Matthew 27:45-56

Thursday Evening Bible Study

July 12, 2007


Jesus has been betrayed, tried, and condemned to death.  He’s been whipped.  He’s been crucified.

:45-56 Jesus dies

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

Matthew doesn’t tell us when the actual crucifixion began.  Mark tells us it began at 9:00am (Mark 15:25).  Matthew does record the period of darkness.

sixth hour = noon

ninth hour = 3:00pm

darkness – we aren’t told how dark things got, but if this was an “eclipse”, it would have lasted for a few minutes, not three hours.

Luke tells us

(Luke 23:45 NKJV)  Then the sun was darkened
If Jesus told the Jews that the people on Palm Sunday had to cry out or else the rocks would cry, is it so strange that the creation would respond in some way to the sacrificial death of the Creator?

I believe it was during this time that Jesus was bearing our sins while He was on the cross.

(Isa 53:6 NKJV)  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
laid onpaga‘– to encounter, fall upon (of hostility); here it’s with a sense of “cause” (Piel), to “call to fall upon”, to “make attack”

God “caused” our sins to be “laid upon” Jesus.  I see our sins being piled and heaped upon Him.  Like a giant dump truck piling the garbage of the entire world upon God’s pure and holy Son.

(Isa 53:12 NKJV)  Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
borenasa’ – (Qal) to lift up; to bear, carry, endure; to take, take away, carry off, forgive.  Even though these are various definitions of the word “nasa’”, you can kind of see a progression in the definitions in regard to our sin.  He lifted them up, he “endured” our sin, He “carried them away”, and it all has led to our forgiveness.
The word is used in a form showing that it’s a “completed” action.

: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?"

Two very important things are happening here:

1.  Jesus is giving a hint.

Ancient worship leaders didn’t have video projectors or hymnals to guide the congregation from song to song.  When it came time to announce the next song, the song would be identified by it’s first line.  For example, if we were going to sing the 23rd Psalm, the worship leader would say, “We’re now going to sing “The Lord is My Shepherd”.  It would be up to the congregation to know from there what the rest of the song was.
I hear there’s a couple of new game shows where the contestants compete with their knowledge of song lyrics.  They have to complete or sing the rest of the song when they are given a certain phrase.
What Jesus is crying out is the first line of a song.  He’s quoting Psalm 22, which includes things like:
(Psa 22:6-18 NKJV)  But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

The people had just asked Pilate to release Barabbas and have Jesus crucified.  We’ve read how Jesus was mocked by the Romans:

(Mat 27:29-31 NKJV)  When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" {30} Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. {31} And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

{7} All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, {8} "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"

This sounds pretty much like what the people have been saying…

(Mat 27:43 NKJV)  "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"

{9} But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts. {10} I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God. {11} Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. {12} Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. {13} They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion. {14} I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.

This is very descriptive of what it felt like to be crucified.  As the cross was set in place, it was not uncommon for the prisoner’s bones to be jarred out of joint.  When Jesus dies, a soldier will pierce Jesus’ side, out will come blood and water, an indication that Jesus died of a burst heart.

{15} My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

Jesus will cry out on the cross, “I thirst” (John 19:28)

{16} For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;

We have no record of David ever having his hands and feet pierced.  Why would David write this?  He was speaking prophetically about his descendant 1,000 later who would be pierced on the cross.

{17} I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. {18} They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

We read last week about how the Roman guards had cast lots to help them divide up Jesus’ garments.

The Point?
The point is that none of the things that were happening were an accident.  It had all been carefully planned out long ago.  It had all been carefully scripted by God.
Some people look at Jesus and think that it was a tragic, horrible mistake for Jesus to have been crucified.

Yet the fulfilling of ancient prophecies shows us that this was no mistake.  When we talk about Jesus dying for our sins, we aren’t just trying to put a happy face on a tragedy.  This is exactly what God was intending to do.

From the day that Adam first broke his relationship with God by sin, God began to let man know that there would be a day when sins would be paid for.  The whole system of Old Testament sacrifices is intended to prepare the way, to set up the laws that would allow for something to be done for sin.  A substitution could be made.  A sacrifice could take care of sin.

It was no mistake that Jesus died on the cross.  He died for you.  He died for me.  He did it on purpose.
(2 Cor 5:21 NKJV)  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2.  Jesus was forsaken by God

This was the consequence of sin.  This was the judgment upon sin.
Since eternity, Jesus had enjoyed constant fellowship and relationship with the Father.
When Jesus took on human flesh, that relationship changed a bit, but it was still a close communion that Jesus had with the Father.

It would be like having a “Bluetooth” earpiece surgically attached to your ear, with a line constantly open to the person you love most in this world.  Everywhere you go, you could talk to your beloved.  No matter what you were doing, you could always chat.  You would never feel alone because you were always connected, even if you didn’t see each other. That would be very cool.

Yet suddenly the line went dead for the first time in eternity.  Lost signal.  Dial tone. Nothing but static.

Jesus not only experienced the dead line, but the very wrath of God was being poured out on Him.
All the punishment that you and I deserved for our sins was being poured out on Jesus.

We often spend a lot of time focusing on the physical suffering that Jesus experienced on the cross, and there indeed was a great deal of suffering.

The pain of the scourging.  The beating He took at the hands of the Roman soldiers.  Plucking out His beard. Having a crown of thorns on His head.  The pain of the nails being driven through just the right place on your wrist to cause the most pain. The dehydration, the difficulty in breathing.  All these were horrible.

Yet I think the worst was the spiritual suffering that Jesus would endure for us.  I’m not sure we really get that part.

It’s here, after being on the cross for three hours, that Jesus cries out.  It’s at the time of being separated from the Father.

Our sins carry a horrible price.  I wonder if we even realize just how bad our sin is.

This is the justice of God.

No sin will ever go unpunished.  Some sins may not be punished immediately, but every sin will be punished.

Part of us likes this.  We like the “revenge” movies where the movie starts with Clint Eastwood being brutally beaten while his wife is raped and killed and his children are butchered.  But as the movie progresses, we watch Clint carefully hunt down every criminal and we cheer as each bad guy gets “what’s coming to him”.  That’s our inner need for “justice” that makes us know that it’s right to punish sin.

There are criminals in this world who do not get caught by the police.  There are criminals who live wild luxurious lives.  Sometimes this seems pretty unfair.  But in the end, every sin will be punished.

There is a part of us that does not like this complete sense of “justice”.

We don’t like it when the justice applies to us.  When it comes to my sins, I don’t like justice, I like mercy.

But in the legal system of a just God, every sin must be paid for.

This is why Jesus came to die.  He came to pay for our sins.

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

We don’t quite get the misunderstanding in English.  But in the Hebrew, the words are very similar and you can get the idea of why some people thought Jesus was calling for Elijah. 

The phrase “My God” in Hebrew would be pronounced, “El-ee”.

The name Elijah in Hebrew is pronounced “El-ee-yah” or sometimes “El-ee-yah-hoo”.

: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.

sour wineoxos – vinegar; the mixture of sour wine or vinegar and water which the Roman soldiers were accustomed to drink, kind of the “Gatorade” of the day.

One of the things experienced in crucifixion is extreme thirst.  Earlier, Jesus had been offered a drink with narcotic properties, which He refused (Mat. 27:34).  Here he takes a drink of the soldier’s non-medicated drink.

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

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

yieldedaphiemi – to send away; to send forth, yield up, to expire; to let go; this is also the word that is often translated “forgive” – the idea being that when we forgive, we “let go” of the debt that we hold against a person.

They didn’t take Jesus’ life, He gave it.

(Mat 20:28 NKJV)  "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

(John 10:18 NKJV)  "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."

John tells us what Jesus cried,

(John 19:30 NKJV)  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

finishedteleo – to bring to a close, to finish, to end.  It speaks of a debt being paid.  The verb is a “perfect” tense (tetelestai), meaning that it was something that’s been done in the past, and the results carry on to the present.
When He suffered on the cross, He paid for our sins.  His crucifixion was enough to pay for all the sins of the world.

(Heb 7:26-27 NKJV)  For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; {27} who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

(Heb 10:10 NKJV)  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Roman Catholic church teaches that when they celebrate the Mass, that Jesus is again dying on the cross for your sins.  This is incorrect theology.  Jesus only needed to pay for our sins once, and when He was finished, then He died.
There is a bit of bad theology out there that teaches that after Jesus died, then He went to hell to suffer and pay for our sins.  This too is incorrect.  Jesus died AFTER He paid for our sins.  It was not until He was “finished” paying that He died.  There is a scripture that indicates that Jesus went to Sheol at His death, but it was to preach to those in the Paradise side of Sheol, to tell them that He had done His work, and then to lead them to heaven.

: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,

The veil was the solid piece cloth that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

This veil was a most elaborately woven fabric of seventy-two twisted plaits of twenty-four threads each and the veil was sixty feet long and thirty wide.

Only the high priest could go past the veil into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year to briefly sprinkle blood on the Day of Atonement.

The veil served as a separation, keeping men out of the Holy of Holies, which served as a representation of the throne room of God, heaven itself.

Josephus (_War_ VI. 299) tells of a quaking in the temple before the destruction and the Talmud tells of a quaking forty years before the destruction of the temple.

Some have suggested that this tearing of the veil may have contributed to many priests eventually believing in the Lord:

(Acts 6:7 NKJV)  Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Yet when Jesus gave up His spirit, He offered Himself once and for all as an offering for our sins.

(Heb 10:19-22 NKJV)  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, {21} and having a High Priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

from top to bottom – It’s pretty significant that the veil is torn from top to bottom, indicating that God was the one tearing the veil, God was the one opening the way into the Holy of Holies.

: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.

Here’s a strange event that only Matthew records.

The NIV translates this passage as if these people rose from the dead when Christ died, but the language is pretty clear in verse 53 that they came out of their graves after the resurrection.  Some suggest that the earthquake at His death may have caused some of the graves to be opened, but after the resurrection, some of these people came back to life.

Paul also gives us a clue that Jesus had to rise first.
(1 Cor 15:23 NIV)  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

We don't know a lot about this particular resurrection.  This is the only reference that tells about it.

Some have suggested that Paul might be hinting at this when he writes,

(Eph 4:8-10 NKJV)  Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." {9} (Now this, "He ascended"; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? {10} He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

: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!"

In the movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, this was John Wayne’s line.  Church tradition says that this man’s name was Petronius.

Centurions were tough men—fighters and warriors—chosen for their bravery.  This would not be a fellow prone to being scared easily.  A centurion was in charge of one hundred soldiers.

When the centurion and the Roman guards watched how Jesus died and the resulting earthquake, they changed from being mockers to worshippers.

:55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,

John records that he was also at the cross when Jesus died (John 19:26), but other than that, we don’t have any record of any of the other disciples even being there when Jesus died.

But the ladies were there.  These were the gals from Galilee.

The ladies were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb.

ministeringdiakoneo – to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon. 

Be careful that you don’t look at this and think, “There’s that male dominated society, always putting the women down and making them servants.”  If you think that, you’ve got it backward.

They had learned to do that greater work, to be a servant.

Here’s what Jesus taught:

(Mark 10:42-45 NKJV)  But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. {44} "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

:56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

Mary MagdaleneShe was a woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons and was part of a group of women who supported Jesus financially.

(Luke 8:2-3 NKJV)  and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, {3} and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Mary the mother of James and JosesIronically, Jesus' own mother had two sons, also named James and Joses (Joseph) (Mat. 13:35)

This Mary is the wife of Clopas, she is also Jesus' aunt, the sister of his mother Mary. (apparently there were two Mary's in one family)

Jesus' mother, Mary, is also at the cross, not mentioned by Matthew, but John records her being there (John 19:25)

the mother of Zebedee’s children – This was the mother of James and John. Her name was Salome (Mark 15:40)


When life is falling apart

I imagine that for these few faithful gals at the cross things seemed pretty bleak.  They had followed and served Jesus for several years.  They had come to believe that He was the Messiah.  And now He was gone.
What they witnessed must have seemed like the most horrific tragedy to ever be witnessed.  The One they had all put their hopes and dreams in was now gone.
And yet what they might have considered the ultimate tragedy was actually the world’s greatest blessing.
Here was Jesus paying for their sins.
I wonder if we shouldn’t be a bit careful to declare difficult times to be ultimate tragedies.