Gospel of Matthew

Matthew - Lesson 27F

Chapter 27:45-50

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  • We return this morning to our verse-by-verse, hour-by-hour study of Jesus’ time on the cross in our study of Matthew

    • Our High Priest is sacrificing Himself on Passover even as the high priest of Israel was in the temple that same hour sacrificing the national lamb

      • On Passover each year, one lamb was brought to the altar, its throat cut, the blood drained, and the flesh burned on the altar

      • That national Passover lamb served as a representative sacrifice for all Israel

      • And this year at that same moment, 9 AM, the true, once-for-all-time Passover Lamb was being nailed to a cross

    • Few in Israel on that day understood the connection to Jesus’ death on the cross, and certainly no one could appreciate its significance 

      • As we’ve already studied, Jesus’ death on the cross involved several periods which each held significance

      • For the first three hours from 9 AM to noon, Jesus experienced the wrath of men, otherwise known as the consequences of sin

      • Jesus experienced physical pain, emotional suffering, and psychological torment, things coming to every sinner

      • But these consequences were foreign to our sinless Savior until He took them upon Himself on our behalf

    • During those three hours, the words of the writer of Hebrews became true:

Heb. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Heb. 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • Jesus experienced every temptation we can know, including the temptation to escape the consequences of sin, to avoid death

  • But He never gave in to His temptations as we routinely do, and in that way He qualified Himself to be our high priest

  • That will be the focus of our study today…Jesus taking our place in death

    • Jesus took the place of sinners in death, which means He had to experience every aspect of death to serve as our substitute

      • The penalty for sin is both a physical death, the death of the body, and a spiritual death, the death of the spirit

      • Therefore, Jesus will experience both physical and spiritual death on the cross as He makes Himself our Passover sacrifice

    • But as I mentioned last week, Jesus will experience spiritual death first followed by physical death, which seems backwards to us

      • In our experience, we endure the physical death of the body before we experience the second, spiritual death of the body 

      • But as we learn today, there is a good reason why Jesus must experience these in a different order to serve God’s purpose

    • But first, we’ll examine how these two experiences came to Jesus beginning with the first; spiritual death 

      • And that moment is marked by darkness everywhere

Matt. 27:45  Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
  • Matthew says darkness fell at the sixth hour, and Matthew is using the Jewish system for reckoning time, which starts counting hours at sunrise at 6 AM

    • So the sixth hour begins at noon, 12 PM, and Matthew says that at that moment all the land was dark until the ninth hour, which is 3 PM

      • The word translated “land” in v.45 is ge (pronounced “yee”),  which is literally translated as the Earth

      • So the whole earth was dark for 3 hours…Luke’s account confirms it was the whole earth

    • In fact, archaeologists have discovered multiple records of other ancient cultures from that time that record this supernatural moment

      • An ancient record of Dionysius, a Greek scholar, reported a strange darkness coming upon Heliopolis at that time

      • Another scholar named Diogenes living in Egypt at that time, reported a blackout of several hours and offered an explanation 

        • He said, “the solar darkness was such that either deity Himself suffered at that moment or sympathized with one who did” 

      • A third writer in Turkey wrote the day turned to night at the sixth hour and stars were visible and earthquakes shook the empire

    • So remarkably, the entire planet plunges into an unexpected, unexplainable blackout lasting three hours

      • Why has God placed the earth in darkness? Because the Father has withdrawn His presence from His Son

      • For the first and only time in all eternity, God the Son and God the Father were not in fellowship

      • Jesus now hangs for three hours separated from the Father’s love, and it is a unique kind of suffering

      • Notice the next thing Matthew records in v.46

Matt. 27:46 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?”
  • Near the end of the three hour separation from the Father, Jesus cries asking God why He has forsaken Him, which is a fulfillment of Psalm 22

    • Matthew records Jesus’ words in the original Aramaic before translating them for us for a couple of reasons

      • First, Matthew wanted us to know that Jesus addressed the Father in a unique manner at this moment

      • Jesus calls out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” 

      • This is the only time in the Gospels when Jesus addresses His Father as “My God”

      • Every other time Jesus speaks to the Father Jesus addresses Him as “My Father” so this moment is significant 

    • So in this moment, Jesus isn’t relating to God the Father in the same way

      • The intimacy Jesus once knew with the Father is gone…the Father has become distant…He’s now just God

      • For three hours, Jesus couldn’t feel the Father’s presence…for the first time, God the Son was separated from the Father

    • During these three hours Jesus experienced the ultimate consequence for sin: spiritual death, otherwise known as the wrath of God

      • Sin brings many devastating consequences in this life, but its ultimate consequence isn’t found on earth

      • The ultimate and final consequence for sin is the wrath of God, manifested as an eternal separation from the love of God

      • The Bible calls this consequence the “Second Death” referring to the death of the spirit following the body’s death

    • The Second Death is not a cessation of existence or the destruction of the spirit…it is a “death” in the sense that it is a separation 

      • The first death is our spirit separated from our physical body

      • The second death is our spirit separated from God

  • The Second Death is the penalty God decreed for all who end this life without having received the provision of Christ

    • Those who endure the Second Death spend eternity away from the love of God, and this is far worse than the first death

      • But for those who place faith in Jesus Christ, the Father’s wrath toward us is transferred to Jesus

      • Jesus took that wrath on the cross during these three hours as He experienced the wrath of God for our sin

    • Near the end of that period of separation from the Father, Jesus is in anguish and so distraught that He asks God why He is alone

      • Jesus asks why God has forsaken Jesus, and the Greek word translated forsaken literally means “to be left behind”

      • Jesus was left behind by the Father for these hours to experience the greatest suffering He ever could know 

      • You may remember in the Garden when Jesus prayed to the Father asking that the cup be taken away from Jesus

      • That cup was the cup of wrath that Jesus is now experiencing in darkness

    • And that worldwide darkness was God’s way of communicating to the earth that He had removed His presence from His Son

      • The Bible frequently uses the light of the sun as a symbol for the love of God or the presence of God

      • Remember these words from the beginning of John’s Gospel

John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
John 1:5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:9  There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
  • That is just one example, but across Scripture we find the same relationship…light pictures God’s presence and darkness the opposite

    • In fact, we’re told that in the New Heavens and the New Earth that comes to replace this world there will be no sun at all

    • Why? Because the light of that time comes entirely from the presence of God dwelling among men 

    • In that day, the light of the world will be God, literally

  • So as God withdraws His presence from Jesus, He also withdrew light from the earth, and I can’t begin to explain what Jesus felt during that time 

    • Nor am I suggesting that this separation meant Jesus ceased being God…Jesus remained God even as He was separated from God

      • If that confuses you, then join the club

      • After all, we can’t fully understand the Trinity in the first place, much less what it means for God to be separated from God

    • In fact, none of us have ever experienced the complete absence of God’s presence in our lives, including the time before we came to faith in Jesus

      • Because the Bible says God extends common grace to every human being in the course of daily life

Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Matt. 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 
  • Even the most ungodly people on earth still experience the love of God and the provision and goodness of God in countless ways

  • James says every good thing comes from the Father of Lights

  • So try imagining an existence in which there is nothing good whatsoever because God’s presence is completely absent?

  • We’ve never known that experience, and although Jesus knew it for just three hours, it was enough to bring Jesus to despair

    • Can you imagine what it will be like to spend eternity apart from God?

    • We can’t imagine Jesus’ suffering and thankfully we don’t have to try…we can put the thought of it out of our mind

    • Because we have heard and believed the Gospel, the Bible assures us we have overcome death, as Jesus Himself promised 

Rev. 2:11 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
  • Going back to the text, the second reason Matthew specified the Aramaic words Jesus used in v.46 is because it led to a misunderstanding

Matt. 27:47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
Matt. 27:48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink.
Matt. 27:49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.”
  • In Aramaic, Jesus said “Eli Eli” which means My God, My God, but the word “Eli” could easily be mistaken for the name “Elijah”

    • So someone assumed Jesus was calling for Elijah to rescue Him

    • But expecting Elijah to save Him made little sense, so from one misunderstanding came another

    • The crowd concluded Jesus was delirious from shock, so they gave Jesus a drink from a sponge 

    • Then they add “let’s see if Elijah does come to save Jesus”

  • This crowd wasn’t giving Jesus a drink out of pity…they wanted to keep Jesus alive a little longer to see if Elijah might appear

    • Matthew includes this exchange to help us appreciate how callous and indifferent the crowd was to what was happening

    • They are like children poking at a dying animal with sticks curious to see what will happen to it next

  • Jesus was utterly alone and without anyone to help Him or even sympathize with Him 

    • And even the help Jesus did receive was not intended for His benefit but merely to extend His suffering 

    • The irony is the sin they were committing against Jesus at that moment was the very reason He hung on the cross in the first place

  • So for three hours on the cross, Jesus experienced spiritual death in our place, but because He had no sin of His own, His spiritual suffering comes to an end

    • And then at exactly 3 PM, the ninth hour, the darkness ended and Jesus and the Father were restored in fellowship

      • In a sense, we could call this a spiritual resurrection…a return from spiritual death, which is separation from the Father

      • And at that moment, the work of paying for sin had been completed

    • John tells us that at this moment Jesus uttered His next-to-last statement from the cross

John 19:30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
  • In Greek Jesus poke a single Greek word, te-telestai, which is an accounting term meaning “paid in full”

  • God wrath for sin was now fully appeased, fully satisfied by all that Christ had done on our behalf

  • The sin debt Jesus came to pay was paid in full, and no additional payment or work of any kind is necessary

  • Notice, Jesus made this statement before He died physically, which means that Jesus’ physical death was not part of that payment

    • Jesus’ physical death was necessary to the plan of redemption, because without a physical death there could be no resurrection

    • And by His resurrection Jesus will prove His claims to have overcome death and to possess eternal life

    • But by the time Jesus experienced physical death, the payment for our sins had been made in full  

  • We will study Jesus’ physical death next, but before we do, you may wonder why did Jesus only experience three hours of spiritual death? 

    • If we die in our sins, we spend an eternity separated from the love of God in torment, so why did Jesus only spend three hours in our place?

      • First, we need to understand unbelievers spend an eternity separated from God after death because they are forever sinful

      • The only way to cease being sinful is to be born again by the Spirit through faith in Jesus and to receive Christ’s righteousness 

      • But that opportunity ends at death, and if we die in our sins, we remain eternally in a sinful state and forever away from God 

    • But Jesus is not like us…He “became” sin on our behalf, but He had no sin of His own, therefore He had no need to suffer for an eternity 

      • Jesus’ suffering was a propitiation for sin and the Father determined it would be an acceptable payment

      • Once God’s wrath had been appeased and the debt paid, then Jesus’ suffering could end

      • And the Father accepts Jesus’ payment in our place, instead of us suffering for an eternity – that’s the deal of a lifetime…literally

  • So with the debt paid in full, Jesus’ suffering can now come to an end

Matt. 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
  • Matthew doesn’t record what Jesus said, but Luke tells us that Jesus said, “Father into Your Hands I commit My Spirit”

    • The precise timing of Jesus’ death and His final words confirm His earlier promise that no one takes Jesus’ life but He lays it down

    • Jesus decided the exact moment of His own death by commanding His spirit’s departure from His body at 3 PM

  • Literally speaking, Jesus didn’t die of crucifixion…the cause of Jesus’ death was not due to any of His physical wounds

    • We all die as the result of some biological process, but the Bible says that the cause of death is sin and the curse God decreed

    • But Jesus was without sin so even in His wounded state, Jesus would have lived forever except that He took on the curse

  • So Jesus committed His spirit into the Father’s hands and His body died

    • Next time we will look at what followed Jesus’ death including the burial preparations and the supernatural events that marked His death

      • But today we still need to understand the significance of Jesus’ physical death and why it came after His spiritual death

      • And let’s begin by setting aside some bad assumptions about what His death accomplished 

    • First, some assume that Jesus’ physical death was part of the payment for sin, but as we discussed earlier, our debt was paid in full before He died

      • So though His physical death is an important part of the plan of redemption, it wasn’t a payment

      • Secondly, some assume that He died to go to Hell and that Jesus then suffered in Hell in our place 

      • But that too is wrong, and Romans tells us that God’s wrath was satisfied by death alone, not by time spent in Hell

Rom. 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Rom. 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
  • To be clear, Jesus never experienced torment or suffering or even bodily decay during His time in the grave, as Scripture testifies:

Psa. 16:9  Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; 
My flesh also will dwell securely.
Psa. 16:10  For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; 
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
  • So our debt was paid in full before He died, and therefore His time in the grave served a different purpose

  • That time was preparation for His resurrection, fulfilling Scripture and ensuring no one could deny that Jesus did die

  • And while Jesus’ body was in the grave, Paul and Peter report that Jesus’ Spirit descended to the inner parts of the earth to join the Old Testament saints

    • Those saints were held in one side of Sheol, a place of comfort where they had waited since death for their Messiah to arrive

      • These saints died with faith in a future Messiah, but they couldn’t enter the Father’s presence before Christ’s sacrifice 

      • But after Jesus died, His Spirit descends to proclaim to them that their debt has been paid in full and they were released

      • Then after three days, Paul says Jesus escorted these captive spirits free and took them to Heaven where they are now

    • But while Jesus was there, Peter says He also announced Himself to the unbelieving souls experiencing torment in the other side of Sheol

      • The point in that pronouncement was not to offer opportunity for salvation, for that time had passed

      • The point of this proclamation was to confirm that the promise of the Messiah had been fulfilled despite their unbelief  

  • Finally, why was Jesus’ physical death and spiritual death reversed from our experience? 

    • The answer comes from understanding that the Bible calls Jesus the Second Adam, in the sense that Jesus restarts the Human race

      • In the Garden, God told Adam that if Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, in the very day he ate of it, he would surely die

      • But we know that when Adam ate of the fruit, he didn’t die physically on that very day…in fact Adam lived 930 years 

    • So the death God was promising Adam for sin was not physical death, it was spiritual death, and on that day Adam died spiritually 

      • Later God came into the garden and pronounced a curse in response to Adam’s sin declaring Adam’s body would also die

      • So Adam’s spiritual penalty came before his physical penalty 

    • So all that who descend from Adam share both his spiritual penalty and physical penalty…until we are born again by faith in Jesus

      • Jesus is the Second Adam, the Man Who comes to save us from the penalty of both spiritual and physical death

      • So Jesus takes our place in suffering both, and He experiences them in the same way Adam did 

      • First, Jesus dies spiritually and then Jesus dies physically, taking our place in both

1Cor. 15:21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
1Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.