Intro: What was the crucifixion of Jesus from the human perspective? As we noticed last week, when viewed from the physical side, the death of Jesus was a scene of pain and suffering beyond our comprehension. It was also an enormous miscarriage of justice. An innocent man, standing up for the principles of his teaching, suffered persecution and death. Jesus’ crucifixion is an inspiring story from this standpoint – standing up for what is right no matter what.
- But is this the story of the cross. Jesus’ death is so much more. There was a divine purpose and activity in all that took place on that afternoon. History tells us that by the time of Christ the Romans had crucified some 30,000 men in Palestine alone. No doubt many of those were innocent of the charges against them. Many were executed for insurrection and died as patriots working to free their people. re They died nobly for a cause they believed in. Why does history only remember Jesus?
- The crucifixion of Jesus was a spiritual event with supernatural consequences. I want to explore the spiritual side of Jesus’ crucifixion. Part one – The miracles
I. The miracles of the Crucifixion: The scriptures record several miraculous happenings while Jesus was on the cross. When we contemplate what God was doing it does not surprise us that He would provide special visible miracles to those who were watching.
A. The Darkness: darkness is not in itself a miracle. But if the whole land gets dark at noon and it stays completely dark until 3 p.m. we would take notice. When Jesus was born the night sky was made bright as “the glory of the Lord shone around” the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:9). Jesus was the “the light of men” and “the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:4, 9). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12) But the first miraculous sign that accompanied Jesus’ death was complete darkness.
1. The word “land” here can refer to a certain region, or the whole earth. IT is not possible from the text to know how extensive the darkness was. Several interesting reports in extrabiblical literature suggest that the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion was worldwide. Both Origen and Tertullian mention it. 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.
2. The scriptures do not specifically tell us the meaning of the darkness. It was a supernatural event, and it was not possible for an eclipse at this time of the year. The Rabbis viewed the darkening of the sun as depicting God’s judgment on the world for a specially heinous sin. That certainly fits here.
a. Others have suggested the darkness was a means of God’s casting a great veil over the sufferings of Christ, or as an act of the Father’s sympathy given to cover the dishonoring of His Son.
b. But the darkness here seems be a symbol 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).
B. The Torn Veil: Matthew writes: “Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom.” The veil was a heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and blocked the entrance to the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the Covenant was kept. It was the place of God’s presence. Only the High Priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, with the blood of the sacrifice could pass through the veil. Because of the inherent weakness of the OT sacrifices, this had to be repeated every year. God tore this veil to show that Jesus made those sacrifices and ceremonies unnecessary.
- John MacArthur states… “The Father’s dramatic tearing of the veil was made while the Temple was filled with worshipers, which included not only countless priests but also many thousands of pilgrims Who were at that very moment celebrating the Passover sacrifice. Although the Temple was not destroyed until some forty years later, in A.D. 70, the sacrificial system of Israel and its attendant priesthood ceased to have even symbolic value when the veil was torn in two and the Holy of Holies was exposed. The ceremonies and priestly functions continued until the Temple was destroyed, but their divine significance ended when Christ died, as the Old Covenant was abrogated and the New inaugurated. (from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Copyright © Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2007.)
- Hebrews 9:11-12 “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” The way to God was finally opened. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
C. The Shaken Earth: Matt 27:51 “and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.” The earth could not remain silent and still while its creator succumbed to death. Again we can find insight in the Old Testament.
1. The quaking of the earth seems to point to the presence of God (holiness) and His judgment against sin.
- When God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai, “the whole mountain quaked violently” (Ex 19:18),
- When He appeared to Elijah on a mountain, “a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord and after the wind an earthquake” (1 Kings 19:11).
- David sang of the earth’s shaking and trembling when the Lord became angry (2 Sam 22:8; Ps 18:7)
- Isaiah spoke of the Lord’s punishing His people through “thunder and earthquake and loud noise” (Isa 29:6), and Jeremiah of His venting His wrath on the nations of the earth by causing it to quake (Jer 10:10; cf. Nah 1:5).
- Revelation tells of God’s causing the stars to fall to earth and of mountains and islands being “moved out of their places” (6:13-14).
D. The Resurrected Dead: Matt 27:52-53 “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. This miracle seems to have occurred in conjunction with the divinely ordered earthquake. The shaking of the earth opened the tombs. But the open tombs was not the miracle (could occur during an earthquake), but some of the bodies of the saints in the tombs came back to life.
1. Death seemed to win a great victory at this moment. Satan had accomplished what he had attempted since the cruel murder of the babies of Bethlehem. Jesus was dead. But even at this moment it was clear that Satan could not win. Death was going to be overthrown. The grave could not keep those whom God desired to release. To display God’s power and plan to bring life to those who belong to Him, He resurrects the dead saints. Heb 2:14-15 – Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
2. The best rendering of the text would seem to indicate that, although they were brought back to life at the time of Jesus’ death, they did not go into the city until after Jesus’ resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
II. Reactions? How would you have reacted to these events? We are not given a detailed account of how the overall audience responded to what took place.
A. But both Matthew and Luke report the reaction of a certain Roman soldier…
- Luke 23:47-So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
- Matt 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!”
1. This centurion was not a disciple in hiding. He, and the other soldiers, probably participated in Jesus’ scourging, beating and taunting. On Golgotha they had nailed Him to the cross, gambled for His clothing and jeered at Him while He died. If they were religious they were idolaters. They did not have any predisposition to faith. Yet the miracles that accompanied Jesus’ death produced fruit in the heart of this soldier.
2. “Truly this was the Son of God“… Although the definite article (the) does not appear in the original text of his confession, this does not necessarily imply that he was referencing Jesus as the son of “a god”. The same construction appears in the words of the angel in Luke 1:35, and the confession of the disciples in Matt. 14:33. It is possible that this soldier was brought to remorse and faith at this event.
3. The faith produced in the heart of this soldier is a preface to the coming faith of many who would view this event through the words of the apostles and believe.
- The faith of the soldiers is of great significance, and was especially so in the early church. Their testimony was, as it were, Jesus’ own final testimony from the cross. Although given after He had died, that testimony dramatically proclaimed that His grace extends to every sinner, even to those who put him to death. During the very process of His crucifixion, Jesus Christ became the object of the faith of His crucifiers! (from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Copyright © Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2007.)
B. Luke 23:48 – And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. I suspect this describes how most people would react to the crucifixion. They were horrified and saddened. They beat their breasts in remorse or lamentation. Who could see such things and be unaffected?
- But they went back home and life went on. What a tragedy… what a shame.
- What is your reaction to such a scene?