The Meaning of the Cross
I. Darkness (v. 33)
1) A Supernatural Event
- Darkness lasted three full hours – 12pm- 3pm
- Darkness is mentioned by a secular historian named Thallus who wrote around AD 50: “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.” (Quoted in the writings of Julius Africanus)
- Darkness cannot be explained naturally – solar eclipse is impossible at Passover and would not have lasted for 3 hours
2) A Symbolic Event
- A return to the chaos of creation when darkness covered the face of the deep – cf. Genesis 1:1-2
- A reminder of the Plagues of Egypt which occurred in connection with the first Passover – cf. Exodus 10:21-23
- A partial fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy about the ‘Day of the Lord’ – cf. Amos 8:9-10
- A pre-figuring of hell and divine wrath – cf. Matthew 22:13; 2 Peter 2:4
II. Despair (v. 34)
1) Cry of Dereliction
- The agony of Christ’s suffering for sin culminates in v. 34 with an audible expression of grief
- Quotation from Psalm 22 – Jesus identifies with Psalmist’s sense of total abandonment by God and brings this Messianic Psalm to its fulfillment
2) A Rupture within the Trinity??
- On the cross Jesus experienced the separation of loving communion with God, as the Father poured His wrath out on the Son
- The Trinity, however, did not rupture or dissolve when Jesus died on the cross, nor did Jesus cease to be God when He died on the cross
3) Divine ‘Child Abuse’??
- We must understand that Jesus went to the cross willingly because this was the only way to satisfy divine justice so that God’s elect people might be forgiven and set free from sin
- It is theologically misguided to pit an ‘angry’ Father against a ‘merciful’ Son – all three Trinitarian Persons are completely unified in the purpose and plan of redemption.
– The darkness that descended, and Jesus’ cry of despair both testify to the divine wrath that was being poured out as Jesus died for the sins of God’s people. Jesus endured hell so that we who believe wouldn’t have to!
– The darkness and despair of the cross serve as a stern warning. Those who do not embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord will face eternal darkness and despair.
III. Destruction (v. 38)
1) The Temple Veil Separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (cf. Hebrews 9)
- Only the High Priest could pass through the veil once per year on the Day of Atonement
- Temple veil symbolizes the separation between God and humanity that has resulted from sin
2) The Temple Veil was destroyed when Jesus died
- Jesus is the ultimate ‘High Priest’
- Jesus’ death on the cross has removed the sin barrier between believers and God – the Temple/ sacrificial system is now obsolete
- Foreshadowing of the Temple’s complete destruction in AD 70
– The cross of Christ is far more than a beautiful example of self-sacrificial love – it’s the only hope we have for salvation and forgiveness from our sins!