16.01.16 Mt. 27:45-47 (See also Mk. 15:33-35; Lk. 23:44-45a) The Wrath of God: 12:00 Noon to 3:00 p.m.
JESUS CRIES OUT
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.
46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!”
“Darkness.” Darkness came upon the land during what normally is the brightest part of the day, noon, until the 9th hour (Hebraic time) which is reckoned to be 3:00 p.m. The judgment of God that fell upon Egypt had fallen upon Israel, as the Light of the World descended into the earth to take the keys of death, Hades, and the abyss from Satan. Some three decades earlier when Jesus was born, a starry light led the magi to Him, but when national Israel rejected Him, the light went out. The Jewish race fell into darkness and judgment that was only four decades into the future.
There has been much discussion concerning the source of this darkness. It has been suggested that it was a solar eclipse. However, such an eclipse is not possible during full moon, and if by some reason it did occur, the darkness of any eclipse is only eight minutes – not three hours. Other suggestions have been a dust storm from the eastern Arabian Desert or dust from a volcanic eruption at some distant location, (since there are no active volcanoes in the Middle East). However, a dust storm or volcanic dust cloud will not create total darkness, but a fog-like atmosphere in which visibility is slightly reduced. Therefore, there is no natural explanation other than it was a divine event. Many evangelical scholars attempt to place the miracle of darkness within the framework of a natural event, which “miraculously” occurred when Jesus was crucified. The significant fact that must be repeated is that an eclipse is an event lasting only eight minutes – this darkness lasted three hours. Its time and totality of darkness emphasized the obvious – as a number of biblical books associate it with divine judgment.
Among the ancient writers, the historian Phlegon noted that there was an eclipse and an earthquake on Passover. However, a conventional eclipse would have been impossible, as the Jews always celebrated the Passover at a full moon. Phlegon, however, had no other way to explain the unusual event and equated it to an eclipse. While he was wrong in his interpretation of an eclipse, he did in fact, acknowledge and document that darkness fell upon the earth.
The Talmud says that whenever the sun is eclipsed, it is because a great rabbi was not properly eulogized after he died. This belief existed throughout the Inter-Testamental Period and continued for at least several centuries thereafter.
An eclipse of the sun is a bad omen for the world.
Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 29a.
When Jesus died everyone knew that the resulting darkness was not an ordinary solar eclipse. They must have wondered that if an ordinary eclipse was a bad omen, what this darkness represented? Jesus closed His life with darkness for those who rejected Him; a darkness by divine appointment and warning as prophesied by the prophet Amos:
9 And in that day — this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—
I will make the sun go down at noon;
I will darken the land in the daytime.
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will cause everyone to wear sackcloth
and every head to be shaved.
I will make that grief like mourning for an only son
and its outcome like a bitter day.
“About three in the afternoon.” From the pinnacle of the temple the trumpeter blew three blasts when one-third of the evening-sacrifice service was over which was at the “ninth hour” or 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon. The moment of death for Jesus was at hand.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This is the only time when Jesus referred to God as “God” and did not call Him, “My Father.” At this point, Jesus personified the name, Jehovah Tsidkenu meaning, our Lord who is our Righteousness. The phrase reveals His humanity at a time of great suffering. In this fourth saying, Jesus did His greatest work, which was evidently hidden from Satan and his demonic angels. While they were aware that Jesus would redeem humanity, they did not know how this was to be accomplished. Satan used every trick he knew to kill Jesus and, apparently, worked rather successfully through the Sadducees and Romans. The irony is that Jesus willingly died a spiritual death, as evidenced by this statement. He was absolute, pure innocence, who took upon Himself all of the sins of humanity. Thus, He made Himself sinful in place of us. This profound question demonstrates that God could not even bear to look upon His perfect Son, when Jesus took upon Himself the sin of humanity as He hung on the cross. The prophet Isaiah said seven centuries earlier, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isa. 59:2). In Romans 6:23 the Apostle Paul wrote to fellow believers, “The wages (reward) of sin is death.” Death has always been the penalty of sin and results in being separated from God. Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died a cruel death so believers can enjoy the Kingdom of God and eternal life as well.
After Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, angels ministered to Him (Mt. 4:11). When He agonized in the “Garden of Gethsemane,” because He saw this death before Him, an angel came to comfort Him (Lk. 22:43). But now, not even the angels could comfort Him, yet it is amazing that He constantly maintained His faith in His Father. Even more amazing is that He maintained faith in sinful humanity, knowing that His suffering would not be in vain.
This phrase has a unique feature. Even today when the historical figure of Jesus is attacked from various sources, nearly all critics agree, this phrase could not have been invented. If anyone would have fabricated all or part of the life of Christ, they most certainly would not have included this statement “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken Me?” Jesus had just assured the dying thief that he would be in paradise. Where was that assurance now? What did both thieves think when they heard Jesus utter these words? They did not realize that Jesus was taking their sins on the cross for them, just as He did for everyone else.
When Jesus cried out to the Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” this reflects that, at this point, He accepted the sins of the world. God the Father, in His purity, could not look upon the sin-tarnished Son. Like Adam and Eve after their sin, fellowship had been replaced by separation. Therefore, the Father had to turn from Jesus. He felt completely forsaken for reasons incomprehensible to us. He was forsaken by the religious leaders, by most of the disciples, such as Peter, by His family such as His brothers, and now by His Father in heaven. To carry the sins of the world was horrific on its own and now God and man forsook him. This was the ultimate in loneliness, beyond what any man or woman can possibly imagine.
When Jesus asked this question, it was not a general question such as a modern reader might ask out of desperation. Rather, His question was a quotation from Psalm 22, which is rich in the vivid imagery of the suffering Jesus. Jews, throughout the Second Temple Period (c. 535 B.C. – A.D. 70) had memorized vast amounts of Scripture. Those who witnessed Jesus die assuredly had this popular Psalm memorized. The rhetorical question was not seeking an answer, but was a connection of the Psalm to the death of Jesus. Furthermore, the Psalm described the death in detail, permitting the witnesses to realize the fulfillment of prophecy.
Theologically, the dynamic work of the cross is beyond the scope of this writing, yet it cannot be left untreated. Without the death of Jesus, there could never have been a resurrection. Without a resurrection of Jesus, there could never have been hope for a lost humanity. God the Father, who is pure and sinless, could not look upon all the sins of humanity that Jesus carried upon the cross. As the Apostle Paul stated, Jesus was “made to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21). Not even the angels could come to His aid. The work on the cross is a powerful message for us. When we feel that we are totally in despair and we wonder if God abandoned us, we must remember that Jesus experienced the same emotions and thoughts, yet He promised never to leave us.
It is remarkably interesting that David, prior to becoming king, accurately described the death of Jesus a thousand years prior to the invention of this cruel torturous death. He stated:
1 My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from my deliverance
And from my words of groaning?
2 My God,
I cry by day, but You do not answer,
by night, yet I have no rest.
3 But You are holy,
Enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in You;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
5 They cried to You and were set free;
They trusted in You and were not disgraced.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men
and despised by the people.
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and
shake their heads:
8 “He relies on the Lord – let Him rescue him;
Let the Lord deliver him, since He takes pleasure in him.
In the seventh century B.C., the prophet Isaiah said,
4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.
Amazingly, in the portion of the Midrash known as the Haggadah, the tractate links Isaiah 53 with Psalm 22. The latter graphically describes a crucifixion experience a thousand years before Rome began using this excruciating form of capital punishment.
. See Appendix 16.
. In an interesting side note, The New York Times reported in late November, 2014 of a mechanical device built by the Greeks around 205 B.C., that was able to predict eclipses. Researchers James Evans, professor of Physics at University of Puget Sound, and Christian Carman, history of science professor at University of Quilmes, Argentina, said the computer-like device made predictions on Babylonian arithmetical methods borrowed by the Greeks, not on Greek trigonometry. There are no enlightening comments on the star of Bethlehem or the darkness of Good Friday, but it did predict lunar and solar eclipses. Cited by Bullinger, Clyde, ed. “Clues to an Ancient Greek Riddle.” Artifax. 30:1 (Winter, 2014). 12, 14.
. See “Passover” in Appendix 5.
. Joel 2:2; 10; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Zeph. 1:15; Wisdom 5:6.
. See discussion on “evening” in Appendix 16.
. Evans, The Power of God’s Names. 171.
. Explanatory parenthesis mine.