Summary: This is the seventh and final installment in a series on the most important day in the most important life ever lived; we walk with Jesus to Calvary!
The Most Important Day In the Most Important Life Ever Lived!
God’s Verdict on the Cross
March 24, 2002
Today we conclude what I trust has been an encouraging and challenging study for you, as we look one last time at the most important day in the most important life ever lived. Let’s read together from Matthew 27! PRAYER
Brazil is a land of contrasts. Ten years ago I was able to witness some of these contrasts firsthand, as I spent two weeks there on a missions trip. These eyes have never seen a more beautiful place than Rio de Janeiro. The view of sunset from Sugar Loaf Mountain is priceless. The magnificent city of Rio is seemingly one mountain after another rising thousands of feet straight out of the azure blue Atlantic Ocean. The glistening white sand beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana are contrasted by rocks and cliffs. Standing like a sentry above it all is Corcovado Mountain, and atop Corcovado is the Cristo Redentor, the Christ statue, arms outstretched as if beckoning the world to come to Him. The richness of this tropical beauty is astounding; I was there, and I have every intention of going again, for a longer stay, before my time here is past.
But then there are the favelas. We’d call them slums, but what we call slums in rich America are high-rent districts compared to these ramshackle dwelling places. I went into a favela in Sao Paulo, and I was amazed at the way millions of Brazilian people live. Corrugated metal forms rooves over literally hundreds of lean-to shelters, enclosing the overcrowded, unsanitary living quarters for the poorest of the poor. Hunger, disease, unemployment, and lack of education are only a few of the problems facing these millions of people. In some ways, though, these do not represent the greatest of contrasts; poorer yet are the half-million street children who live in Sao Paulo alone, homeless for one reason or another, who sleep under trees and live from day to day—or die.
Rolf Italiaander imagines a poor man from one of the favelas in Rio climbing laboriously up to the summit of Corcovado and speaking to the Christ statue:
I have climbed to you, Christ, from the filthy, confined quarters down there…to put before you, most respectfully, these considerations: there are 900,000 of us down there in the slums of that splendid city…and you, Christ, do you remain here at Corcovado surrounded by divine glory? Go down there into the favelas. Come with me into the favelas and live with us down there. Don’t stay away from us; live among us and give us new faith in you and in the Father. Amen.
What would the Christ say? Would He not point to the 24 hours we have been studying for these last two months? And would He not say, “I did come to live among you; I gave my life for you; and I live among you still!” The cross tells us that Jesus does care, and that He does love, and that He does not remain in Heaven aloof and unconcerned.
In today’s Scripture, we come to understand the significance which the Father attached to Calvary’s cross. Let’s note several demonstrations of this:
God called attention to the significance of the cross by:
1. Sending darkness to cover the land.
That sun had risen over 12,000 times since a little baby boy drew His first breath in a Bethlehem stable. Over 12,000 times since the Incarnation it had carried on its dutiful task of giving light to God’s creation, with predictable regularity. But on this day, it shined down upon man nailing his Maker to a tree. Oh, to be sure, it had witnessed plenty of injustice. But on this day, it refused to be party to this awful scene. God the Creator signaled His response to the crucifixion of His only begotten Son by turning out the lights! When He had been born in Bethlehem, a new star shined in the night sky. Now that He was dying, the dependable sun ceased to shine for a time. For three long hours, from noon until 3:00 PM, by the Jewish reckoning of time, men and women crept around with candles in their hands, unable to understand what was taking place. We’re not certain as to the extent of this darkness; the Greek word here might mean “land”, indicating a regionalized darkness, or it might mean “earth”, indicating that the entire planet fell under darkness for these hours—and there exists some extra-biblical evidence to suggest just this possibility. Regardless, the Bible records this as God’s first response. What did it signify?
Likely, a sign of judgment
Rabbis had long taught that a darkening of the sun would signal the judgment of God, and this is likely just what we see taking place.