By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
In this article, I want to share with you some of the wonderful things which transpired at Calvary-the place where our Savior died.
In learning about some of these wonderful things, i want yo to also see that many of them are also terrible.
They show not only the heights of Heaven’s light, but the depths of Hell’s darkness.
Matthew 27:45-54-45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.
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?”
47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”
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.
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.
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,
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.
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!”
Matthew 27:45-Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.
Many skeptics of the Bible have stated that the darkness here never really took place, but that it was made up by Matthew years after Jesus died.
However, there are a great many secular historians who confirm the darkness, and several of the ancients made mention of it in their writings:
“Several interesting reports in extrabiblical literature suggest that the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion was worldwide. The early church Father Origen (Against Celsus, 2.33) reported a statement by a Roman historian who mentioned such a darkness. Another church Father, Tertullian, wrote to some pagan acquaintances about an unusual darkness on that day, “which wonder is related in your own annals and preserved in your own archives to this day.” There was also a supposed report from Pilate to Emperor Tiberius that assumed the emperor’s knowledge of a certain widespread darkness, even mentioning that it was from twelve to three in the afternoon.” (John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 48425-48434 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)
The Mayans and the Aztec civilizations also contain written references to the terrible darkness and horrible earthquakes which transpired when Christ died on the Cross. Don Mariano Fernandez de Echevarria y Veytia wrote a two volume work entitled Historia Antigua de Mexico.
“These natives indicate another singular event in their histories with great exactness, which later served them as a fixed era for their chronological calculations. They say that 166 years after the correction of their calendar, at the beginning of the year that was indicated with the hieroglyph of the House in the number ten, being a full moon, the sun was eclipsed at midday, the solar body being totally covered, such that the earth became darkened so much that the stars appeared and it seemed like night, and at the same time an earthquake was felt as horrible as they had ever experienced, because the stones crashing against one another were broken into pieces, and the earth opened up in many parts…Following these calculations, and adjusted to the comparison of the tables, this event should be placed in the year 4066 of the world, which was indicated with this character as can be seen in the tables, and precisely 166 after the adjustment of the calendar; and because of the circumstances surrounding this eclipse and earthquake, it was impossible for it to be any other than that which was observed at the death of Jesus Christ our Lord, having suffered it in the thirty-third year of his age, and so it seems that the incarnation of the Word should be placed in the year 4034 of the world, which the Indians indicated with the same hieroglyph of the House in the number 4, and I have noted it that way in the tables, and with this calculation following the chronological order they observed, counting the years from one memorable event to another with the assignment of the hieroglyph of the year in which they fell, I have been able to coordinate it perfectly with our years in the year 1519, in which Cortez landed at Veracruz, as will be seen in the discourse of this history. ( Donald W. Hemingway and W. David Hemingway, The Bearded White God Of Ancient America: The Legend Of Quetzalcoatl, 50-51; Cedar Fort, Inc)
The darkness covered the entire world for a period of nearly three hours.
What was the purpose of this darkness?
“The purpose for the darkness is not explained in the gospels or elsewhere in Scripture, but according to the Babylonian Talmud many rabbis had long taught that darkening of the sun was a judgment of God on the world for an unusually heinous sin. If, indeed, that was God’s intention at the crucifixion, He presented a gigantic object lesson to the world regarding the greatest sin ever committed by fallen mankind….But in light of many scriptural teachings and events, it would seem that the crucifixion darkness was indeed a mark of divine judgment. In speaking of Assyria’s being used by God to punish Israel, Isaiah spoke of “darkness and distress” that would cover the land, when “even the light is darkened by its clouds” (Isa. 5: 30). In describing the day of the Lord, the same prophet declared that “the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light” and that “the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil,” God said, “and the wicked for their iniquity” (13: 10-11). Also speaking of the day of the Lord, the prophet Joel wrote of “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Joel 2: 2). Amos asked rhetorically, “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5: 20). Zephaniah wrote, “Listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1: 14-15). In those Old Testament passages and many others the judgment of God is directly associated with darkness, and similar association is found in the New Testament….The cross was a place of immense divine judgment, where the sins of the world were poured out vicariously on the sinless, perfect Son. It was therefore appropriate that great supernatural darkness express God’s reaction to sin in that act of judgment.” (John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 48434-48454 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)
The darkness was a sign of the wickedness and sinfulness of mankind.
In fact, in one specific prophecy of the Old Testament, this darkness is said to occur on a day when people’s sins were judged by God!
Amos 8:9- “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;
Here was the Son of God, being put to death by lawless rebels who simply wanted power and prestige!
Here is the Son of God, the healer of the broken-hearted whose grace had the power to redeem and to repair all of the physical injuries of humanity, being killed on a cross!
We often tell ourselves, “My sin is not that big of a deal; maybe a little good can balance it out!”
Friends, if we want to see a picture of how terrible sin is, then we need only to look at the darkness of Calvary.
Our hands are stained with innocent blood: the blood of the Messiah of God Himself.
This darkness shows us our plight, for WE ARE GUILTY.
Yet wonder of wonders, the darkness shows us something else: it shows us that Jesus is with us, even in our darkness!
So often in my life, I have known different “kinds” of darkness:
The darkness of death;
The darkness of betrayal;
The darkness of guilt;
The darkness of suffering;
The darkness of depression;
On and on the list could go!
Yet the darkness that covered the world on that day not only showed me the darkness of sin, it shows me the fact that the Savior is with me even in the worst darkness imaginable.
Matthew 27:46-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?”
This is one of those passages of Scripture which boggles my mind.
Did God abandon His Son at His darkest hour?
Will God abandon us during our darkest hour?
If not, then what is the meaning of this passage?
When we look at the statement of Jesus, we learn that He is quoting from the Psalmist:
Psalm 22:1-My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
When we look through this Psalm, we see something very interesting.
You see, throughout the chapter, we see the Psalmist suffering and wondering where God is during his trials; however, we learn several times throughout that God has NOT actually forsaken him!
Psalm 22:10-I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.
Psalm 22:21-Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
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.
When we carefully study this, we see that the Psalmist FEELS forsaken by God, but that God has not truly forsaken him!
So, if the text explains that God had not actually personally forsaken the Psalmist (and, prophetically, Jesus), then what is the meaning of the passage?
Consider two interpretations with me.
First, it is possible that (grammatically) the Psalmist is asking why God has “forsaken” him in the sense that He has allowed him to be turned over to wicked men.
Adam Clarke explains:
“However, some think that the words, as they stand in the Hebrew and Syriac, are capable of a translation which destroys all objections, and obviates every difficulty. The particle למה lamah, may be translated, to what – to whom – to what kind or sort – to what purpose or profit: Gen 25:32; Gen 32:29; Gen 33:15; Job 9:29; Jer 6:20; Jer 20:18; Amo 5:18; and the verb עזב azab signifies to leave – to deposit – to commit to the care of. See Gen 39:6; Job 39:11; Psa 10:14, and Jer 49:11. The words, taken in this way, might be thus translated: My God! my God! to what sort of persons hast thou left me? The words thus understood are rather to be referred to the wicked Jews than to our Lord, and are an exclamation indicative of the obstinate wickedness of his crucifiers, who steeled their hearts against every operation of the Spirit and power of God. See Ling. Brit. Reform. by B. Martin, p. 36.”. ”
So, one possibility of the text is that God had “turned him over” to the wicked men
in Israel, yet he would not be ultimately forsaken by God.
While this is undoubtedly true, there may be another possibility to the text.
Simply stated, it seems that the Psalmist is describing his crisis of faith and expressing his fear and his feeling that God has forsaken him, even though He had not actually done so. It expresses the doubt of the Psalmist, a doubt which would foreshadow the “feeling” of doubt and anguish that the Savior Himself had.
There is no darkness that we can go through which Jesus does not understand!
Hebrews 2:17-18-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Matthew 27:50-And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
The Bible here teaches us two incredible things about Jesus’ death.
First, the text says that He cried out with a LOUD voice.
This is very significant, because it was extremely unusual for a person to have such incredible strength after being scourged and crucified.
The other Gospels make this point as well:
Mark 15:37-And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
Luke 23:46-And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.
John 19:30-So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
There are times in the Bible when the Lord was tired from physical exhaustion (Mark 4:38), showing us that God understands our weaknesses and trials.
Yet here we are reminded that even in our weakest moments, the strength of Jesus is greater. With the strength of the Lord on our side, we can have incredible strength, even in the face of death itself.
Second, please notice that the text makes it clear that Jesus “yielded up” His spirit. In other words, He chose the moment of His death. The Greek word used here is Aphimi, and the meaning of the word is to send away voluntarily.
In other words, no one took the life of Jesus, and He did not fade slowly away; instead, He freely gave up His life.
Jesus had earlier declared:
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.”
I remember once hearing a debate between a member of the church and an atheist who wanted to mock Jesus’ death on the cross. This man believed Jesus to be a weakling, one who had no strength. Yet nothing could be further from the truth!
Was it weakness or strength to choose to leave ivory palaces and come into a world of sorrow and pain (2 Corinthians 8:9)?
Was it weakness or strength to live a life of anguish and loneliness, so that You would be forever known as a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:1-3)?
Was it weakness or strength to continue living among people who continually mocked you and despised you (John 1:10-12)?
Was it weakness or strength to have friends that you know would one day betray you and forsake you (Matthew 26:31)?
Was it weakness or strength to come to a world where you would be tempted with every possible temptation and knowing that if you ever failed you could thwart all of Heaven’s plans to reconcile and redeem mankind (Hebrews 4:15)?
Was it weakness or strength to know that the cross awaited you for being true to God?
Was it weakness or strength to save Himself by calling thousands of angels to set Him free (Matthew 26:53)?
The death of Jesus shows us His incredible strength, even in (and through) His weakness.
Now, how unusual were these two things that took place?
We are told that the centurion, seeing all these things, was profoundly affected:
Mark 15:39-So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”
These events were so shocking and unusual that the centurion, who had undoubtedly witnessed many deaths by crucifixion by this point, was astonished and understood that this Man’s strength and power of death showed He was Who He claimed to be.
Matthew 27:51-Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
Within the Temple was a huge veil separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy Of Holies). We are told that this was an incredibly beautiful and HUGE veil:
“The veil that hung in Herod’s Temple during the Lord’s day was beautiful tiful to behold, according to Jewish tradition. There were actually two veils in front of the holy of holies. The Talmud states that it was not known whether the veil in Solomon’s Temple hung inside or outside the entrance to the holy of holies (Yoma 51). According to Maimonides, there was no wall between the holy place and the holy of holies, but a space of one cubit (about 18 inches) was assigned to it where the veil was hung. Since the priests in Herod’s time did not know on which side of the cubit the veil was hung, they hung two veils, one nearer the holy place and the other nearer the holy of holies. According to the Talmud, the veils were 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, about the thickness of a man’s palm (four inches), and made of 72 squares that were sewn together. The veils were so heavy that it took 300 priests to hang them, according to Jewish tradition.” (David M. Levy, The Tabernacle: Shadows Of The Messiah In Sacrifices, Services, And Priesthood, 557-563 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Krueger Publications)
There would have been hundreds of witnesses in the Temple at the time of Jesus’ death. Imagine! For centuries, it was known that only the High Priest could enter into the Holy Of Holies once a year.
Now, the way was open for anyone to enter!
In fact, this is what the tearing of the veil symbolized:
Hebrews 10:19-22-19 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.
The Apostle is making it clear to us that Christ is the veil! If we want to enter into the Holy of Holies (i.e., if we want to enter into the Home of Heaven), it is only possible THROUGH JESUS!
There are many people who teach that we can go to Heaven any way that we wish, but this is simply not true.
Matthew 7:21-23-21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’. 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
John 14:6-Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Romans 6:17-18-17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Matthew 27:52-53-52 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.
I have worked with many people who claimed that this account of the resurrected saints was imaginary and made up by Matthew.
However, the historical evidence undergirding this text is pretty impressive.
“A number of sources later reported that these were real persons who were raised by Jesus. Ignatius speaks of the prophets raised by Jesus (To the Magnesians 9.2). Quadratus (117–138) reported that they existed a considerable time and some even still lived (Ecclesiastical History 4.3.2). Acts of Pilate 17.1 says Jesus raised Simeon and his two sons, that their tombs could still be seen opened, that they were alive and dwelling in Arimathea, and that people had gone and talked with them.” (Michael R. Licona, Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection, 2240 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
The early second century Christians mention the names of several of these believers who were resurrected from the dead.
Notice that these resurrected disciples went into the city and testified to many of Jesus. They understood one of the most important works of redemption, one that we in the church often forget or overlook: the work of telling others about Jesus!
What happened to these disciples?
Some of the early Christians believe that they lived for a while and then died again, while some of the Christians (like the ones quoted above) claimed that they were still living on well into the second century! Some even taught that they would live in the world all the way to the time of the Second Coming.
“Apollinaris: The raising up of the saints’ bodies was announcing that the death of Christ was actually the cause of life. They certainly were not made visible prior to the Lord’s resurrection, since it was necessary that the resurrection of the Savior first be made known. Then those raised through him were seen. It is plain that they have died again, having risen from the dead in order to be a sign. For it was not possible for only some of the firstborn from the dead to be raised to the life of the age to come, but the remainder [must be raised] in the same manner.” (Fragment 144. [MKGK 51.])
Whatever happened to these disciples, they have set us an example in what we need to be doing: teaching and preaching Jesus, getting as many people ready for the Lord’s Return as we can!
Matthew 27:54-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!”
The last thing I want to share with you in this article is the deliverance that here takes place.
The centurion-witnessing all of these incredible events-is now firmly convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
This is always the result of a person who honestly and carefully examines the evidence.
The conclusion is inescapable: Jesus Christ is the Son of God!
Not only did the centurion see this, but so also did one of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus:
Luke 23:42-43-42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”. 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
This thief was guilty before God, and living under the Old Testament Law (Hebrews 9:16-17) was required to make full restitution and offer appropriate sacrifices before he could be forgiven (see Leviticus 6 and 7). Unable to do this, he could only plead to the Lord for mercy; and the Lord showed him this in what may be characterized as a true “deathbed conversion.”
Beloved, at Calvary you will find deliverance from all sin and from all barriers. Satan has no power here, and the demonic hold is broken by the Lord of glory Himself.
Why not today turn your life to Jesus Christ and be saved? He died for you, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites you to come to Him to be saved:
Acts 8:35-38-35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”. 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”. 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
If you are a Christian who has turned from the Lord, God’s Word calls you back to Him:
1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.