Please turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 15, as we continue our study through Mark and as we continue looking at the crucifixion. In our previous studies we dealt with the first 3 of 6 hours that Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary. And during those first 3 hours He suffered at the hands of man, from 9 AM to 12 noon. Then, from 12 noon to 3 PM Jesus suffered at the hands of the Father. Now that may seem strange, but as we study these last 3 hours this evening, I think you will understand what I mean.
1. From noon to 3 PM darkness fell upon the land. And understand it could not be a eclipse for it was Passover, a full moon, and opposite in the sky of where it would need to be for a eclipse to occur. So this was a supernatural event, God brought this darkness upon the land. Third-century church Father Origen referred to a statement by the Roman historian Phlegon, who mentioned that unusual darkness. Tertullian, when referring to the darkness to his pagan audience, said, "You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in you archives." So it does seem we have some extra biblical literature to support this event. Now we are not told what the people were thinking, but you would have to imagine there was some concern considering clouds did not darken the sky!
2. During these last 3 hours that Jesus hung on the cross He spent them in silence except for four more sayings that He would speak, and they were spoken very close to 3 PM, in those final few minutes before He gave up His spirit. Now why wasnt it dark for the entire 6 hours? What is going on here with this darkness? The next verse helps to explain this for us.
1. Now we see the fourth saying that Jesus cried from the cross of Calvary. He said "...My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" That is a shocking statement made by Jesus. Jesus lived a life that honored the Father, that pleased the Father. He did all that the Father asked of Him. So why this turning away from His Son?
2. There are a couple of Scriptures we are going to look at to help us understand what Jesus was saying and in turn it will help us to understand why there was darkness over the land for those 3 hours. First of all Jesus is quoting from what the Psalmist said 1,000 years earlier. In Psalm 22:1-3 we read "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel." The reason the Father turned from the Son is because the Son bore the sins of the world and the Father, who is holy, could not look upon Him, just as He cant look upon us in our sinful condition apart from Christ.
3. Also, in Habakkuk 1:13 we are told, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness..." Again, the idea of Gods holiness, His purity, and thus, He can not look upon evil, upon sin.
4. In I Peter 2:24 we are told of what Jesus has done for us, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness-- by whose stripes you were healed." And that has restored our fellowship with the Father, as I Peter 3:18 tells us, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." And the reason the Father can now look upon us, the reason we can now go before Him, Paul tells us, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:21. Thus, as the sins of the world came upon Jesus, darkness covered the land and the Father broke fellowship with the Son, turned His back on him for that period of time when Jesus was paying the penalty for our sins. The darkness represents the judgment of God upon sin!
1. As Jesus spoke these words some thought He was calling out for Elijah. You see, popular Jewish belief was that when a righteous man is suffering, Elijah would come to deliver him out of that distressful situation. And maybe at this point, his mouth being dry, hard to speak, it was hard to understand Him. In fact, in John 19:28 we read "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst!" This is the fifth saying that Jesus spoke from the cross of Calvary. Notice that Jesus was in control, all He did was according to what the Scriptures said would take place, for in Psalm 69:21 we read
"They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
2. But even at this point, look at the hardness of their hearts. They refuse to let Jesus moisten His lips and they want to wait to see if Elijah would come. And I dont believe they thought he would come, they didnt think Jesus was a righteous person, but was of the Devil in the things that He did. Thus, this is nothing more than more mocking, more taunting Him, and they continued to misunderstand Him because they did not want to hear what He was saying. They should have known that darkness was symbolic of Gods divine judgment upon them, for over and over in their Scriptures the Lord showed them these things. But they were not interested!
1. After this we see the sixth saying of Jesus spoken from the cross of Calvary. John 19:30 tells us that Jesus said "It is finished!" or "Paid in full!" It is the Greek word TETELESTAI. What is finished? The redemption of man. The door has now been opened for man to come to God through Jesus. It is as I Timothy 2:5-6 tells us, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
2. When did this take place? Almost 2,000 years ago! Now how many of you were born then? None, of course! That means it was finished before you were born, before you could do anything to earn it. Jesus completed the work. Now some like to teach that we are saved by faith in Christ but then we must do good works to maintain it. But understand this, Jesus said "It is finished!" not "My part is done, now it is up to you to maintain it! Good luck!" Jesus has done the work, finished the work and all we must do is receive it by faith. Paul, in Hebrews 9:24-26 put it this way. He said "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
3. Now in Luke 23:46 we see the last of the seven sayings that Jesus cried out from the cross of Calvary. We read "...Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit...." Notice that Jesus was in full control and He gave up His spirit. In fact, Jesus makes this very point in John 10:18, when He says, "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."
4. The death of Jesus was quick by Roman crucifixion standards. Many times they would hang on the cross for many days, 2 to 3 days, before they would die. Thus, the Roman execution squad was surprised it had ended so fast and we will see next time that even Pilate is surprised. This is not something that most people like to talk about, death, but how are you going to die? Not what way, but are you going to die in the faith? You see, there is peace in knowing you are really not dying, you are just moving to be with the Lord. Jesus looked forward to going to be with the Father, and so should we as our work is completed and the Lord calls us home.
1. At this point it is 3 PM and at the temple the priests were preparing to offer the evening sacrifice. And all of a sudden, this 18 inch thick veil, that separated the holy place from the most holy place, was torn in two, from top to bottom. You see, the most holy place was the place where God dwelt in the temple, above the mercy seat which rested upon the ark of the covenant where the ten commandments were kept, and between the cherubim. And only the high priest, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, could enter into it after a long ceremonial cleansing. And, just in case he was not clean before God, they would tie a rope to his leg and put bells on his robe, so if the bells stopped ringing, they knew he was struck dead and they would pull him out, they did not want to go in after him. And the high priest would intercede before God for the people on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur!
2. So what does this event, this tearing of the veil, mean to us? Very simply, God opened the door for man to come before God through Jesus. It was torn from top to bottom, 18 inches thick, and thus man could not have done it, but God did! Thus, Paul tells us what we can now do in Hebrews 4:14-16, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Now what man has done is he has tried to sew up the veil and put up barriers to God. That you have to do X, Y, and Z and go through this person and that person. Wrong! You go through Christ!
3. Not only was the veil in the temple torn after Jesus died, but in Matthew 27:51-53 we are told, "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Imagine this, rocks are blasted apart, maybe some of the rocks that sealed tombs, and then all of a sudden some of those who were dead in the faith are now alive and they are walking around appearing to many people. I cant imagine what the people were thinking as they saw these things. But it does seem that they suppressed the truth, hardened their hearts to these things of God. There is one encouraging sign though, and that is found in Acts 6:7, which says "Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." It does seem like some of the priests who witnessed the veil being torn in two from top to bottom, these rocks splitting apart, the dead rising, turned to Christ eventually. But how many other people saw the darkness and looked at the veil and saw the dead walking, and said nothing, they were not moved at all, they were cold to the things of God?
1. This centurion who was in charge of this execution squad makes this amazing statement - he was moved by what he saw. On the other hand, we are told in Luke 23:48 that "And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned." They left Him fearful, they left Him confused, they were disturbed by what they saw, and yet they were unchanged!
1. I think they stood at a distance because they couldnt believe what they were seeing. The horror and the abusive crowds. And now the death of someone they loved dearly, someone who had touched their lives deeply. And now they are devastated. These are truly faithful women, for you dont see any of the apostles except John at the cross, and John left with the mother of Jesus, Mary, earlier on, we believe, to watch over her and care for her. The men are hiding and the women are broken. And we will see that Jesus first appears to the women, the faithful women before He appears to the men.
2. Now Mary Magdalene came from the area of Magdala, which is a village on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. And Jesus freed her from demon possession in Luke 8:2. The second Mary was known by her sons, James the less and Joses, Matthew 27:61. Salome was the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee and possibly Marys sister, the mother of Jesus. And there were other women who were followers of Jesus at the cross.
3. Now if you take anything away from this study, take this. The access to the Father is through the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6, "...I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Also, as we said before in I Timothy 2:5 we are told, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." There is no other way, no other door, no other truth, it is through Jesus that we can come before the Father!