THE CROSS [Part II]

Text: Matthew 27:45-54, NLT

45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 47 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 48 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. 49 But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. 54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” 55 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

INTRODUCTION

As a general rule, I prefer to preach one or three point sermons. The one pointer’s are the most difficult to prepare. This week I have struggled with the above text. I could not reduce it to one point or three. So I am going to do something that I rarely do: an eight point sermon.

  1. THE MYSTERIOUS DARKNESS. Some believe the darkness was caused by a solar eclipse and others do not. Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is one those who does not believe it was eclipse. He believes it was a mysterious darkness sent by God the Father. Dr. Jack Taylor, one of my favorite puppeteers of yesteryear said it was the demons celebrating what they thought to be a victory. We know that it was not a victory for Satan but he does not have foreknowledge and at the moment, he may have thought he was the victor. Others believe, due to Jesus silence during the 3 hours, that it was the time that our sin was put upon our Savior. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. Another reference is I Peter 2:24, He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Another is Isaiah 53:11, And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah also said in reference to God the Father, When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, He will be satisfied. How could God be please with the cruel injustice that Jesus suffered? God was not pleased with the suffering, He was pleased with the obedience of His son and His willingness to die for our sins. For God so loved the world, He gave. We may not have all the answers for the darkness but we know that Jesus became sin for us. Hey, this is not just my lust or your greed, this is the guilt and shame of a pedophile or a pervert. Yes, my friend, He bore all our sins in His own body.
  2. JESUS DESPAIRING CRY…”My God [not Father], My God, why have You forsaken Me? Again, I believe as do many others but not all…that Jesus felt the forsakenness of a vile and filthy sinner like me. God is holy and thus Jesus suffered our hell on the cross by enduring three hours of separation from the Father [again, because of our sin]. We all know that a world where God does not exist or manifest His presence is hell. Separation from God is hell. Another thing to keep in mind is that Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 verbatim. Psalm 22 is the passion psalm: it describes the cross. Let’s just look at portions of Psalm 22…[1] My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for You?  [2] But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all! [3]Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, “Is this the one who relies on the LordThen let the Lord save him!
    If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him. [4]Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. [5] My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! Like lions they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. [6] My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. [7] My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. [8]  They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. [9] They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing. Crucifixion did not exist in David’s time or Isaiah’s.
  3. THE IGNORANT BYSTANDERS. Jesus cried out in the Hebrew tongue, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani.” [L-e, L-e, lie-ma, sa-bach-thay-nee]. Who were these ignorant bystanders. Surely the Jewish religious leaders could understand Hebrew and would or should recognize that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22. Could it be possible that the Jewish bystanders were so blinded by hate that they totally missed Jesus quoting the Old Testament. I don’t think the Romans would think that Jesus was calling for Elijah: they did not know who Elijah was. The only conclusion I can reach is that the ignorant bystanders were Jews. Hate not only perverted their sight and insight- it also perverted they hearing.
  4. JESUS SHOUT OF VICTORY. John tells us that Jesus shouted, “It is finished.” This comes after three hours of silence. It was a shout of victory. Some have suggested that Jesus literally died of a broken heart others like Dr. Wiersbe believe the He by His power yielded His Spirit. Had I been there, it would have been a cry of victory to me. It meant the end of His suffering. I am not about to trivialized physical death, it is a big deal that creates lots of anxiety and grief but when you see a person suffer intensely like Jesus, physical death is a welcome friend.
  5. THE VEIL TORN FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. This curtain was 4 inches thick and 60 feet tall. It weighted tons. Jesus death ripped it from top to bottom opening the way to the Holy of Holies. No more separation. No barrier between God and man. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 10…And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. The splitting of the veil is the only proof we need that God is through with Judaism.
  6. CATASTROPHIC EVENTS: ECLIPE, EARTHQUATE, TOMBS OPENED. Too much for a coincidence. The Roman soldiers were impressed. The Centurion in charge said, “Surely this is the Son of God.” They were terrified. In awe, a form of worship. The Greek word for terrified is phobia and it has three meanings: [1] to put to flight, to flee [2]to fear, be afraid [3] to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience. The ROBE is a novel by Lloyd Douglas inspired by a woman who asked him what happened to Jesus robe. In the novel, Marcellus Gallio was the Roman commander who got the robe and was later converted. This is fiction, we do not know that any of the Romans became believers but we do know that the gospel got to Rome before Peter or Paul.
  7. FAITHFUL WOMEN. They took care of Him is life and they stayed with Him in death. They were basically the last to leave. Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus in a garden just below the Golgotha. The women observed from a distance. I can tell you from experience, you do not want to pastor a church that has no men. I can also tell you that for every man that faithfully attends without his wife there are a half dozen women who come without their husbands. Both are important but we do tip our hats to the women of faith who serve Jesus without the support of their husbands.
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