bottom.”  From a man’s point of view, this would have been impossible.  The curtain would have had to been taken down in order for any human to do it (which would have immediately resulted in the death of the individual).  Yet the curtain was torn as it hung there, and it was plainly torn from the top to the bottom.
  3. More incredible than the physical miracle of the curtain being torn is what it represented.  Again, the curtain is what separated the holy place from the holy of holies.  It was the only thing that stood in the way of a human priest entering into the presence of the Most Holy God (or at least the representation of His glory).  This was the place that one single person (the high priest) was allowed to enter on one single day out of the year (the day of atonement), and only after he had gone through certain ritual purification (via blood sacrifices).  It was treated as incredibly holy, because it WAS.  That was the perfect presence of God, as a representation of His throne in heaven.  There was no way sinful man could enter that place – the man of sin must be covered and atoned prior to entering to do service and ministry.  And with all that in mind…the single veil that guarded the sanctity of that place was ripped in two from top to bottom.  God Himself tore away the separation.  The sin of man HAD been covered and atoned for – perfectly, and in every way by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Access to the presence of God that had been limited to one man upon one day became open to all at any time, if they but come through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There need be no more separation between God and man because the Son of God had bridged the gap!
  4. Witness #2: the earthquake.  Just as the temple veil was rent, so were the rocks.  (Interestingly, Matthew uses the same Greek word to describe both the tearing & the splitting: σχίζω = “to split.” ~schizophrenic)  There was a massive earthquake that shook Jerusalem so hard that the rocks were torn apart, apparently opening up graves all over town.  Not only was there a witness inside the temple of Jerusalem, there was the witness of creation all around Jerusalem in this earthquake.  All the residents of the city (and surrounding area) would have felt something of this magnitude.  Even the few people in Jerusalem who were not paying attention to the events surrounding Jesus would have had their attention caught by this point.  Yet what was yet to come was even more astounding.  See vs. 52…

52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

  1. Witness #3: the resurrection of the saints.  The earthquake apparently not only served the purpose as a witness, but as a grave-opener.  Something needed to move the rocks that traditionally covered the tomb entrances of the OT saints, and an earthquake was exactly what God used.  Matthew is the only gospel writer who records this event, which has caused many to question whether or not Matthew was being truthful.  After all, wouldn’t a mass-resurrection be recorded by other Christians at the least?  Not necessarily.  Not when it is vastly overshadowed by the far more significant resurrection of Jesus.  There is a reason that around 3000 people in Jerusalem came to faith on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).  Not only had they heard the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection – not only had the resurrected Jesus been personally seen by over 500 people at once (1 Cor 15:6) – but many people in Jerusalem had been visited by certain OT people of faith who had been long-dead.  Certainly THAT was a convincing proof!
  2. Who the people actually were is unsaid (as are many of the details of the event).  All Matthew tells us is that these were “bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep.”  This does not necessarily imply that these were some of the famous Biblical figures like the prophets (though it doesn’t exclude the possibility either).  These could have been normal men and women who looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah, and readily recognized by their family members who were still living.  Whoever they were, it is definitely a bit of a preview as to what will happen on the day of the great resurrection and rapture.  There will come a day (not long off!) that Jesus will come to receive His Church.  He will descend from heaven with a shout, and at the blowing of a trumpet, the dead in Christ shall rise first, and those who are alive & remain will be caught up together with Jesus in the clouds, and we will meet Him in the air (1 Thess 4:17).  At that time, there won’t need to be an earthquake – simply the command of the Lord Jesus!
  3. What happened to these saints later?  There’s been much speculation, but that is something else that Matthew leaves unsaid.  Some have suggested that these saints perhaps ascended with Jesus, or shortly thereafter, as a preview of the rapture – but that would seem unlikely due to the lack of any mention or even suggestion of such a thing in the Scripture.  More likely, it would seem that they died again, along the lines of other people who had been raised from the dead by Jesus (such as the girl, or Lazarus).  We cannot speak with certainty in any case – the focus is on their raising; not their dying.
  4. The resurrection of the OT saints not only testified of Jesus’ identity, but of the victory of His mission.  Jesus conquers the grave!  Again, when Jesus died upon the cross, the price for ALL sin had been paid – EVERY death had found an answer.
  5. Please note when these people were raised: “after His resurrection.”  Be careful not to misunderstand the chronology here.  Matthew tells us that the graves were opened when Jesus died upon the cross, but the actual raising did not take place until sometime after Jesus Himself had been personally raised from the dead.  (Whether the saints came out three days later or longer, we don’t know.)  Jesus was the firstfruits of those who are resurrected (1 Cor 15:20,23) – He is the first One offered to God in glory.  It is only in HIS resurrection that we have promise of our own resurrection, and it was only in His resurrection that these few OT saints could be individually raised for a time.  Jesus comes first in all things because He is the Lord of glory.

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

  1. In light of everything that happened, it’s no wonder that the Roman centurion & his troops had the reaction they did.  The guards understood what the Jews could not.  The centurion observed that this was no ordinary man who died, but “this was a righteous Man,” (Lk 23:47).  It was during this moment that the centurion and “those with him” (whom we often forget!) seemed to come to personal faith in the Lord Jesus.  Some have criticized this, saying that the centurion could have been speaking in generalities with a still-pagan mindset, but that violates the plain reading of the text.  Luke tells us that he glorified God, and Matthew and Mark both testify that the centurion saw Jesus as nothing less than the Son of God.  In Matthew’s telling, his sentence was literally, “Truly God’s Son was this.”  He saw something different in Jesus that could not be said of anyone else, and it caused him to fear and to glorify the One True God that he had previously never known.
  2. Jesus’ death still causes people to look and wonder.   Don’t let it stop at wonder – go the full way of the centurion & give glory to God!

55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

  1. The faithfulness of the women at the cross will be picked up again in the resurrection.  They were last at His side & first at His tomb.  Even at Jesus’ death, these women demonstrated more faith and devotion to Jesus than the most eminent apostle.  They had been serving Jesus, and they never stopped serving Jesus, even when everything seemed to go wrong.  (Next week!)

Conclusion:
There are many reactions to the death of Jesus: the darkness of the land, the miracle in the temple, the shaking of the earth, the faith of the witnesses, and more.  What’s yours?  Hopefully we still grieve over our sin.  Just as darkness covered the land in mourning, our hearts ought to be stricken when we sin against our Lord, knowing that this was the reason our Savior died.  May God help us never grow calloused to the reality of the ramifications of our sin!  In the process, hopefully it causes us to continue to look to Jesus.  May we look in faith, as did the centurion.  May we look in devotion, as did the women.  May we look in hope – which is something that had seemed to have been forgotten on that day.

This is what Jesus endured for you.  More than the physical anguish was the forsaking of His Heavenly Father, and yet it had to be done if we are to be saved, and creation was to be made right again.  The Son had to be forsaken by the Father in order for you & me to be received by God.  The grace of God is made possible by the rejection of the Son – but praise the Lord that Jesus’ rejection was not forever!  The psalms tell us that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5) – and that’s what happens with Jesus.  He was rejected by God the Father for a moment as Jesus became sin on our behalf, and all creation mourned and wept as its Lord died.  But joy would come later on Sunday morning!

Every believer in Jesus Christ has come to some point in his/her life in which we’ve knowingly received of that joy.  There has been that moment (perhaps long ago for some of us, perhaps recently) that we looked upon the cross & understood that Jesus died there for us – that everything He endured there in agony was done in our place because of our sin.  We understood that Jesus’ death was not in vain, but that He lives today – and because He did now we have peace with God, the promise of victory over death, and grace for the moment as we live for our King.  We’ve received the gift that was offered to us by Christ, and we rejoiced.

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