Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice because if He would have come off the cross then no one could be saved. Only Jesus lived a perfect life so only He was worthy to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Today we continue with Jesus on the cross and see how God responds to what has happened to His son. Matthew has written this gospel with his Jewish people in mind and he is trying to prove to them that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. They were confused because they believed the Messiah would come and conquer not die.
Matthew is showing them that Jesus death on the cross was mandatory payment for us to have access to God and it would replace the animal sacrifices they had done their entire lives.
Matthew is laying out a case and is stating the facts of what took place so that the truth can be known. Everything he mentions today could have been verified at the time this gospel was written with many witnesses being alive.
1) The Darkness
From the Sixth Hour till the ninth hour there was darkness all over the land.
This was a supernatural event which would have been similar to the darkness that God spread over Egypt for three days. (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness was noon to 3 pm because the Roman day started at 6 am.
Darkness parallels the apocalyptic final judgment (Joel 2) and Rabbis taught darkness was a judgment of God. Jesus also taught that Darkness was a sign of judgment (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30) There were several extra biblical sources suggesting this was a worldwide darkness including Pilate himself who wrote to Emperor Tiberius about the darkness.
See also: Amos 8:9
2) The Cry from the Cross
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Jesus cried out in Hebrew which would have been Eli for God. Some mistakenly thought he was crying out to Elijah who they believed would appear again since he was taken away in a chariot (2 Kings 2:1-12)
Jesus took the sins of all mankind upon Himself (Isaiah 53:5; Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 4:10)and it was at this time that God and Jesus were separated for the first time and the last time for all eternity. (Habakuk 1:13) It was not that Jesus was no longer God, but the intimate fellowship of the Trinity was broken.
Jesus was abandoned by everyone and now God was separated from Him. This loss that Jesus experienced is what anyone will experience if they do not accept the free gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. They will be separated from God for all eternity.
One of them took a sponge and immersed it in sour wine
This was not a negative gesture because the wine was a thirst quencher for the soldiers so someone may have been trying to help Jesus so they could hear Him better. The individual was told to leave Jesus alone and to not help Him. The disdain of the crowd for Jesus was still strong since they did not want Him to even have his thirst quenched.
But Jesus again cried out in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.
This is taken from Psalm 22 which is not just a cry of sorrow but looks past the pain to the victory that awaits. This second cry was a cry of victory.
Jesus knew the last enduring thing He had to suffer was the loss of fellowship with His Father. Jesus endured that and then claimed the victory that He came to earth to achieve.
That Jesus gave up His life shows the sovereign control He had over His life. (John 10:17-18) He willingly laid down His life for us to have access back to God.
Everything that took place was predicted it exactly how it happened and Jesus was not shocked by any of the events that took place.
John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Payment for our sins was made on the cross, through the death of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18) We have to be careful we do not say that Jesus went to Hell to pay for our sins. The Bible is clear that it was the cross where it was paid in full and not in Hell. Not everyone believes Jesus went into Hell but if He did it was to claim victory and not to pay for our sins.
Satan distracts us from the cross because it was Jesus death on the cross where we can have our sins forgiven. Satan took away from the cross with the Mormons as they teach that Jesus paid for our sins in the garden of Gethsemane. Satan distracted Islam from the cross because they teach that Jesus didn’t die on the cross at all. They believe either Judas or a twin brother died in Jesus place. Satan distracted Christian Science from the cross because they teach that Jesus didn’t even die because death is an illusion.
We can discuss where Jesus went after His death, but we cannot make up that He went to Hell to pay for our sins.
3) The Temple Curtain Torn in Two
This was an act of God and the people would have known it was from God. These things were not up for debate when the Gospel of Matthew was written but facts people would have know. The Temple would have been filled with worshipers at this time and some estimate up to a thousand people could have been in the Temple when it was torn in two.
This was God showing that no longer would people have to go through the Priest but everyone who called on the name of Jesus could have direct access to God. (Hebrews 9:12-13; 10:19-22) There is some debate whether this was the outer veil or the inner curtain but there is no doubt the significance of it. The tearing of the veil was a violent act against the temple and those that ran it.
4) The Earth Quake
The Ground shook and the rocks were split apart
This again was just another piece of evidence that was brought forward to the people that Matthew was trying to reach. Earthquakes were a symbol of Gods activity (Exodus 19:18; 1 Kings 19:11; Judges 5;4; 2 Samuel 22:8; Psalm 18:7, 77:18; Isaiah 2:19-21; Joel 3:16) and will happen during the end times ( Revelations 6:12; 8:5; 11:13; 16:18)
5) The Saints being raised from the Dead
“The tombs were opened. Then many bodies of the saints who had died were raised.
Matthew puts this in this order but the way it is written shows that the bodies did not rise until after the resurrection of Christ. This is not written to be a fictional account but an historical event that people would have remembered.
Those who try and make the Bible something it is not have to do a lot of work to twist the scriptures. I think it is because some people struggle with some of the things that are in the Bible but if we believe in God then nothing is impossible. A miracle by definition is a super natural act. So that means it goes against the natural order of things. Of course if you have a hard time believing that the tombs were empty and saints were walking around, then you will also have a hard time believing Christ rose from the dead. If you do not believe Christ rose from the dead then you are not a Christian.
Not all of the Saints were raised to go and bear witness of Christ Resurrection because it says many. It would have been nice if Matthew would have included a little more detail for us but as he was writing this there would have still been witnesses to this miraculous event. So although we do not know the names people would have known that they were saints of old that had been dead for a long time.
The word “Raised” is the same word used for when Jesus raised from the dead, so this shows they were not just spirits but had their resurrected bodies.
They entered the holy city and appeared to many
Again, Matthew wrote this because he was bringing the death and resurrection of Christ together and it was another verifiable proof of the events that took place.
6) The Testimony of the guards
When they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening they were filled with great terror.
A centurion got their name from being over 100 men. So this was a high ranking official who had seen many things in his lifetime. It is possible that these men were with Pilate when he questioned Jesus and experienced the whole trial of Jesus.
The darkness and the earthquake were so supernatural that they had no doubt that it was from God. They were filled with terror because the things that were taking place and the fact that they had beaten, mocked and killed an innocent man.
Truly He was the Son of God
Whether they fully understood that Jesus was God in the flesh is not certain but they would have at least understood that He was a righteous man and began praising God (Luke 23:47). The way Matthew wrote it, they may have fully understood and confessed just as the disciples did after Jesus calmed the waters (Matthew 14:33)
Jesus prayer “Father forgive them they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) did not go unanswered as the soldiers found forgiveness at the feet of Jesus on the cross. According to Luke 23:48, we know the crowd that was there, went away beating their chest in remorse. That does not mean confession but they knew the things happening were an act of God. Many of these people could have been the ones found in Acts 2:36-41 that later gave their lives to Christ.
7) The Women
There were women there watching from a distance who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving Him
The women were faithful even though almost everyone else abandoned Jesus except John. They may have distanced themselves simply to not watch so closely at the horrific death of Jesus or to distance themselves from the things that were being said about Him.
Matthew included this to show that these women were faithful to the end and the word follow was a word where we get the word disciple. This was a very unusual testimony from Matthew because Women were not allowed to follow Rabbis.
So at least four women were present: Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magadalene, Mary the Wife of Clopus and Salome. Matthew gives specific names that people could have gone and asked to verify if the story was true.
8) The Rich man
Joseph of Arimathea
Isaiah 53:9 is a fulfilled prophecy of this event
Again, if you compare the writings of the Bible with other so called writings from other religions, you will see the historical names and places mentioned that other religions do not have. The Bible is not a fairy tale with made up people and made up stories. The accounts of the Bible are verified in other historical writings so when someone says it is an outdated, mythical book, they are not looking at the facts.
The people being crucified would be left on the cross till their bodies rotted off or buried in a mass grave. This was another way of showing contempt for those who were being crucified because there would be no respect for their dead bodies. Family members would not be able to give them a proper burial or place them in a tomb.
Because it was Sabbath and the Jewish people did not want dead people being seen, Pilate was probably already ordered the soldiers to have them buried by 6 PM.
Mark 15:44-45 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died.[a] And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.
Pilate could have thought that he was asking on behalf of the religious leaders or Pilate was taken back by all the events that had just taken place that he was willing to do whatever he was asked. We do not know why Pilate gave Joseph Jesus body other than we know it was the sovereign plan of God.
Although Pilate was shocked Jesus was already dead, he made sure Jesus was dead which verifies again that Jesus fully died on the cross. This makes any theories about Jesus not being fully dead not plausible.
Luke 23:50-51 tells us Joseph did not approve of the actions of the others.
John 19:31-37 tells us that the religious leaders asked Pilate to break the legs of those being crucified so they would die quicker. Of course Jesus was already dead so His bones were not broken fulfilling Psalm 34:20 and when they pierced Jesus in the side,they fulfilled Zechariah 12:10.
And taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a clean linen cloth
It was 4 PM and everything had to be done by 6 PM so Joseph did not have much time. Being a wealthy man it is unsure if Joseph helped with the body or if he had servants that did it. To touch the body of a dead person made you ceremonially unclean for 7 days and would have kept any Jewish person from celebrating Passover. Of course, Joseph already went into to see Pilate so that made him ceremonially unclean. For a Jewish person to sacrifice the yearly event was a big deal and we see Joseph, who was a very religious person, breaking all the rules to obtain the body of Jesus.
John 19:39-42 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus[e] by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds[f] in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
According to the gospels you have 2 religious leaders who came to care for the body of Jesus. Jews did not embalm bodies but only wrapped them in perfume to mask the smell. (75 Pounds worth).
And placed it in his new tomb he had cut in the rock. And rolled a stone in front of the entrance
Tombs were sometimes old rock quarries that people would then go and make into a tomb for their families. The Bodies would be prepared inside the tomb in a holding area and then burial niches that were cut out into the wall were where they placed the bodies.
A 4 to 6 foot stone would be rolled in front of the door which would have taken four men to remove.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there sitting opposite the tomb
This shows not only the faithfulness of the women but again these were more eyewitnesses that were there to show that Jesus Body was placed in the Tomb. This also shows that the wrong tomb theory is not plausible because they knew where the tomb was. Later these women would come back to further anoint Jesus body showing they knew where the tomb was located. (Luke 23:56-24:1). Mary Magdalene was one of the first to know Jesus resurrection and the first person He appeared to. (John 20:11-17)
Christ died on the cross for our sins and He made it clear that it was His sacrifice on the cross that paid for our sins. We cannot earn our own salvation and only accept the free gift of Christ. Anyone can accept the free gift of Christ by simply asking for His forgiveness. Jesus said on the cross it is finished and the access to God was open to all who believe.
Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.