Summary: Jesus died on the cross to redeem you; he has fought the battle and has won; he has offered the sacrifice on your behalf and it was accepted; he has purchased you with his blood.
Listen to Jesus:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45).
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed (8:31).
Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? (10:38).
But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! (Luke 50).
That baptism takes place now.
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. What manner of darkness we do not know. Was there some miraculous eclipse of the sun so as to make the day literally seem like night? Was there a thick layer of dark storm clouds covering the sky? We don’t know, but from noon to mid-afternoon, the hours of Jesus’ crucifixion, the land that bore the dying divine Son could not see the light of the created sun.
34 And at 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?”
Is there a more frightening verse in all the Bible? Are there more haunting words ever uttered on this earth? Surely many have cried out in despair and torment. Many have cursed God, many have called out to him in anguish, but this one who cries out in agony is the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead who for eternity, for endless time as always been one with the Father, in perfect unity, bound together in perfect love – it is he who cries out why have you forsaken me?
This is his baptism that he undergoes. This is the cup given to him to drink to its last dregs – to not only bear the awful pain of crucifixion, but to be forsaken by his Father. This is what had made him tremble in the garden and say, Take this cup from me (14:36).
These are not words that just happened to pop in Jesus’ head. He is quoting Psalm 22:1, the psalm the prophesies the sufferings of the Messiah. Be sure that he has meditated on this psalm many times and knows it by heart. And though it means what he says, that at this moment he feels forsaken by his Father, even now he knows that if fulfilling all that the Messiah must fulfill to gain his victory. His suffering is not play acting; it is very real; even so, or because it is so, he knows the redemption he has come to accomplish is at hand.
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
In the midst of what is the most terrible moment, not only of the crucifixion, but of history, man shows how silly he can be. “Hey, did he say ‘Eli’? Is he calling for Elijah? Somebody, give him some vinegar. Refresh him so we can see what happens.” Are they joking? Are they continuing their mockery of Jesus or do some in the crowd wonder if something might possibly be about to happen? Surely they must feel somewhat uneasy by the dark sky. It was a common belief that Elijah would come back when the Messiah would be anointed and judgment take place. Is this the time?
Whether they are joking or at earnest, they show man’s foolish blindness to the real significant event taking place – the Son of God sacrificing himself for man’s sin. I am reminded of the line in the haunting hymn, “Ah, Holy Jesus”: “the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered: for man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth...”
And finally, the end comes: 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. He dies. And it is a strange death. He should not have died so quickly, nor should he have had the strength to cry out at the end. Screaming in torment is common on the cross, but that is early on while there is still strength in the victim. As death nears, it is all one can do to breath, much less call out forcefully. Usually the victim is unconscious or nearly so before he breathes his last. But, nevertheless, he does die. His body now hangs lifeless.
Truly, great and fearful mystery is before us. The eternal Son of God dies; the Creator of life loses his life. Of course, what we understand is that it is in his human nature that Jesus dies, not in his divine nature. The Son of God cannot die, only the Son of Man. But while we can reason out the correct theology, we cannot begin to fathom the mystery of which we speak. Now, how is it that Jesus is both God and man? And how is that God is three persons in one? We don’t know the how, only the what, and what know before the cross is that our Creator became our Redeemer and died that we may live. The one who is invisible and everywhere hangs upon a cross. and we can count his bones as he droops his head in death.