Summary: The Lord Jesus is in His last moments of agony and pain, both physically and spiritually as He completes His mission of redemption for fallen humanity. It looked on the surface, however, like a victory for his enemies and the devil as He died and was placed in a borrowed tomb, or so it would seem.
(Adapted from an outline by Mark A. Copeland)
Following a night and morning of torture, ridicule, and mockery, Jesus was taken away to be crucified (Mark 14:53-15:25). For six long, horrendous, cruel hours He hung on the cross, and to add insult to injury, He heard the continuing mockery coming from the crowds, the religious leaders, and the two thieves that were crucified to His right and left. His humiliation was made more degrading due to the fact that He and the other criminals were nailed to their respective crosses stark naked, bringing further insults and scorn. Within these six hours were a time of darkness, a cry of agony, a mix of mocking and some sympathy, a dramatic event within the Temple, and a surprising statement of faith from the lips of a pagan.
The first event involved a period of eerie darkness which enveloped the area from noon until 3:00 P.M. What was the significance? Several possibilities include a sign of mourning from the courts of heaven, or a sign of judgment on the darkness of humanity's sins and wickedness, or that it was a veil sent from God the Father to overcome the shame of the crucifixion itself. I believe that the darkness represented the period of separation where the Father poured out His wrath and judgment not upon us, which we deserve for our sins and reprobate behaviors, but upon His Son, God Incarnate, who bore the guilt and weight of all sin upon His sinless body as the final and acceptable sacrifice that atoned for our wickedness and rebellion against God. Because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, we no longer have to face death and hell for our sins. We have been redeemed, pardoned, and forgiven by the merciful act of a loving and gracious God that He did not have to do. This is love that cannot be measured or described in our poor words.
it is during this time of darkness when the Lord Jesus, bearing our sins, is separated from the love and person of God the Father. He is undergoing not just physical agony, but the agony that is a result of our deliberate sins and hatred of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us, and this was an unknown and frightening feeling for the perfect and Holy Son of God. He quotes Psalm 22:1, originally composed by King David a thousand years beforehand. This is a prophetic psalm describing the loneliness and sorrow of someone who feels abandoned by God and is desperately seeking Him for solace and comfort. The psalm begins with words of sorrow but ends in vindication and triumph over the darkness by the actions of a merciful and loving God. At the end of this time of suffering, Jesus declares that "It is finished!" (John 19:30). The work of atonement was done once and for all, with nothing else to be added or completed (Ephesians 2:8-9). He cried out, and gave up His spirit (Matt.27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46).
Over at the Temple, the thick curtain that separated the people from the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom by the supernatural act of God, showing to the world that there was now nothing between them and Him and access to Him was now available to all who called upon Him. The relationship between God and HIs crown jewel of creation, humanity, was reinstated. There would no longer need to be any sacrifices on the altars and no more blood was to be shed for our temporary atonement. Jesus Christ's sacrifice settled that issue once and for all. Later in the history of the early church, an unknown follower of Jesus (possibly Paul, Apollos, Aquila, Luke, or a host of others)would write the letter to the Hebrews to explain this to every Jewish person who came to faith in Jesus, yet were uncertain (Heb. 10:19-20). The Old Covenant was at its end, and the New Covenant had been established forever. The New Covenant included not only the chosen people of God, the Jews, but also the Gentiles who were now grafted into the promise of salvation in Christ, where all would be brethren united around the cross and the Throne (Romans, Chapter 11).
Mark writes of the Centurion who had been given the task of crucifying not only Jesus, but the two thieves that were with Him. This Roman soldier was reared in the pagan religions, where multitudes of gods and goddesses were part of the fabric of Roman life and vice behaving no better than the mortals and were just as petty and ruthless with no sense of affection or care for them. This soldier had watched the behaviors of the thieves as they cursed, screamed, and swore at the crowds and the soldiers who had nailed them to their crosses. Jesus was a different story. He had asked forgiveness for the ones who were putting Him to death, and did not retaliate with words of anger and hate towards those who had mocked and ridiculed Him while He was dying. The darkness that had come upon the area no doubt startled this hardened soldier, and it dawned on him that this Man in the middle was not ordinary, but was indeed the Son of God, and he confessed so (Mark 15:39). This centurion may very well have been Cornelius, who was led to faith in Christ, long with his household, by the apostle Peter (Acts 10). We can only speculate for now.