A sermon preached on Sunday, August 22, 2010 at Hebron Baptist Church, Denham Springs, Louisiana by Pastor Joe Alain.
The Day Christ Died
Scripture Reading: Mark 15:33-41
The crucial event to which Mark’s Gospel has been pointing to all along is a mere 21 verses and the crucifixion itself is reported in just 4 words (in Greek 3), “and they crucified him” (v.24a). Nevertheless, the crucifixion of Jesus is the most significant act of all history, the day Christ died for the sins of the world. What happened the day Christ died? And how does his death speak to us today?
As we consider the day Christ died, we will look at this event from three perspectives: the cross when it was midnight at midday, the curtain, beyond the veil, and the confession, faith in Jesus.
I. The Cross: Midnight at Midday (vv.33-36)
Mark tells us that “darkness came over the whole land” as Jesus was being crucified (v.33). This occurred at the 6th hour (12:00 noon) until the 9th hour (3:00 p.m.). It was midnight at midday. More than just a physical occurrence, although it was very real, darkness in the Bible is a picture of sin or evil or that which is incomplete and in need of God’s light. For example, darkness is pictured as unformed chaos prior to God’s Spirit moving over the deep of His creation (Gen. 1:2-3). Darkness was a picture of judgement in the plague that fell across the land of Egypt (Ex. 10:22). Solomon writes that “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness” (Prov. 4:19). In the Gospel story, Jesus came for people who were living in darkness (Matt. 4:16). People also refused to follow Jesus because they loved living in their darkness more than living in the light (Jn. 3:19).
Why was the darkness present at the crucifixion of Jesus? Sin – your sin, my sin – was being judged in Jesus. He was taking in His body all of our darkness! He was taking in Himself every evil deed, every sinful thought. God was making Jesus “sin who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The only way for us to become righteous is to have a righteousness given to us and that’s what God provides in Jesus.
The ultimate picture of darkness is seen in the fact that on the cross, Jesus was forsaken. Verse 34 records Jesus’ cry of desolation. Jesus was abandoned so that you and I could be adopted. He was forsaken so that you and I could be forgiven. When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v.34), he was quoting the first verse of Psalm 22. The Psalmist in his pain and suffering felt abandoned by God. And in a very real way, Jesus Himself was abandoned on the cross for our sins. Why was Jesus forsaken? Because God is absolutely holy, without sin, perfect in every way and cannot even look upon sin. Yet on the cross, Jesus became sin for us.
Why did Jesus have to die? Why become sin? Why was he forsaken? Because God is holy and yet we are sinful, we are born with a sin nature and we knowingly go our own way like sheep without a shepherd. Our human condition apart from Christ is described by Paul in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks after God.” Furthermore, we are helpless to change or help ourselves become right with God. “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Fortunately, there is a righteousness that is given to us by faith, and Paul says “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22).
On the cross, Jesus became our perfect substitute, the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. On the cross grace and mercy flowed down. Isaiah describes what God’s Messiah would one day do for mankind. He “poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). He was truly forsaken so that we would never have to be. Listen to Peter’s explanation of the cross, quoting also from Isaiah 53: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed”
(1 Pe. 2:24).
So what does this all mean? Through the cross, Jesus has turned our darkness into light. Paul describes our new state in Christ by stating that “you once were darkness, but now you are light” (Eph. 5:18). Jesus told the people of his day that He was the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12). But on the cross it looked as if Christ’s enemies had won, it looked as if the light was snuffed out. When darkness enveloped the cross, Satan and the enemies of Jesus laughed with delight. But they could not extinguish the light of life. And because of the cross and resurrection, Jesus’s light was not extinguished but it only burned brighter. Every person who believes in Jesus who has their eyes opened to the truth of God is a testimony that God’s light has not been extinguished.
Because we are now in the light, we are to live in the light. Paul asks, “What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). The obvious answer is “none!” It was Paul who also said in Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” And then in verse 11 he says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” As we “Let our light shine” in the darkness, sinful actions will be exposed and people will see the truth of God in your life.
The question is, “Have you accepted what God has done for you?” Are you trusting in God’s righteousness by faith? What God has done in Christ in the atonement is universal in its provision, but it is limited in its application. What that means is that Jesus really did die for the sins of the world, but his death for sins only makes a difference in your life when you accept by faith the “good news.” You can believe that Jesus lived, you can believe that it’s probably true, you can go to church all your life, you can be a good person, but until you appropriate Christ’s sacrifice in your life, this message, this truth, this reality will not make any difference in your life. You personally must call on the name of the Lord and be saved (Rom. 10:13). Has this happened in your life? It is the only way for you to be reconciled to a holy God.
II. The Curtain: Beyond the Veil (vv.37-38)
When Jesus breathed his last breath, several events immediately took place. But perhaps the most significant event for us that took place was that the “curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (v.38). The curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:33). This curtain measuring perhaps as large as 60' wide and 30' high was torn form the top which signified that this was not act of man, this was an act of God. It symbolized the new reality that the way into God’s presence was now open to all who would come. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the way to the Father has been opened.
Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that we can now go to God with confidence because we have “a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” In Jesus the obstacles have been removed between us and God and the way has been opened through himself. Jesus is now the curtain, he is the door, he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father unless he or she comes through him (Jn. 14:6).
The curtain torn speaks to the fact that we now have access to God. Jesus said “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (Jn. 10:9-10). Paul tells us that through Jesus Christ “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). What a blessing it is to know that we have continuous access to the Father through Jesus!
The cross, the curtain, now we see . . .
III. The Confession: Faith in Jesus (v.39)
This Roman Centurion had been there all along. He heard the first cry from the cross when they were dividing his clothes among themselves at the foot of the cross and Jesus replied, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This centurion had witnessed many crucifixions but it is doubtful that anyone every forgave him while hanging on the cross. This centurion was there when the one thief asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. This centurion saw the love of the women who watched from a distance. This centurion heard the voice of God from the cross and saw the events that took place. He “heard” and he “saw” and he was moved. “Surely this man was the Son
Some people have said that the centurion was moved by the way Jesus died with dignity and this was more of a confession that this was a great man, “a son of God.” We do not know how much this centurion understood at the time, but I tend to think he was moved by God in a way similar to that of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was moved by the way that Stephen died. This had a powerful effect on Saul. This centurion heard and saw how Jesus died and his hardened heart was softened by God’s Spirit to confess faith in Jesus as “the Son of God.”
Regardless of what he knew, you and I know much more! We have the full story, the full revelation of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. The Gospel is not merely a story of good news, it is that, but by its very nature the Gospel demands a response. What is your response to what happened the day Christ died? Many of you have made a confession of faith similar to the centurion’s, you have believed in Jesus as the Son of God and your Lord and savior. But some maybe have watched from afar. You’re in the number of the undecided. The reality is, there are no undecideds. The Gospel demands a response. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Jn. 3:18). What is your response to Jesus? Are you in the number of the “not condemned” or the “condemned already”?
For His Glory!