Jesus Dies on the Cross, 27:45-56
The closing events of the life of Jesus as He died on the cross are recorded in all gospels (Mk 15:33-41; Lk 23:44-49; Jn 19:30-37). Matthew records that from the sixth hour, or noon in Jewish reckoning, there was darkness over the land until the ninth hour, or 3:00 p.m. This darkness seems to have begun after the third cry of Christ on the cross in which He put His mother, Mary, under the care of John (Jn 19:26-27). It was in this period of darkness that Jesus became the sin offering and, as such, was forsaken by God the Father. Matthew records the fourth cry of Jesus on the cross as being spoken in a loud voice: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (27:46). Matthew’s account uses the Hebrew for “My God,” eli, but “lama sabachthani” is Aramaic, the spoken language of the Jews. Mark changes the Hebrew eli to eloi, which is Aramaic. The petition of Jesus is, of course, the quotation of Psalm 22:1, although the gospels do not mention it as a fulfillment.
The cry of Jesus has been variously interpreted, but it seems clear that God had judicially forsaken Jesus on the cross in contrast to the fact that He had strengthened Him in the garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus was bearing the sins of the whole world, and even God the Father had to turn away as Jesus bore the curse and identified Himself with the sins of the whole world. When Jesus actually died, He commended Himself back into the Father’s hands.
Those who heard Jesus utter this cry mistook the word eli for Elias, and thought that He was calling for Elijah. Matthew records that one of them took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed, in order to bring it to the lips of Jesus, to enable Him to speak more clearly. The rest of the observers, however, said that he should let Jesus alone to see whether Elijah actually came to save Him. While they observed, according to Matthew, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (27:50). Luke 23:46 records that Jesus said: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” John records simply that Jesus said, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Jesus had lived as no man has ever lived, and He died as no man ever died. Having completed His act of sacrifice, He dismissed His spirit by an act of His will. As He had stated earlier, in John 10:18, in regard to His life, “No man taketh 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.”
At the moment of His death, a number of awesome things took place. An earthquake occurred, and the heaving ground brought fear to those who observed. According to Matthew 27:51, the heavy veil of the temple, which separated the holy of holies from the holy place, was torn in two from the top to the bottom. As the divine commentary in Hebrews 10:19-22 signifies, the death of Jesus opened the way for ordinary believers to go into the holy of holies, where formerly only the Jewish high priests could go.
Although not immediately known to those who witnessed the scene of Christ’s death, Matthew also records an event not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many” (27:53). As a careful reading of this account reveals, the raising of the bodies of the saints, although mentioned here, actually occurred after the resurrection of Jesus. This event is nowhere explained in the Scriptures but seems to be a fulfillment of the feast of the first fruits of harvest mentioned in Leviticus 23:10-14. On that occasion, as a token of the coming harvest, the people would bring a handful of grain to the priest. The resurrection of these saints, occurring after Jesus Himself was raised, is a token of the coming harvest when all the saints will be raised.
The centurion, impressed by the darkness and the earthquake, although he probably was not informed of the tearing of the veil of the temple, according to the Scriptures, feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God” (27:54). Although he had witnessed many executions, there never before had been one like this.
Matthew comments that many of the women who had followed Christ were beholding this from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children. No doubt, with the coming of evening and the knowledge that Christ had died, they went sorrowfully to their homes.
Matthew 27:45-56 Breakdown
Jesus’ Death 45Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.
Jesus was “the light of the world,” but His light was distinguished during these three hours of darkness. Liberals like to claim that this was a solar eclipse, but solar eclipses do not last this long. This darkness could have been similar to the darkness of the ninth plague of Egypt. There will also be five blackouts before and during the Great Tribulation.
46At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This was a fulfillment of Psalm 22:1. Notice that Jesus did not use “God the Father,” but “my God, my God.” During these three hours, Jesus was forsaken by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as Jesus was being judged for the sins of the world in His humanity, He addressed the other two members of the Trinity as “my God.”
47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
Elijah was predicted to return to earth before the Day of the Lord.
48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.
This was a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21.
49But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.”
Even after three hours, the curious bystanders were still at the cross, enjoying the suffering of Jesus.
50Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.
Notice that no man could kill Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ gave up His own spirit.
51Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.
The temple curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. It would take four horses to tear open the temple curtain from top to bottom. Only God could tear this curtain from top to bottom. This was a supernatural event. The blood of lambs and goats would no longer cover the sins of Israel. Only the blood of Jesus would eliminate the sins of all men.
52And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. 53(They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.)
Even though liberals do not like this verse, God is God and He can perform miracles. Jesus gave the religious leaders and the people who rejected Him a taste of the future resurrection. After seeing loved ones resurrected from the dead, the enemies of Jesus had to know that they had killed their own Messiah. The point is that they loved their power and prestige on earth more than living in eternity with Jesus.
54Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”
The centurions and soldiers recognized that they crucified the Son of God. This would become a tremendous testimony to the Roman political and military leaders.
55Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
There were more women followers at the crucifixion of Jesus than male followers.
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