Sermon: The Miraculous Events Surrounding the Death and Resurrection of Christ Matthew 27:45-54

The Miraculous Events Surrounding the Death and Resurrection of Christ

Matthew 27:45-54

Truth Taught- The miraculous events surround our Lord’s death and resurrect point to the fact that He is the Son of God.

Introduction

As we think about the resurrection especially today, I wonder if we could back things up a bit? Would it be too out of place to speak today about the cross? What I’d like to do is look at Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus and then Lord willing we will see the resurrection from a little different perspective.

In these miracles we see God’s response to the death of His Son Jesus. Here, God will speak without words but by supernatural events which mark to importance of the death and resurrection of His Son. Let’s look together at what God the Father has to say concerning the cross and the tomb.

Human Need

The death and resurrection of our Lord was surrounded by many supernatural events. These serve as proof that God was working to bring everything about. The purpose of these events was to show conclusively that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen

Matthew 27:45–54 (ESV)

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 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?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 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. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

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. 54 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!”

  1. The Meaning of God’s Miracles
  2. The Darkness at Noon

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

When Jesus came to earth taking on flesh in the incarnation it was said that the Light had come.

John 8:12 (ESV)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 12:35–36 (ESV)

35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

Now as our Lord is dying, darkness is coming over the earth. This darkness was supernatural. God was doing this. It was no eclipse. The reason we know there was no eclipse is because Jesus was crucified during Passover. The celebration of Passover always occurs during the full moon and it is impossible to have a solar eclipse and a full moon together. This was an eclipse but one caused by God no by the moon or the earth.

Mark 15:25 (ESV)

25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him.

Jesus was crucified at 9am and hung there naked and in struggle and shame for three hours then something happened…

Everything went black. So for three hours from the sixth hour which is twelve noon to the ninth our which is three o’clock there was darkness over all the earth. This darkness was seen in other places as well. Ancient historians took notice of this darkness. Even unbelieving pagan men wrote about this unusual event. One such writer was Dionysius of Egypt. He wrote, Either the God of nature is suffering or the machine of the world is tumbling into ruin.[1]

This wasn’t the first time unusual darkness fell. It was dark in Egypt as one of the plagues during the time of the Exodus.

So during the brightest time of the day, when the sun is highest and brightest, at the apex of its shining on earth, the lights went out. During this time we don’t have any recorded words from our Lord. He hung there in darkness.

The meaning of the darkness– Darkness has always been a symbol of divine judgment. Hell is the place of outer darkness. It’s during this time; the wrath of God was being poured out on Jesus. It was in darkness that He was paying the penalty of our sin. The cross was the place for judgment.

Isaiah 53:4–5 (ESV)

   Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

       yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

   But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

       upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (ESV)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Darkness was God’s response to the sin of His people as Jesus bore the sins of many.

  1. Jesus Forsaken  

46 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?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 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. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

Darkness has come to an end. Now God has, as it were, turned the lights on because judgment for sin is just about over. It’s now the ninth hour or 3pm.

Matthew writes that Jesus cried out with a loud voice. Again in verse 50 he writes the same thing, Jesus cried out with a loud voice. He literally screamed with an amazing amount of volume for one dying by asphyxiation. You know that’s what killed someone being crucified, eventually they could no longer raise themselves up to breath and we suffocate. What is going on here?

First, we are told that Jesus is experiencing immense pain and turmoil. However, it’s not pain like you might first expect. You see being beaten didn’t cause Him to cry out with a loud voice, being flogged didn’t cause Him to cry out, having the thorny crown pressed upon His head didn’t, being nailed to the cross didn’t., hanging there as the cross was set in place didn’t.

Why was Jesus Forsaken by His Father– What caused Jesus to scream out was the fact that His Father, for a time, had turned His face away. During the three hours of judgment God had forsaken His Son. This is what caused Jesus to cry out… “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

  1. Jesus Gave Up His Spirit

Matthew records a second cry or scream of Jesus. 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

There is one thing that we must remember about Jesus. He was sinless. If Adam and Eve had remained sinless they never would have died.   Even after the fall in Genesis their immediate descendants lived to be 600-900 years old. As sin more and more permeated the human race length of years decreased. Now we have Jesus Christ, sinless. He was not only the perfect man because He was sinless he was also the perfect man physically. The curse had not touched Him. The reality is that Jesus did not die of natural causes as He hung on the cross. When the judgment of God was over and payment made then, at that moment He gave up His spirit and bowed His head and died. It didn’t happen in the normal order. When we die, our bodies become unfit for our spirits, we breathe our last and our spirits leave our bodies. Matthew wants us to see something here that is literally miraculous, Jesus was in control of the moment He died.

Verse 50, “And Jesus cried out again,” there’s that strength, “with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit..” krazo, He screamed with a loud voice, still strong. And what did He say? John 19:30 says what He said. He said, “It is finished.” Didn’t say, “I am finished,” He said, “It is finished.” And then according to Luke 23:46 He said, “Into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” The Father had turned at that point. The Father had turned. The wrath was over and He can see again, as it were, the Father’s face, commits Himself to the Father having accomplished redemption. He yielded up His spirit. He could not die at the hands of men. The Jews couldn’t kill Him. The Romans couldn’t kill Him. Nobody could kill Him. He voluntarily gave His life. He said, “No man takes My life from Me,” John 10, “I lay it down by Myself.” He yielded up the spirit. That is incredible. You can’t do that. Nobody can do that. I can’t say, “I send my spirit into the presence of God, watch my body fall over dead.” I can’t end my life by speaking it. And in the Greek it says He dismissed His spirit. “Go now.” And His real self, His eternal self left that body that slumped on the cross and ascended into the embrace of His Father. This is miraculous.[2]

Titus 2:14 (ESV)

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The Meaning of Jesus’ Death– Full payment for sin had been made. God’s wrath and fury had been spent on Jesus. When that was over, He gave His spirit back to God and died.

  1. The Veil Torn from Top to Bottom

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

At the split second Jesus died the sacrificial system was made null and void. God tore the temple veil at the moment His Son died. He did this because now there is a better way to God, now there is a great high priest with a superior sacrifice for sin. Now because of the death of Jesus sin is no longer covered as in the Old Testament but now it is removed, taken away as far as the east is from the west so, beloved our sin is completely gone, no where to be found.

Hebrews 9:11–12 (ESV)

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 10:19–22 (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, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The meaning of the torn veil- Jesus is now the true temple. We come to God through Him, therefore the old temple and the old holy of holies is no longer needed.

  1. The Earth Shook

And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Like the darkness, this shaking of the earth is not a localized earthquake but the earth shaking. The earth shook so hard that rocks were split in two…

Luke 19:39–40 (ESV)

39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

What we must see here is that this is what God’s judgment on sin looks like. This is the preview of the bowl judgments in the Book of Revelation. This is what will happen to the inhabitants on the earth who do not know Christ.

It seems very applicable to look to the Book of Hebrews here…

Hebrews 12:25–26 (ESV)

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

What is the meaning of the earth shaking– it too is God showing wrath against sin.

  1. Tombs Were Opened

52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,

The shaking of the earth at the cry of Jesus Christ and the judgment of God tore open the rocks that sealed the tombs.

Here it’s important to realize that the rock-hewn tombs in Jerusalem were used to house dead bodies for a year while decomposition took place. The dead body would be covered with spices and perfume, placed inside the tomb then sealed with a massive rock. Then at the one year anniversary of the person’s death the bones would be retrieved and buried. So, the saints here are those who died probably within the last year of our Lord’s earthly ministry.

Scholars think that the tombs were opened at the earth shaking then three days later some very extraordinary took place.

The Meaning of the open tombs– Our Lord by His death defeated death and the grave.

1 Corinthians 15:55–57 (ESV)

55    “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Saints were Raised

53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many

Beloved, three days later, Matthew tells us that the saints who slept in the tombs around Jerusalem woke up. It didn’t matter what condition their bodies were in or how much deterioration they had experienced. These saints were given new bodies, bodies that could be recognized.

Here is the amazing part. Jesus had died three days before to pay the penalty for the sins of these saints. Three days later according to the will of God, they joined Jesus in His resurrection.

Of course chronologically we are now at Sunday of Passover week.

It should be observed that the resurrection of the Hebrew saints occurred when Jesus rose from the dead.  Chronologically, that would have occurred by Sunday morning.  What was going on in Jerusalem on Sunday morning of Passover week?

The Lord gave Moses the instructions concerning the Feasts of the LORD.  These feasts had an agricultural and religious purpose to teach the people to trust the Lord, and Him only, in their daily lives throughout the year.  But they also had a prophetic purpose concerning God’s program of redemption.  The first two feasts are Passover (Pasach) and Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:4-8).

1 Corinthians 5:7–8 (ESV)

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I want us to think about what took place after Passover. After Passover came the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So what the worshipper was commanded to do was to present God with the first tenth from the harvest. To symbolize this, the worshippers would go out to the barley fields during Passover week and gather a handful or the omar of barley used as a wave offering to the Lord.

Lets think for a minute about this scene. Jesus was crucified on Friday afternoon; Saturday was Shabbat, a day of rest.  Most people in Jerusalem probably stayed home that day and reflected on the monumental events that transpired that week in Jerusalem.  On the first day of the week, Sunday morning, there was a group of women who went out the Gennath Gate (Garden Gate) to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in order to anoint the body of Jesus.

There were also other groups of people leaving the city of Jerusalem early that morning as well.  These people followed the Sadducean tradition concerning the cutting of the omer of barley.  They were heading toward the barley fields in the Valley of Rephaim, just to the west of Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 17:5).  Can you imagine them leaving the gates of the city with sickle in hand and baskets on their shoulders, and having a festive attitude as they went forth to harvest the omer?  As they walked on the paths to the barley fields, they saw some people approaching them, heading toward the Holy City.[3]

53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many

So, there were worshippers on their way out of the city to gather the firstfruits of the harvest to present to God and on their way met the risen saints…
The Bible is silent as to if Jesus was with them or not. But as Christ represents the firstfruit of the resurrection, so too these saints are a preview or firstfruit of the resurrection we will all experience because of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV)

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
The meaning of the risen saints- They along with Jesus are the firstfriuts of the resurrection of all saints which will take place one day.

  1. The Right Response

54 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!”

Beloved, the right response to the events surrounding the cross and the resurrection of Christ is to stand in awe and proclaim with these Roman Centurions,

Truly this IS the Son of God.

In very moment God began to show mercy to those soldiers who were responsible for placing Jesus on the cross…Father forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing. The centurion’s eyes were opened and in that moment he believed.

 

 

[1] Matthew Henry Vol 5 428

[2] John MacArthur

[3] http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/02/01/The-Resurrection-of-the-Jerusalem-Saints-at-the-Feast-of-the-Firstfruits.aspx#Article

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