Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday - Matthew 27 & Luke 23 - What Happened When Jesus Died?

Today's reading: Matthew 27 & Luke 23 

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What Happened When Jesus Died?

"It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two." - Luke 23:44

At Jesus' death, several things happened to fulfill Scripture and to be a sign to those who were watching and understood what they were seeing. Let's consider just a few of them from Matthew 27 and Luke 23:

1. They cast lots for His clothing (Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:34). Psalm 22 was written by King David 1,000 years before Jesus was born, but it provides a detailed description of the sufferings of Christ on the cross. In fact, the details are so specific and don't match anything that happened to David in his life. Among those details . . .

I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots. - Ps. 22:17-18

2. The sky was darkened (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). Joel 2 is a prophecy of the Day of the LORD, the great day of judgment coming. Among the signs that indicate the Day of the LORD is a darkened sky (Joel 2:10 & 2:31). The darkness of the sky is a sign of judgment, a sign that God the Father is pouring out His wrath and judgment on His Son, who willingly offered Himself in our place. It is also a sign of judgment against Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders, who had rejected their Messiah and would soon face destruction at the hands of the Romans who crucified Jesus.

The same prophecy of mid-day darkness can also be found in Amos 8:9:

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God,
    “I will make the sun go down at noon
    and darken the earth in broad daylight. (ESV)

3. The earth shook and the graves opened and many dead saints were raised to life (Matthew 27:51-53). This remarkable sign was also given as an anticipation of the end-time Day of the LORD. On that day, according to Daniel 12:2, "many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The small resurrection at the death of Christ was a sign of the coming last-day judgment resurrection and also of the fact that Jesus is the Lord who will judge on that day.   

4. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51 & Luke 23:44). The curtain in the Temple separated God's people, even God's priests, from God's very presence in the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. This thick curtain was necessary to protect God's people from God's holy presence, necessary because of the sin of God's people. Only the High Priest could enter behind that curtain, and then only once per year on the Day of Atonement, to sprinkle the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant with blood. 

When Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, the sin of God's people was covered, and the barrier separating God from His people was removed. This single, wonderful sign is a powerful statement of what Jesus did for us on the cross: By removing our sins, He brought us near to God.

5. Responses: In response to all of these signs, the Roman Centurion who supervised Jesus' crucifixion cried out,"Truly this was the Son of God!" (Mt. 27:54). The crowds of people, who had demanded His crucifixion and who had mocked Him so cruelly as He suffered, "returned home beating their breasts (Luke 23:48)." They knew how wrong they had been. This mourning reflects the language of Zechariah 12:10, "when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn."     

6. They laid Him in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man (Matthew 27:57-59; Luke 23:50-53). This was in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9, a most remarkable verse in the midst of one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible: 

And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth. (ESV)

How could a man be counted among the wicked but also be buried in a rich man's tomb? It seems like an impossible contradiction, especially if you understand the ancient world. But this is exactly what happened to Jesus.  

God gave us clear and compelling signs both to explain to us why Jesus was dying and to show us that it was happening according to His plan, as foretold in His Scriptures. How will we respond to Him on this Good Friday?  

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