This is a three-part series called Death to Life that addresses the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These notes and commentary have not been proofed for grammar or spelling. It is presented as is.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the greatest event in history is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. What God did through Jesus changed everything for eternity. As we approach Easter I want us to think about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and what it means and how it impacts our daily lives.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” (1 Cor. 15:3-4, NLT). The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus all have their unique and significant meanings and truth that God wants us to know. Today we will focus on Jesus’ death. Look with me at Mark 15:33,
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!” 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him[h] saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there (NLT). Three things we need to know about the death of Jesus.
The death of Jesus reveals the judgement of God
Number one, the death of Jesus reveals the judgement of God. Listen carefully, before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us. The reality is we are all sinners. We have all sinned and Jesus voluntarily gave His life for us on the cross so our sins could be dealt with once and for all. One of the greatest pictures of this is what happened while Jesus was on the cross. In verse 33, Mark tells us, “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock” (NLT). So, for three hours darkness fell across the land, from noon to three in the afternoon. So what is going on here?
This is a supernatural event. We don’t know how this darkness occurred. Some say it was some type of eclipse that lasted three hours. Some say it became very cloudy to the point that it was described as “darkness.” Others say it was simply a supernatural event that God did. Regardless of how God did it, it became night time dark for three hours while Jesus was on the cross. Kids were playing outside then suddenly it became like night time. People were working out in the fields then suddenly they were working in the middle of the night. It became dark.
With this “darkness” God was saying something to the people and to us.
- For one thing, the darkness served as a reminder. The religious people who were there would immediately think about what God did during the Passover centuries before. The Passover refers to the time when God brought ten plagues on the people of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The 9th plague was a three-day darkness, followed by the 10th plague which caused the death of the firstborn (Exodus 10:22-11:9). The three hours of darkness at the cross was an announcement that God’s Firstborn and Beloved Son, the Lamb of God, was giving His life for the sins of the world.
- Another thing, the darkness was a sign of God’s judgement. Throughout the Bible God uses darkness as an image of judgement (Ex. 10:21-23; is. 13:9-13; Jer. 13;16; 15:19; Joel 2:10; 3:14-15; Amos 5:18, 20). There was a judgement happening. God was judging our sin as guilty and He was placing all our sin on Jesus and placing our guilt, our unrighteousness, and our shame on Him. The judgement we should have received was being placed on Jesus. Specifically, God said in Amos 8, “In that day, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth while it is still day” (v.8, NLT). As we will see, the cross is proof of both the immense love of God and the profound wickedness of sin.
Let me point out something very significant here. Even though “darkness” is often used to indicate death and judgement in the Bible it is also true that darkness does not mean the absence of God (1 Kings 8:12; 2 Chron. 6:1; Ex. 20:21; 2 Sam. 22:10; Ps. 18:9-11). It may look like the devil is winning. It may feel like all hope is gone. You may not see much light in your life. You may feel defeated, full of doubts, and confused about what God is doing. Even in the midst of the darkest days of your life God is at work. It may look like your dreams are dying, but God is at work on your behalf to bring hope, life, joy, and enthusiasm back into your life. You will need to wait through the darkness and say what the psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” The death of Jesus reveals our sin and the judgement of God, but it also reveals that God is at work – there is a resurrection coming!
The death of Jesus reveals the forgiveness of God
This takes us to number two; the death of Jesus reveals the forgiveness of God. Look at what Mark tells us in verse 34, Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (NLT). We are told that while Jesus was on the cross He said seven things. One of those things was this statement about being abandoned by God.
At this moment Jesus Christ was feeling the full wrath of God against all the sins of mankind – past, present, and future. Jesus cried out in agony as He bore the sins of the world and was separated for the first time from His Father because of our sin. Jesus expressed horror at being separated from God, his Father. This statement by Jesus expressed the incredible pain of abandonment by God. Later, when describing this moment Paul would write, “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21, CSB). There is no way that we can comprehend what the Lord suffered during those hours of darkness when He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us!
There is something significant happening with this statement. During Jesus’ time there was a teaching and educational practice that religious leaders would often use. They would quote the first verse of a section of scripture or the first statement dealing with a key story to bring to mind the full event of that passage of Scripture. It would be like me quoting Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” to summarize the entire creation story or to remind of you it.
Everything Jesus did was intentional. He didn’t make this up as He went along. This was all planned out long before the cross. When the three hours were up and God had placed all of humanities sin on Jesus, Jesus raised Himself up on the cross and cried out with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” This was a quote from Psalm 22:1. Psalm 22 begins with that question and then goes through several verses describing the sins of people and as you read it you realize that you are reading about what will happen on the cross to Jesus. It is what Bible scholars call a Messianic Prophecy. It describes what people will say and do to Jesus on the cross.
But it does something else, by the time you get to the end of Psalm 22 you start reading about how God delivers and how He provides everlasting joy and how people will worship Him because of the great things He has done and how His people will tell this story of tragedy to triumph from one generation to another.
By saying, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus is telling us that He has paid the price for sin so that you would not have to. He was abandoned by God so that you would never be abandoned by God. He was forsaken so that you could be forgiven. He was punished so that you could be pardoned. He took your unrighteousness and gave you His righteousness.
Jesus was not asking this question because He was looking for an answer. He cried out this question from the cross so that you and I would look for the answer. Because He knew what we would discover when we discover the answer: that God had a plan to save us, forgive us, and to make us a part of His family. That plan of salvation was for Jesus to be abandoned so we could be accepted. But there is one more thing you need to see here.
The death of Jesus reveals the grace of God
Number three, the death of Jesus reveals the grace of God. Mark says in verse 35, “Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. ‘Wait!’ he said. ‘Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!’ 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Let me show you a picture of the layout of what is called the Tabernacle or the Temple where sacrifices and worship were offered to God (see image below). This can get complicated, but I’m going to keep it simple. During Old Testament time, before Jesus died on the cross a chosen priest would make a sacrifice on behalf of the people to God. Part of this worship included the priest going through the door, entering the outer court, pass the brazen altar and into the Holy Place and eventually make his way into the Holy of Holies. This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and the priest would encounter the presence of God there. Between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was a large curtain. It was about 80 feet tall and about 3 inches thick. This curtain was symbolic of a barrier between God and His people. Everything in the temple symbolized and pointed to Jesus in some way. Even what the priest wore and did all illustrated or pointed to Jesus in some way.
When Mark says, “And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” he is referring to the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The veil symbolized the separation between God and man due to sin, but now, through the death of Jesus, Jesus had opened for the whole world a “new and living way” (Heb. 10:12-22; Jon 14:6). This is significant because the curtain did not tear by human hands, it was torn by the hand of God… from top to bottom.
The tearing of the curtain indicated that through Jesus’ death on the cross all people now had access to God. Jesus was the once-and-for-all sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:12-22). This revealed the grace of God.
The cross shows us the seriousness of our sin – but it also shows us the immeasurable love of God. Let’s finish our time together with 1 Peter 3:18, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (NLT).
- The “darkness” reminds us that we are sinners and God decided to judge and deal with our sin on the cross. Jesus took your punishment, that’s mercy.
- The question by Jesus from the cross, “Why have you abandoned me?” was not so Jesus would know the answer, but that we would know the answer. Jesus was rejected, so you would not have to be. That’s love.
- The temple curtain being ripped from top to bottom demonstrated that Jesus opened wide the access to God. Through Jesus we can all come boldly to the throne of grace. That’s grace.
For us who are followers of Jesus, we sometimes need to pause and say, “Jesus, I don’t fully understand or comprehend all that you went through for me, but I thank you.”
If you are not a follower of Jesus, then I want you to know that all this happened for you. Jesus died on that cross “to bring you safely home to God.”