Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Understanding And Applying the Text
The sixth hour was noon. So from noon until 3:00 PM darkness covered the land. The phrase “covered the land” refers to the land of Israel. Darkness did not cover the whole earth. It is obvious the darkness had significance. What was that significance?
This imagery has parallels to the Day of the Lord in Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9 and Zephaniah 1:15.
Ancient poets use the darkening of the sun to mark any shocking crime. They used it to express the alarming effects of God’s anger. Some commentators think God sent darkness to mark His disgust of Christ on the cross. It was as if bringing darkness over the sun, hid it from God’s eyes. It was the worst of all crimes. Some say when the sun darkened it say Christ’s death was the death of righteousness. Others think it symbolized the blinding of the nation. By rejecting Christ, the Jews deprived themselves of the light of heavenly doctrine. They had nothing left but the darkness of despair.
John Calvin believed the darkness was to cause the Jews to remember God’s design in Christ’s death. It exhibited God’s anger. And remembering would cause them to tremble at God’s judgment. God’s wrath was severe. It was so severe He did not spare even His only begotten Son. He was not appeased by any price other than the price of expiation.
To me it brings to mind John 8:12. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Christ’s death removed the light.
Did the scribes and priests heed the sign? No. The scribes and priests, and most of the Jewish nation, paid no attention. They let it pass by with closed eyes. Their ignorance ought to strike terror in us.
Satan enchanted them. God’s manifested His glory in front of them. But they saw only the lies of Satan. They could not see the truth. (Matthew 13:14)
The darkening of the sun was a general warning. It is a warning for us as well. It shows us the importance of the sacrifice that redeems us. It was as if the sun had fallen from the sky. Or the whole fabric of the world had fallen apart.
About the ninth hour or 3:00 PM, Jesus cried in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He did not say it. He yelled it. This shows the depth of Jesus’ distress. It takes energy to yell. Yet Christ was in so much anguish He use all His energy to scream His distress. He suffered separation from His Father. It was not until later the apostles realized this. Jesus was enduring the wrath of God’s judgment on sin. Before this, He had enjoyed a perfect relationship with the Father. Jesus offered His soul as well as His body as the price of our reconciliation with God. He endured the punishment we earned. As such, He became the man of sorrows in Isaiah. (Isaiah 53:3.) We must never ignore that part of redemption.
It was much more than physical pain and suffering. He was before the throne of God as a guilty person. Nothing is more dreadful than to feel God’s wrath. It is worse than any death. The physical pain and suffering represented the true pain Christ suffered. It was a physical manifestation of Christ’s suffering before God. The physical pain and suffering were severe. I do not intend to downplay it. Yet it does not compare to the suffering Christ endured when the Father turn away.
When Christ cried out some claimed He called for Elijah. This was not the Roman soldiers unfamiliar with the language. It was an intentional mocking. They turned His prayer into a mocking. Christ’s torture took every form, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual.
The same wine they offered Christ when he arrived some tried to offer again. This was not a humanitarian gesture. The wine was still undrinkable. It was yet another mockery. This is the fulfillment of Psalms 69:21.
Jesus cried out again. Luke tells us what Jesus cried. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” This took the last of His energy. And He died. This is yet another example of how Jesus gave His life. It was not taken. Even though He suffered ferocious attacks His faith was unshaken. This prayer comes from Psalms 31:5. Christ knew the scriptures. They comforted Him even on the cross.
When Christ died the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the sanctuary was torn. It was torn from top to bottom. The curtain symbolized our separation from God. We could not approach God. (Hebrews 9:8) Christ’s death was His sacrifice on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:12,24,25) It opened the way to God for us. (Hebrews 10:19-21)
Christ abolished the age of outward sacrifices. The ancient priesthood was of no further use. The temple was not required to worship God. In fact, in a few years, God would tear it down. Christ offered a physical sacrifice. But the Apostles tell us we must view it in spiritual terms (Hebrews 9:14).
The shaking of the earth and the breaking of the rocks is yet another symbol. The earth was shattering.
Some commentators question the timing of the resurrection of the saints. They claim this could not happen until after Christ’s resurrection. May I point out the resurrection of Lazarus? Jesus also raised many others from the dead. (Matthew 11:5, 9:18-26, John 11:14-43) The dead rise when God commands them to rise. This is a partial fulfillment of the resurrection of Daniel 12:2. There is no way to know who these people were or if they died again or if they went straight to heaven.
While the Jewish leaders remained incredulous. The centurion and Roman soldiers recognized something of cosmic significance had happened.
Matthew makes no mention of any of the apostles staying with Jesus at the cross. We know John was there because Jesus addressed him. (John 19:27) But Matthew, as well as John, gives honor to the women alone.
Jesus had died and a rich man named Joseph from Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He placed it in the tomb as the women watched.