DEPTHS OF DARKNESS
Good Shepherd, lead me today as one of your sheep, feed me from your Word, and allow me to drink from your water of life.
Read MATTHEW 27:45–56
The Death of Jesus
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
- Matthew 27:46 Some manuscripts Eloi, Eloi
- Matthew 27:46 Psalm 22:1
- Matthew 27:53 Or tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they
- Matthew 27:56 Greek Joses, a variant of Joseph
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Nothing in my hand I bring, / simply to your cross I cling; / naked, come to you for dress; / helpless, look to you for grace’.1 Thank you, Jesus.
Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours, the darkness of the last three culminating in his cry of abandonment by God. This cry was penned by King David centuries earlier2 and foreshadows many of the elements of the last few hours of Jesus’ life. Not understanding, well-wishers in the crowd offer him vinegar and they wait, thinking he is calling on a prophet. After his final shout, ‘It is finished’,3 he dies – and an earthquake brings cataclysmic damage to temple and tombs, terrifying the guards. Suddenly, they’re convinced that Jesus was the Son of God.
What really did Jesus mean by quoting Psalm 22? It seems such a cry of Godforsakenness. Some suggest that Christ is identifying fully with human hopelessness and suffering, but it is also a cry of cosmic spiritual truth. As Jesus was sacrificing himself and being made sin for us,4 he was experiencing the outcome of sin in separation from the Father. His forsakenness was at a level we shall never know. Christ suffered and died to bring grace to us who don’t deserve it. It’s pictured symbolically, with the temple veil torn and the Holy of Holies opened up to ordinary human access. A new relationship with God can be ours through Christ.
It is fitting that the passage ends with the story of dedicated women. A male disciple had betrayed Jesus, another denied him, and most had fled, yet the women remained to the end. They speak to us of the reality of faithfulness, despite perplexity, doubt or distress. Their confusion must have been greater than most of us have ever known, yet they give us courage. We too can stay close to Jesus in the worst of circumstances of our lives and not waver in our hope.
Are there people around you who need your Christian encouragement today? Why not pray and reach out?
Jesus died for me. Today, hope is mine, life is mine, heaven is mine, blessings beyond blessings are mine. Hallelujah, what a Savior.
1 AM Toplady, 1740–1778, ‘Rock of Ages’ 2 Ps 22:1 3 John 19:30 4 2 Cor 5:21
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