Summary: This sermon looks at the physical signs combined with the final words of Christ on the cross - and what we can witness from them.
April 14, 2006 Matthew 27:45-54
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus 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. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 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 John 3:19-20 Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” It is the very nature of darkness to hate the light. The two do not mix. That is what makes this night of Good Friday so strange and eery for us. Here God’s Word exposes us to the Person we call the Light of the World - Jesus Christ - surrounded by darkness and hanging on a cross. What is even worse is that darkness overtakes the Light. For three hours - from noon to three, Jesus is surrounded by dark people in a dark world. It’s a disturbing picture and a disturbing feeling - even for people who are used to living in the darkness - because in this picture - the darkness is felt. Ironically however, it’s this Troubling Time of the Passion - these three hours - that exposes us to what the cross and the Christ - the Light of the World - is really all about. The expose comes after the darkness is done - out of Jesus own words and the words of those who see and feel what happens. So sit in your witness stand and watch what the Light has to say - in the midst of darkness.
After Three Hours of Darkness, We Witness
I. The actions of the world
One of the more interesting Bible passages in the Bible is Paul’s description of creation in Romans chapter 8. It reads,
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it. . We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (19-22)
It is interesting to me to see how Paul personifies the “innocent bystander” in this whole mess that we have gotten ourselves into. Who is that innocent bystander? It’s creation. The sun, moon and stars - as well as the sky, land, sea and the creatures who live in this world didn’t do anything to be under the curse of sin. Man did. Yet they have to suffer under God’s own active curse on it. God says that as the end times near the decay of the world will have more and more problems. I’m not bringing this up to have a sermon on global warming - but just to indicate that the creation is under the control of God - and the curse of man as well.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us to see creation with a seemingly active participation in the story of the crucifixion. God works with creation to do two things in today’s text. It becomes dark and the earth shakes. Darkness was used and described in a variety of ways in the Old Testament.
• Exodus 10:21-22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.
• Exodus 14:19-20 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.