Matthew Lent Series # 3 Matthew 27:45-54
April 13, 2017 Holy Thursday “Judgment and Salvation at the Cross”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
In the first three hours in which Jesus hung on the cross, He received the judgment of men. He was insulted and ridiculed by all. Yet Jesus responded to all this contempt and scorn with words of forgiveness, reassurance, and concern.
But in the last three hours that Jesus was on the cross He received the judgment of God His Father. Darkness came over the land. Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and after He had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth shook and the rocks split. Tombs broke open. And when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
In these last three hours, climaxing with Christ’s death, we see two things: The Judgment of God being poured out, and the Salvation of God breaking forth, with both centered on Jesus. These two themes- God’s judgement and God’s salvation – are intertwined throughout Scripture, because sin must be judged if salvation from sin is to be achieved. And these two themes are present this evening as we come to the Table of the Lord. The bread (Jesus’ broken body) and the cup (Jesus’ shed blood) remind us of the judgment he absorbed, which should sober us and drive us to repentance. But the purpose of the atonement, symbolized in the bread and the cup, was for our salvation, which should make us rejoice, and to worship Him more deeply!
Look with me at five things that happened in those three hours, and see the judgment and the salvation of the Lord:
- The Darkness over the Land (45)
The three hours of darkness symbolizes God’s wrath– both upon Jesus, as our sin-bearer, but also on the land and the people, for what they have done to God’s incarnate Son.
We remember how when God’s people were slaves in Egypt, and Pharaoh refused to let them go and refused to acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty, God sent plagues on the Egyptians, and the ninth plague was that of total darkness, for three days (Ex. 10:22-23). It was a darkness that could be felt. No one could leave their homes for three days. And what happened at the end of those three days of total darkness? God sent the tenth and final plague, which was that His holy and righteous wrath fell upon the first born son of every household in Egypt. Only those homes which had the blood of the Passover Lamb on their doorframes were spared.
Those two judgments in Egypt were a picture of what was being played out at Calvary, here in Matt. 27, where the utter darkness of God’s judgment fell upon God’s own Son, as He became our Passover Lamb. Jesus, the Light of the world, suffered the darkness of divine wrath, so that we, who were children of darkness, might have the light of life.
In this darkness, God’s judgment was poured out on Jesus, and God’s salvation broke forth upon you and me.
- The Cries of Jesus (46, 50)
Matthew records only one of the “Seven Words of the Cross” (v. 46), but indicates in v. 50 that Jesus did cry out in a loud voice, just before giving up His spirit. Here we have a cry of judgment and a cry of victory and salvation.
A. In this fourth word from the cross, “My God, My God,” we feel some of the depth of the judgment that Christ endured for us. Quoting from Psalm 22:1, we realize that Jesus was entering into a “God-forsaken place.” He was experiencing the burden of our sins and God’s wrath in His body. He was experiencing a total separation from his Father. Christ’s chief agony was being estranged from His beloved Father, and being judged and condemned by the same.
B. The other cry of Jesus, in v. 50, is a cry of victory and salvation: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice he gave up his spirit.” (“It is finished!” John 19:30). This tells us that Jesus’ death was a deliberate surrender of His will. He gave up his life; it was not taken from him. It was at that moment, after he experienced his alienation from the Father, that he chose to yield up his life, and He became our salvation.
- The Temple Curtain was Torn in Two. (51)
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Again, here is both judgment and salvation.
A. For the tearing of the curtain was a foreshadowing of God’s judgment on the entire temple and the sacrificial OT system, as Jesus predicted in Mt. 24; God was desecrating His own temple, as He had done in 586 BC. In accordance with Matthew’s fulfillment themes, the tearing of the veil signifies the obsolescence of the temple ritual and the law governing it.
B. At the same time, the torn curtain also symbolized salvation and direct access to God, in that the wall of partition between the Holy God and sinful man was now demolished. In Christ’s sacrifice, we can have direct access to God. No priests or saints are needed (Heb. 9-10). The curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was rent in two, signifying that we are able to enter the throne of grace, directly, through Christ!
Putting these themes of judgment and salvation together, we see that Jesus himself is the New Temple, the meeting place between God and mankind.
- The Earth Shaken, the rocks split, and tombs opened. (51-52)
God the Father marked the death of His Son with some fearful and awesome signs. It was as if some spiritual tectonic plates shifted mightily!
These portents were both symbols of God’s judgment and God’s salvation, meant to show the mighty act that God was doing in Jesus, as He died on the cross.
The shaking of the earth, in the OT, was a symbol of God’s mighty acts; and here, the creation itself responds to Christ’s death, by being shaken and by rocks split apart.
The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. [We are not told when this happened, but likely it was after Jesus’ resurrection.]
This might have been a sort of “first-fruit” of the resurrection. So even as creation was affected by Adam’s sin, so creation was “rocked” by Christ’s work of re-creation, at the resurrection!
- The Guards’ Testimony (54)
“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” The darkness, the earthquake, and the cry of dereliction convinced the soldiers that this was no ordinary execution. The portents terrified them, and led them to believe that these things testified to God’s wrath toward such a crime, in which the soldiers had participated. But their confession also points to Jesus as the promised Messiah, unique Son of God, and Savior of the World, all seen most clearly in his suffering and death. What a contrast to all those who had mocked Him.
Conclusion: On the cross, the judgment of God that we deserved was poured out on Jesus. The salvation of God that Jesus obtained by Himself, alone, broke forth, and was given to God’s elect. What an amazing redemption! Let us bow down and worship, trust and obey the One who is the King of kings, our precious Savior, Jesus our Lord!