The Death of Christ (Good Friday)

The Death of Christ (Good Friday)

Mark 15:33-39

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”


4/7/2023 The Crucifixion (Good Friday)

*This is a transcript from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.

If you can find a Bible, we’ve got Bibles in the book racks in the chair in front of you. And if you would be willing to turn to Mark, chapter 15, mark, chapter 15, the Bibles that we have here, you’re going to find Mark, chapter 15, and the portion that we’re looking at on page 876. Eight, seven, six.

Well, let’s read the passage and then I’ll pray and we’ll get to work.

We’re starting in verse 33 and going through verse 39. It reads like this:

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon, 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 near heard this, they said, Listen, he’s calling Elijah. Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff and offered it to Jesus to drink. Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down, he said with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion who stood there in front of Jesus saw how he died, he said, surely this man was the Son of God.

Let’s pray. Lord, as we open Your word together, we’re praying that by Your Spirit, through Your Word, you would speak. We want to hear Your voice loud and clear, and we want tonight to be a night where we are mindful of the crucifixion and all that that holds for us. The Lord. Please do an incredible work in these moments. By your spirit for your glory. Amen. Amen.

Well, as we work our way through this short little section, I just want to give you four different headings to organize the material. We’ve got darkness, distance, confusion and confession. Four things that we find here in the text darkness, distance, confusion and confession.

  • Darkness

Darkness is the first thing that we find in verse 33. It says, at noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. There was this experience where the sun went out. I don’t know exactly what that looks like or what that was describing, but it’s telling us that there was darkness over the whole land until three in the afternoon. The other night there were two big storms, but there was one in our neighborhood where the power went out. And so we had ash was at work, so we had all the flashlights and the different things. But you understand, like when you’re expecting there to be light and the ability to see and all of a sudden the light goes out, it’s troubling. You have to figure out how to make things work in those situations. Well, darkness in the Bible is used repeatedly to talk about different things. But one of the things that’s really fascinating about darkness is the idea of it being an expression of God’s judgment, that there are moments in scripture where darkness emerges as a feature of God’s judgment. For instance, think about the Israelites in Egypt when they were enslaved there. And Moses went to the king, to Pharaoh, and he said, the cries of the people of God have been heard by God himself, so you need to release them so they can go and worship God. And Pharaoh says, absolutely not. Repeatedly. And so we find the expressions of God’s judgment, and we might be familiar with calling them the plagues, the ten different instances where God poured out his judgment on Egypt. There were a lot of different expressions of judgment in those ten different plagues. But the one that I’m pointing out right now is the instance where darkness came over the land. And actually, this is from Exodus, chapter ten, and it says, it was darkness that could be felt, meaning it was so black and so eerie that when the people experienced it, it was troubling for them. It went on for a few days, but they got to the point where they were crying out to Moses and ultimately to God to bring relief from the darkness. And it’s interesting that that darkness visited the Egyptians, but the Israelites were able to see just fine. Well, here, as we’re looking at the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, we’re told in Scripture that darkness came over the land, that from noon until three it was pitch black. And what is telling us is that creation is giving an indication of the severity of what’s happening here. Creation itself is telling us what’s happening here is no ordinary crucifixion, no ordinary execution. There is something unique about it. In fact, during the storms the other night, I had multiple people tell me that the animals were being weird, they were misbehaving. So they look out the window and they see a flock of birds, and all the birds are looking in the same direction. They’re like, this is weird. Whatever’s going on here, we don’t like it. As the storms rolled in and the tornadoes came through, or the dogs in our neighborhood were all a little bit off that day. But creation was kind of saying, hey, something’s coming and you all ought to be aware of it. Well, here at the crucifixion, creation itself is telling us, this is extraordinary. What’s happening here is the judgment of God being visited on the Son of God himself. Amos the prophet. He foretold this. In Amos, chapter eight, verse eight, he said, will not the land tremble for this? And all who live in it, mourn by the eyes of faith, looked forward and saw. He said, look, the land itself is going to tremble for this. And then he says in the very next verse, Amos, chapter eight, verse nine, he said, in that day, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. So God was saying, there’s a day coming where the judgment is going to be on visible display. In this way it’ll be dark, you won’t be able to see it’ll be that kind of darkness. And here at the cross, we find this happening. We find creation telling us to pay attention so easy during these holidays to just kind of blast right through them. Or if you’re kind of like me, there are a lot of extra responsibilities and you just get busy. But this is a moment where we ought to say, does creation have a better sense than I do of what’s happening? Is creation doing more about this than even I am doing? Because creation has the good sense to recognize when the Son of God comes to earth and he is arrested and placed on the cross, and when he goes there to Calvary to accomplish his purposes, this is something that is creating havoc. And Creation says I’m trembling. In fact, in other places there’s an earthquake as this event is recorded. But darkness falls over the land. So we need to be aware of the significance of this event.

  • Distance

The second thing we find is distance. Distance, the proximity of being distant. Verse 34. And at three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani. Which means My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? That’s a relational expression. He’s saying, my God. My my God. The relationship that I have experienced, there is something different in this moment. Your face has turned away from me. Now, this is interesting because if you read the Bible, you understand that God is one and that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are a part of what we would call the Trinity. And there’s a oneness, a unity about that that cannot be separated. There is no distance there like the great Shema that says Here O, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. There’s a oneness between God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. But here, in this instance, the Son is crying from the cross. Something is different. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But again, that experience of oneness has been a constant feature of his life. In fact, in the earlier portion of his ministry, in John, chapter ten, verse 30, he said it like this it’s just plain as day. I and the Father are one. That relationship is so intimate and so close and so together that what we find here at the crucifixion is abnormal. That relational connectedness between the Trinity. It’s been described in a lot of different ways. But let me show you what one scholar says. Michael Reeves puts it like this the eternal harmony of the Father, Son and Spirit provides the logic for the world in which everything was created to let me start over again. I’m sorry about that. The eternal harmony of the Father, Son and Spirit provides the logic for a world in which everything was created to exist in cheerful harmony. The fact that God is one and is unified and is harmonious in that gives reasoning for why we find a world that is ordinarily pretty harmonious. So God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one and they are unified. But here at the cross, we find this terrifying reality that the Son is able to say, why am I forsaken? Why do I feel that separation from the Father? And the truth is, the answer, as you’ll come to see, is quite obvious. It’s sin. If you read the Bible, you find that there is this human condition. That’s the most troubling thing that we’ll ever face. And it’s the reality that we’ve been made by God for God. But on account of sin, the relationship that we’re meant to have with the Maker is we’re divorced in some sense of the word, that we’re separated from God in some sense of the Word. This little kids book, I love it. It’s called the garden, the curtain and the cross. And it talks about this reality. It’s a story that we’ve read at bedtime over and over again. But it tells the Bible narrative and it talks about the fact that God created this beautiful place where humanity lived in this wonderful relationship with God. But then humanity turned away from God, and this is what it says. God calls this sin, and sin spoils things. So sin has no place in God’s wonderful garden. God said to the people, you can’t live with me in my garden anymore. And he sent them outside. And then what it tells us, and it’s a refrain, it’s a little ditty that shows up over and over again. In this book it says this god said, because of your sin, you can’t come in. There are these wonderful places like the Garden of Eden or the temple itself, where you can see the glory of God and you can see his manifest presence there. But over and over again we’re reminded that there are things that prevent us from experiencing that nearness with God. That sin is the issue that we have that has created this divorce between us and the One who made us. And if we don’t figure out a way to deal with that, we will live eternally separated from Him. So over and over again in this book, it reminds us, because of your sin, you can’t come in. So what happened at the cross? Well, on the cross, Jesus Himself was separated from the Father in this way because he was willing to take on the sin of humanity, the sin of those who had confessed their need for Him. He experienced being forsaken by God. Isaiah 59 puts it like this verses one and two, it says, surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor is his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities, that’s another word for sin. Your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear. The issue that Isaiah is talking about and the issue that we all experience at a personal level is the fact that we sin. And that changes the relationship that we have with God. Now at the cross, Jesus was willing to take that penalty on Himself. He was willing to take the curse of sin in Himself. Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written, cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole. So what we deserve, because we willfully sin against God, he took on Himself and he became a curse. He became the curse of the Law, cursed as anyone who is hung on a pole. As he hung there, he was experiencing the effects of sin. As he was nailed there on the crucifix, he was experiencing the separation from God. And that’s why he is crying out. And what he does is he cries out in his native language in Aramaic some of you are multilingual and I am so jealous and I look longingly on the way that you communicate. But I’ve noticed people who are multilingual, there will be moments where something happens and you have to react. Whether it’s a positive thing or a negative thing, you react and you don’t reach into your toolbox of interpretation and say, I’m going to translate this into English or I’m going to translate this into something other people could know. It comes out of you and your native language comes out. Your mother tongue comes out. Here at the cross, when the Lord is hanging there, and we get it here in our text, mark tells us here’s what he said Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani. He’s saying in Aramaic, he just spilled out his guts and he said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Now, the reason why this is significant is because this is not a fairy tale and this is not an abstract exercise. The Lord on the cross felt the effects of sin, and when he cried out, there was a sincerity about it. He was feeling the effects of our sin. He was taking on himself the consequences of what we deserve. Two. Corinthians five. Verse 21. God made him Jesus Christ. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Here’s what’s happening at the crucifix. The Lord is taking on Himself the punishment for sin, because God made him who had no sin to be our sin. It’s called the Great Exchange. It’s a transfer. What I deserve gets taken off of me and placed on Him. And what he rightfully deserves is now gifted to me. And it’s a beautiful reality, but it is tragic because the Lord had to suffer and die for it. So when he’s crying out in this way, there is a distance between him and the Father of forsakenness on account of my sin and your sin. In a few minutes, we’ll sing a hymn together. We’ll sing how deep the Father’s love for us And I want to point out some of the lyrics that we will sing together. It reads like this. It says how great the pain of searing loss the Father turns his face away and is talking exactly about what we’re discussing right now. As wounds which mar the chosen one bring many sons to glory. Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon his shoulder. It goes on to say, it was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished. There’s a distance that the Lord experienced on account of my sin and yours.

  • Confusion

Third, we find confusion. Verses 35 to 36. When some of those standing near heard this, they said, Listen, he’s calling Elijah. Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff and offered it to him to drink. Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down. He said, here’s what’s fascinating about this. You’ve got these observers who are right there who are paying attention to what’s happening with Jesus of Nazareth and they’re watching him and all of these different abnormal things that are going on and they hear him cry out like that. They hear the agony of his heart. And here’s what they think maybe this spiritual individual is crying out for Elijah. Maybe this person is calling for Elijah. And let’s see what happens. Let’s sit down and just watch this all unfold. Now, Elijah, if you’re familiar, he was a very significant individual in the Old Testament, a prophet. And he did all of these wild and incredible things. And in fact, at the end of his life, he gets taken up. And it’s fascinating. I think I have it here in my notes. But in two kings, two, verse twelve, his protege Elisha sees him going up and he says this my Father, my Father, mighty defender of Israel, you are gone. And it’s because Elijah is like a national treasure. He’s like the military of Israel. One man following God and they say he’s the defender of Israel, but he’s the Father. He becomes this kind of legendary figure. So now you’ve got these people at the cross and they’re seeing the Lord crying out in this way and they’re like, we don’t really know what’s happening. Maybe he’s calling for Elijah. They never found his body. Maybe he’ll show up today. Maybe Elijah will show up today and take him off of this cross. Let’s see what happens. Now, here’s why this is troubling to me. You can be that close to what’s happening at the cross and be absolutely clueless. You can be in the proximity of what’s going on, the the most significant events in human history, and you can be present there, and you can come to the wrong conclusion. I don’t really know what’s going on. Something spiritual is happening. Let’s just see how it unfolds. Now, the reason why this is troubling to me is because I believe that there are people in our church who are close enough that they know an awful lot about Elijah. They know an awful lot about the Lord Jesus Christ. They know an awful lot of details, but they are still spiritually unaware. They know some things, but they have not really understood the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re here tonight, which is a weird thing, right? Like, if you show up for a Good Friday service, I would assume you probably care. You probably know something. You probably care because you’re reordering your life to be here. Sunday, on the other hand, people might show up and we kind of expect them to not have any clue. To be there because it’s a date on a holiday that they might observe this year. But tonight, there might be people in here who know an awful lot but still are very far away from confessing Jesus as Lord. They see it as a spiritual thing. They see it maybe even as an intriguing thing, but they do not understand what it is he’s actually doing. So I hope that that changes by the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope that your confusion begins to gain some clarity and you begin to see this is not just some story that we rehearse year after year. This is at the very heart of the good news of what God has done, the execution of the Son and his willingness to stand in our place and his willingness to experience that distance that father turning his face away for me and for you. And I hope that you come to see that as the truth that you bank your life upon.

  • Confession

Well, finally, confession. Confession, verses 37 to 39. Jesus gives up his life. Verse 37. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. Okay, he expires. He dies in that moment. But what we find here in this account and in the other Gospel accounts as well, is that it’s actually kind of surprising. He died much quicker than anyone expected. And one of the reasons why is because he’s in control. In fact, few verses later, in chapter 15, verse 44, Pilate, who wasn’t there, but he’s responsible. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead, so he summoned the centurion. He asked him if Jesus had already died. This was weird. A crucifixion was not meant to go this fast. This is unusual. So he’s like, I don’t get it. What happened here? But what we find out is that Jesus gave up his life because he chose to. In fact, the other gospel account, John 19:30, says, when he had received the drink, the wine vinegar, Jesus said, it is finished. It’s accomplished, it’s completed. And with that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. So in this account, he breathes his last breath. And the onlookers are very surprised by that because they recognize, oh, we’re not in control here He is. Let me show this to you from John, chapter ten. When he was teaching his disciples while he was still very much alive, he said it like this the reason why my Father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from the father. So his death, it was not the outcome of what the soldiers did. This death was of his own accord. This death was of his own choosing. This was by his own authority. He gave up his spirit. He was willing to lay down his life very purposefully, knowing exactly what it was that he was doing, and he had all control. He did this on his own accord. It was by his own authority. So he is the one who’s in charge here. And when the soldiers and Pilate begin to see this, they begin to tremble at the reality of what it is that they’re experiencing. Furthermore, look at verse 38. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The temple was that structure that God gave a blueprint for. And he said, I want you to build this thing, and it’s going to be a place that’s going to hold my glory. My name will be there. There will be an outer Court and an Inner Court, and there will be a most holy place, a Holy of Holies. And there are these huge curtains that partition things off. And you cannot go into certain areas of this, especially the Holy of Holies, without an awful lot of preparatory work. In fact, only one person can do it, and only once a year it’s basically saying, the glory of God you cannot go into again. In this little book, The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross, it talks about this reality. It talks about the temple being constructed and the curtain and the curtain being like this big keep out sign that says, because of your sin you can’t come in. Only one person, only once a year can go in there and do what God wants them to do. But there’s an awful lot of work to accomplish that. So it reads like this it’s wonderful to live with him, but because of your sin you can’t come in. There’s a curtain and there is no access point beyond this. For most people well, at the cross, what Jesus was accomplishing was the rending of the curtain, the opening of the curtain. And so when he gives up his spirit, we find that the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom. In other words, God was saying that lack of access, that inability to come near. I have just dealt with that, the fact that you cannot go beyond this point and live. God says, I have now opened a way for you by faith through Jesus Christ. And that’s what this book talks about. And that’s the conclusion of it, that the temple curtain was ripped from top to bottom. And now, because Jesus paid the penalty for sin, we can come in, we can draw near to God. The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way open for us through the curtain that is his body. So the writer to the Hebrews is kind of condensing these events. And he’s saying, when the body of Jesus was ripped, when the body of Jesus was destroyed, that opened up the temple to us. We have access now to the most holy place by the blood of Jesus Christ because of his willingness to bear the penalty for our sin. Now we can go in and we can experience the nearness of God. Now, here’s what happens next. Then it’s the confession in verse 39, when the centurion who stood there in front of Jesus saw how he died, he said, surely this man was the Son of God. Standing right there, looking at all the events as they transpired, he comes to the conclusion, whoever this person is, surely in my mind, in reality, here’s who he is: the Son of God. He confesses to the reality of what is. He acknowledges that God sent his Son and that son was dying right before him. Now, here’s what I hope all of us are able to do. I hope all of us are able to make a confession like that. We’re able to say with our lips, we believe Jesus to be the Son of God. And I pray and hope that all of us would be able to make that profession that says all the things that Core just talked about tonight from Mark chapter 15. I believe it, and actually I’m banking my eternity on it. I’m trusting that these things are true. A profession or a confession of faith is a saving reality. That’s how the apostle Paul puts it in Romans chapter ten. He says, for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. And he goes on to say, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. So tonight, as we’ve gathered here together as a church family to remember the cross work of Jesus Christ. I hope that you are able to say, I believe in Christ. I believe that he died on the cross and creation itself took notice of it. I believe that he experienced the penalty of my sin as that was transferred to Him on the cross, and therefore he experienced a distance from the Father like he has never experienced before. I believe that what he did on the cross makes a way for me to gain access to God through his substitutionary work for me. He substituted Himself in my place and opened up a way for us to experience the holy of holies, the most holy place of being in the presence and glory of God. And I believe that he did this of his own accord, that he did this very purposefully, knowing exactly what it was that he was doing, that he laid down his own life with the authority to also take it back up. And I believe that he did that for me. And I pray that all of us in here could say that as well, that we would confess Him as Lord and Savior.

Let’s pray. Lord, help us in these moments to be mindful of the incredible work that You’ve done for us. Lord, we pray that you would incline our hearts to worship, because we perceive not just that you are a spiritual person that did spiritual things, but we see you as you truly are, the Son of God dying in our place. Lord, I pray that every person who can hear My voice would profess Jesus as Lord and experience saving faith. And I pray that in the name of Jesus, amen.