Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Today, followers of Jesus around the world are reflecting on the crucifixion—the critical, life-altering event of human history. And so, I think it fitting for us to do the same this morning as we prepare ourselves to remember and respond to who Jesus is and what he has done for us this weekend. Focus in on the last few moment’s before Jesus’ death with me—Luke 23:44-49—because I don’t want you to miss the significance of the things that happen in Jesus’ final moments before death, as he hangs on the cross:
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Look at verse 44 first: “it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” Jesus is hanging on the cross, and at that moment everything turns dark. Put this in our context—the sixth hour is 12:00 noon, and the ninth hour is 3:00 in the afternoon. So, darkness is over the land from 12-3. How strange is that? It’s the brightest part of the day, and yet verse 45 is telling us that the sun’s light failed.
Now, when you think of the sun not shining when it’s supposed to, what comes to mind? An eclipse, right? And a lot of people try to explain what’s happening here by saying that it’s an eclipse. But for any nerds out there like me who are specifically passionate about the Bible and outer space, you’ll immediately recognize two problems with that theory:
Jesus’ crucifixion happened at the time of Passover, which is always celebrated at the time of the full moon—and the eclipse of the sun is only possible during a new moon, the exact opposite time in the moon’s phases.
The darkness lasted for three hours—the maximum possible length of a total eclipse is 7 minutes and 31 seconds.
So, what’s the point here? This isn’t an eclipse—this is a supernatural darkness that indicates an event of cosmic significance was happening as Jesus hangs on the cross!
Throughout the Bible, darkness is usually connected to sin, evil, and death—things that are the opposite of God—whereas light is connected to holiness, life, and often Jesus—things that are united to God and his character. 1 John 1:5-6, for example, tells us that God is light (absolutely holy); in him there is no darkness or sin at all. Connect this truth to Jesus’ final moments: Jesus, who is light—absolutely holy and perfect, and in him there is no sin at all—takes on the darkness—the sin, evil, and death of the whole world during this moment on the cross (1 John 2:2). Darkness falls over the face of the whole land, and he became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become his righteousness.
Now look at verse 45—“the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” When God’s presence dwelled in the temple, this was the curtain that separated his holy space from the people’s space. If a person were to enter God’s space—the Holy of Holies—or even just see through the curtain to God’s presence with sin in their lives, they would immediately die. So, people were afraid to be near it, because it was impossible for them to be in the presence of God without dying as a result of their imperfection and sin being overwhelmed by God’s holiness.
So, let’s just imagine that you were in the temple when the curtain tore in two—what would you expect to happen? Death! Because you couldn’t be in the presence of God as a sinner. But the curtain tears, you brace yourself for death, and nothing happens—you’re just standing there, a regular, imperfect person, in the throne room of a perfect God. The moment that the sin of the world was poured out on Jesus was the moment that opened the way for you to be in the presence of the creator again. We no longer have to face death as a result of our sin because Jesus did it for us! The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus’ sacrifice gives us the confidence to enter the heavenly holy place and draw near to God in prayer—his death makes it possible for us to have eternal life in the presence of the source of life (Hebrews 10:19-25).
One final moment to consider—verse 46: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And having said that he breathed his last.’” His final words here draw upon Psalm 31:5 but carry a new significance coming from the mouth of Jesus at his death. Listen to the Psalm:
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3 For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; 4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
This Psalm is about a righteous man who pleads for rescue from his enemies—but nevertheless, he commits himself to trust in the Lord either way. Jesus is here willingly submitting himself to death trusting that God’s purposes are pure, and that life will not only come to him through his resurrection but to us.
Through Jesus’ death, he takes on the sins of the whole world, he opens up the way for imperfect people like us to be in the presence of a holy God, and he models the trust that we should have that through Jesus God will bring us the same resurrection into eternal life. As we begin Good Friday reflecting on Jesus’ final moments before his death, I want to challenge you to reflect on yourself for a few moments:
Have you put your trust in what Jesus has done to take on your sins, and are you committed to following him into eternal life with God?
If you haven’t made that decision or have questions about what all this means, one of our pastors would love to talk with you today. Visit hhbc.net/nextsteps and read about the gospel to learn more.
Middle School Pastor