Reflections on Matthew 27:45-51
“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matt.27:45). How eerie it must have been when darkness covered the day as the Creator of the world was secured to the cross. The prophets affirm that darkness combined with other phenomenon depict the dreadfulness of judgment awaiting sin-sick mankind. Amos stated, “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light – pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?” (5:20). Starting at high noon, darkness prevailed for three hours, no doubt a picture of God’s fierce anger or wrath being poured out on the sin bearing sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
This speaks of atonement - the perfect Saviour receiving the judgement for the sin of humanity.
But not only darkness sets the scene. Suddenly, this peculiar set of events was interrupted by an anguished cry from the cross. Matthew records for us; “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’”(27:46). The image of desperation, desertion and suffering is first given graphic literary expression when the Psalmist penned;
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones - they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Psm.22:1-2; 14-18).
This speaks of substitution - Jesus experiencing God-desertion for the sin of humanity.
However, one thing we can be sure of. While these events speak of the severity of God’s judgement they equally express the love of God, the grace of God and His divine provision. How can that be, you may ask? In a moment of such despair how can we see love and grace? Mankind’s desperation, his utterly corrupt sinful existence, without any ability to change his state is vicariously provided for through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16). Christ’s atonement and substitution ensure the salvation of all of those who believe in him.
Following the loud cry of desolation Jesus expresses yet another cry, a loud cry of committal; “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit” (Lk.23:46). Jesus had openly declared; “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (Jhn.10:18). The plan of God in providing atonement through the Son is being carried out even to Jesus’ final breath, for as Isaiah prophesied; “… it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer” (Isa.53:10).
This speaks of absolute will and purpose - everything was progressing as the Sovereign Lord had intended.
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt.27:51a). The barrier between mankind and a Holy God is removed, in Jesus Christ, as the curtain rips open. Christ’s sacrifice is acceptable to the demands of a Holy God rendering that which prevented access into His presence obsolete. The way is open through Christ, come in.
This speaks of satisfaction – through Christ alone can sin-sick humanity receive forgiveness and know God.
Mankind is universally corrupt through sin and incapable of rectifying that state of being. Someone from outside, the God-Man, Jesus Christ substitutes Himself as a perfect sacrifice without sin and experiences the punishment due humanity. Through this sacrificial life and death alone can humanity receive forgiveness, experience God’s love & grace and know God’s eternity plan for salvation.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21).
The cross has spoken. How will you answer?
Ps. Deon Lombard
Being a servant of Jesus makes it a delight to reflect and write about all that God has revealed about Himself in His Word.