Sermon: The Death We Deserve (Luke 23:44-49)

The Death We Deserve

Luke 23:44-49

Introduction

As we prepare to read from God’s Word today, I want us to be on the lookout for especially three things.  First, Luke tells us that for a period of three hours, from 12 Noon to 3 pm the sun went dark.  While this was going on another significant even was taking place, the veil in the Temple that separated the inner sanctuary from the Holy of Holies was torn in two.  Third, Jesus speaks His last words and then dies.

Primary Claim

Jesus died the death we deserve so God can give us the righteousness Jesus deserves.

Human Condition

In our fallen sinful state, we have the great need to be reconciled to God.  Because we are dead in our sin we cannot do anything ourselves concerning spiritual life.  Since the fall, where Satan told Eve, you will not surely die! Our great need is for a spiritual resurrection.  We needed desperately for a righteous Man to die for us so that God could count our debt as paid and free us from judgment.  Jesus is that sinless perfect sacrifice.

We have the great need to trust God in every circumstance.  When Jesus dies, He entrusts God with His Spirit.  This is a great example of how we too must trust God with everything, including our spirit.

Luke 23:44-49 (ESV)
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.

1.  Heralds to Jesus’ Death

In Luke’s account of the events that lead up to Jesus’ death, he tells us of two grand simultaneous activities.  The Sun is dark and the veil of the Temple is torn.   These are reported by Luke not only because they actually happened but because these events speak volumes to us in what was going on in Jesus’ death.  Why does Luke tell us of these things?

A.  The Sun Goes Dark

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…

It is very important that we catch hold of what Luke wants us to see here.   First, Luke tells us what time it is.  He says it is the 6th hour.  Now, the 6th hour means 12 noon.  From 12 noon Jerusalem time to 3 pm in the afternoon Jerusalem time, the sun went dark.  The time of the day when the sun should be shining the brightest, it’s light was dimmed by God.  Why did the Sun do this?  Why, when it should have been the brightest was it dark outside?  It was nighttime during the day.

We must understand that this darkness was supernatural not by some natural occurrence.

The darkness which lasted from twelve noon to three o’clock was supernatural and was caused by the immediate power of God. All attempts to explain this darkness by means of natural phenomena have failed. Some have argued that the darkness was caused by an eclipse. This thought is easily refuted by the fact that Passover occurs during a full moon. Therefore, the earth is closer to the Sun than the moon rendering an eclipse on the earth impossible.[1]

Many if not most liberal theologians and others try to explain this away by some natural event.  Some even believe so strongly that it was an eclipse, try to date the crucifixion by when eclipses occurred in the years past.  It can’t be done because their initial premise is faulty.

Many of you want to know why it was dark for three hours.  Here’s why it was dark.  Here’s what Luke is telling us…

It was dark for three hours because it was during those three terrible hours that Jesus was enduring the wrath of God.  He was drinking the cup of God’s wrath.

Darkness especially in the OT has always been connected to God’s judgment.  We could look to the plague of Egypt in Exodus 10:21-22 when Moses stretched out his hand and there was darkness in Egypt for three days.

We could look to Isaiah 5 & 60; We could look to Joel 2 or Zephaniah 1.  I want us to see the prophecy given by Amos and learn together that what happened during the day of Amos was simply a precursor to the day Jesus died…

Amos 8:3 (ESV)
3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” declares the Lord GOD. “So many dead bodies!” “They are thrown everywhere!” “Silence!”
Amos 8:8 (ESV)

8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”
Amos 8:7-10 (ESV)
7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”
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.
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.

These events prophesied by Amos were fulfilled in Jesus.  That’s what Luke wants us to see.  He wants us to see that the death of Jesus Christ is the major event in human history.
God promises 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.
This is exactly why Luke tells us what time these events take place.  The sky goes dark at noon (the sixth hour).  We also learn that this was no localized darkness.  Half of the earth was already dark, it’s night but God turns out the lights on the other half as well.
Amos also tells us that when this happens, those who normally are joyous at the feast will not be joyous but in mourning.
By Luke’s specific language, he wants us to see that the death of Christ is, in fact fulfilling many OT passages.
Matthew’s account even speaks of the earthquake during the crucifixion…
Matthew 27:51-53 (ESV)
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.
52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,
53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
What are the Gospel writers trying to tell us?  What do they want us to see?
In Amos, and we could look to others, we see God’s wrath and judgment being poured out on Israel.  Something has changed…The sun goes dark, the earth trembles, and the people who should be celebrating Passover mourn and beat their breasts.  Jesus Christ absorbed the wrath of God’s judgment that should have been poured out on God’s people on the cross.  That’s why the sun is dark and the earth trembled while Jesus was hanging on the cross.  He was enduring the judgment Amos and Isaiah and Joel and the others spoke of.  It would not fall on God’s people, in would fall on God’s Son.  Jesus prayed Father forgive them and God forgave.

B.  The Veil is Torn

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Luke reports that at 3pm when Jesus died, the veil was torn.  Matthew and Mark both write that there was a certain way it was torn…from top to bottom.  In other words, it was torn in such a way that it could only be God who tore it.

What’s the big deal about that?  Most people will tell us that the temple veil was torn so that we can now have access to God.  In a sense that is true.  We must see this as the Bible relates it…
Hebrews 6:19-20 (ESV)
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

And again…
Hebrews 10:19-20 (ESV)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

What the writer of Hebrews so plainly tells us is that at the death of our Lord, He opened the veil.  He tore it from top to bottom so that He would be our High Priest and based on our High Priests perfect sacrifice we now have access to a place where formerly only one priest once a year could go.  Jesus has taken our hand and placed it in God’s forever.

2.  Jesus Stops Breathing

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.
The first words Jesus speaks from the cross were, Father forgive them because they do not know what they’re doing.  His last words were Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

In between these words Jesus endured God’s wrath against sin.  This is what Jesus dreaded more than anything else.  When He struggled in prayer at Gethsemane, it wasn’t the beatings and mockery He shuddered over but it was the three hours of God’s wrath.  The sin of all God’s people was being judged and Christ was receiving it all.  The cup Jesus prayed might be taken away and yet drank it dry was the cup of the fury of God’s judgment.

In eternity past, when Jesus asked the Father for a people, He knew what it would cost for the Father to grant His request.  Jesus knew it would mean His own death.  He also knew that this death would come about as He endured God’s just judgment for the sins of those people Jesus prayed for and asked God for to be His people.  Jesus knew that in order for Adam and Abraham and Peter and John and you and me to be His bride, He would have to die.

Through all this, Jesus still remained faithful to and trusting in His Father.  His last words were words of trust.  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

At most grave side services the preacher speaks words of committal.  The earthly body of the loved one is committed to the ground.  In a sense, Jesus is speaking at His own funeral as He speaks His own committal.

Even though He is weak and words are hard to speak, fully in control, Jesus shouts His last words.  He was in charge even to the end.  So much so, that Luke seems to use language that indicates that Jesus was even in control of the time in which He died.  He spoke His last works and stopped breathing.  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.
Let’s look at something here.  Jesus had just endured an eternity of God’s judgment for all whom God would save in three hours.  At the end of all this He still trusts God His Father.

Church, this should speak volumes to us today.  When we find ourselves in various trials we too must continue to trust God to the very end.  We too must persevere to the very end trusting and loving God every step of the way.  Thanks to Jesus we will never endure such a trial as He did that day, in the dark, completely alone.  If at the end, He can still love and trust God we too must in all occasions love and trust our heavenly Father as well.  Jesus gave us a wonderful example of the extent in which we must trust our Father.

3.  Some Praised God and Some Mourned

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.
We are shown two reactions to Jesus’ death.  Both are potentially good reactions.

A. The Centurion

47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
The Roman Centurion who was stationed to guard the three being crucified had seen everything as closely as anyone.  His reaction to all the events…Jesus arrest and trial, His mock trials, and the fact that He was falsely accused and wrongly condemned.  He heard Jesus’ words of love and warning on the way to the site.  He heard His prayer of forgiveness, and what He told to repentant thief.  He saw the darkness and felt the earthquake, He heard the stories of the veil being torn.  His conclusion is two-fold…This Man was innocent and this Man was the Son of God!
B.  The People
48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.
The people of Jerusalem who cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion and gathered to watch a show, to be entertained by suffering.  On the Day of Passover, which should have been a day of celebration, God turned it into a day of mourning.  This is exactly as Amos said it would be…3 The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” declares the Lord GOD.
The crowd left Calvary that day mourning the fact that they were responsible for the brutal murder of the Son of God.  They must have thought to themselves, we are guilty of this innocent man’s blood.  Oh, why did we listen to those wicked priests?  Why did we cry out for His crucifixion and ask that Barabbas be released?
Leaving the site of the crucifixion beating their breasts was a sign of deep mourning and guilt.
It’s no wonder, when on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stands up accusing them of murder Acts 2, there is no argument.  They all knew what had taken place and had been grieving the fact for a number of weeks.

C.  Those Who Knew Him

49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Who were these people?  Probably Mary, John and by now possible some of the other disciples.  Perhaps Nichodemas was present and Joseph of Arimathea.  Others who were possibly in the crowd…Salome the mother of James and John, and Mary Magdalene.  Possibly these and others were close by at this point and not far off.  They hear these words of Jesus as He committed His spirit to the Father.

Primary claim refocused

Primary Claim

Jesus died the death we deserve so God can give us the righteousness He deserves.

Human condition changed or Human need met

Jesus paid our sin debt so now we can be set free to live for God.  We are now being formed into a people for His Son.  Because of Jesus’ death on the cross we can be shown mercy.

Because of Jesus’ example of trust as He committed His spirit to God we see and understand we too can trust God with everything.

Exhortation in godly living

Jesus’ death saved us.  Now, we are called to go out and live lives that glorify our Lord.

 

 

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