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“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all His acquaintance, and the women that followed Him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment”—Luke 23:44-56.
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Those who have followed carefully the various accounts of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, know that there are certain details omitted in each of the Gospels which are given in the others, but all are in perfect agreement. You will have noticed that our blessed Lord hung for six awful hours on Calvary. He was nailed to the cross at the third hour: that is what we call nine o’clock in the morning; He was taken down from the cross after the ninth hour: that is, after three o’clock in the afternoon. During those first three hours the sun was shining; all nature seemed bright, as though utterly indifferent to what was taking place: the Creator of all things was dying upon a felon’s gibbet, rejected by those whom He had not only brought into being but also come to bless and to save. At the sixth hour—this answers to our twelve noon—the sun was, as it were, blotted out of the heaven. This was not an eclipse. It was the passover time, and it was impossible that there should be an eclipse when the moon was at the full. It was a supernatural darkness that spread over all the scene, not only over the land of Judaea, but possibly, at the same time, over all parts of the known world. The early Christians tell us (whether on reliable authority or not I cannot say, but it is interesting that the story has come down from early times) that a Greek philosopher was giving a lecture in the city of Alexandria of Egypt at the very hour the darkness spread over the land, and he stopped in the midst of his discourse and exclaimed, “Either a god is dying or the universe is going into dissolution.” He who is both God and Man was dying! He was dying at that awful hour for our sins. From the sixth to the ninth hour the darkness continued, and after it passed away the Lord bowed His head and died.
It is instructive to observe that during the first three hours Jesus never exhibited concern for Himself. He was perfectly calm, and though He was suffering excruciatingly He gave no evidence whatever of self-pity. He saw His blessed mother standing near the foot of the cross and John the beloved disciple near her; and He said to His mother, “Behold thy son!” and to John, “Behold thy mother!” And John led her away from the scene of her holy Son’s dying agony; and, we are told in other records, cared for her for the rest of her life here on earth. Then our Lord looked upon the multitude, blaspheming, mocking, and ridiculing Him; and He recognized the wickedness of their hearts; yet He opened up for them a City of Refuge into which they might flee, as we have seen already, when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He heard the plea of the penitent thief and assured him of a place in Paradise. Thus in those first three hours He exhibited no perturbation of spirit, no concern for Himself but only tender consideration for others.
From the time that the darkness overspread the scene no sound escaped the lips of Jesus, according to the record, until the three hours were drawing to a close; and then, we are told in two other Gospels, He cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In those first three hours of darkness He was suffering at the hands of man: He endured without a murmur all the shame and ignominy that man could heap upon Him. But during the last three hours of darkness He was suffering at the hand of God—the God who made His soul an offering for sin. There He drank the bitter cup of judgment that our sins had filled— the cup from which He shrank in Gethsemane, which if we had to drink could not be exhausted throughout eternity. God “hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). In the first three hours He addressed God as “Father”: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” But in these last three hours He did not use the term “Father,” until the darkness had passed. He address Him as God: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34.) For it was God as Judge who was there dealing with His holy Son on our behalf as Christ took the sinner’s place. We read, “And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” One critic tells us that Luke links up the rending of the veil with the darkness rather than with the death of Jesus, and that he was in too much of a hurry to get to the climactic scene and announce Christ’s victory, because the other Gospels record the veil as having been rent after Jesus gave up His spirit. Well, we do not blame Luke for being in a hurry to record the rending of the veil; but it was the Holy Spirit who was desirous to let us know that the veil has been rent! Throughout Old Testament times God had said, “I will dwell in the thick darkness.” The veil of the temple signified that no man could pass into the presence of God except as in the case of the high priest on the day of atonement, and that, “not without blood.” But when Christ died as the propitiation for sin the way was opened up into the Holy of holies. Now God can come out in unhindered love to man, and man can go into God’s presence, accepted in Christ. The rent veil speaks of redemption accomplished. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). One of our hymn-writers has written:
“Through Thy precious body broken—
Inside the veil.
Oh, what words to sinners spoken—
Inside the veil.
Precious as the blood that bought us;
Perfect as the love that sought us;
Holy as the Lamb that brought us—
Inside the veil!
“Lamb of God, through Thee we enter—
Inside the veil;
Cleansed by blood we boldly venture—
Inside the veil.
Not a stain; a new creation;
Ours is such a full salvation:
Low we bow in adoration—
Inside the veil!
“Soon Thy saints shall all be gathered—
Inside the veil;
All at home—no more be scattered—
Inside the veil.
Nought from Thee our souls shall sever;
We shall see Thee, grieve Thee never;
‘Praise the Lamb,’ shall sound forever—
Inside the veil!”
At the last Jesus prayed, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said this, He gave up the ghost.” He dismissed His spirit. The work was done, and He went home to be with the Father. Our attention is next directed to the scene before the cross. We are told, “When the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man.” He was a Roman; he was in charge of the soldiers who were there on guard; he saw and heard all that took place, and his heart was stirred. According to other Gospels he added also, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Then we are told that, “All the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” A great throng was gathered there, not only enemies but also friends; but these last were powerless to interfere as they stood looking on in grief and sorrow. It must have been hard for them to believe that Jesus had actually died. They thought it was He who should have redeemed Israel, but now their hopes were blasted, and they turned away and went to their homes sorrowing and bewailing. All His acquaintance stood afar off, beholding these things. They had been watching Jehovah’s Anointed die like a felon upon a cross of shame; but oh, the joy that awaited them when they were to learn of His glorious resurrection!
You will notice that as long as the Lord Jesus was standing in the sinner’s stead God allowed every kind of indignity to be heaped upon His blessed Son: they spat in His face; they slapped Him with the palms of their hands, a most insulting gesture; they flogged Him until His flesh was torn from His back and blood poured from every wound; they pressed a thorn-crown upon His head; and they put a gorgeous robe upon Him and knelt before Him, mocking Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews;” they took Him out to Calvary and nailed Him to the cross; and lastly, one of the soldiers pierced His side, but that was the final act ,of indignity that God permitted. “The very spear that pierced His side drew forth the blood to save.” After that it was as though God said, “I gave My Son into your hands; you have shown all the hatred and bitterness of your hearts by the way you have treated Him. Now not another unclean hand shall touch Him.” From that time on no enemy touched that sacred body.
“And, behold, there was a man name Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.” He and his servants tenderly and reverently took that body from the cross, washed away the blood-stains, wrapped the body in linen, and carried it to Joseph’s new tomb and left it there, intending, after the sabbath had passed, to embalm it according to the Jewish custom. “And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid.” They then turned sadly away, intending to return and perform the last sacred rites after the sabbath. They “prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” The Christ—who was born of a virgin; who had grown up as a tender plant in the garden of the Lord, and had gone forth, anointed of Jehovah, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom—had died at last on the cross for sinners; and now His body-lay in the tomb, and no one on earth knew whether or not redemption was an accomplished fact. If He had not come forth from that tomb then there would have been no evidence that the sin question had been settled. But His resurrected body was to be the proof of ^he efficacy of His work. Now, thank God, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).