************ Sermon on Luke 23:44-46 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 19, 2019
Good Friday 2019
Injustice, that is what we see. Pilate declares Jesus to be innocent (Lk 23:4,14,15,22). Herod declares Jesus to be innocent (Lk 23:15). We know Jesus is absolutely sinless. Yet, Jesus is condemned to die by crucifixion -- one of the most inhumane methods of execution ever devised by man.
And, we see abuse. Herod and his soldiers dress Jesus in an elegant robe (Lk 23:11). They slam a crown of thorns on His head. They put a scepter in His right hand. They kneel in front of Him and ridicule and mock Him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they say (Mt 27:29). The soldiers continue to mock Him when He is on the cross (Lk 23:36). The rulers sneer at Him (Lk 23:35). Even one of the criminals hanging there with Him gets into the act (Lk 23:39).
Injustice and abuse. That's what we see on the part of man.
You know what else we see? We see divine wrath. We see God's anger against the sin of the human race. We see God punishes sin. We see God hates sin. We see God demands justice. We see God wants payment in full.
And, we see love, divine love. Christ died for our sins out of love that day. As an atoning sacrifice. So our sins are paid for. So we are right with God. He died according to the plan of God. He died at the time and place appointed by God.
Wrath and love. That's what we see on the part of God. That's what we see when we look at the three verses in front of us on this Good Friday as we look at the darkness, the drape or curtain, and the death.
I The Darkness
A We start with the darkness in verses 44 & 45. Listen to what Luke says:
(Lk 23:44-45) It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, (45) for the sun stopped shining.Since the Jewish clock begins around 6:00 am this means the sixth hour is noon. The sun is at its highest point. Brilliant and sunny. The time of day when you need to wear sunglasses and put on sun screen.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention darkness at the sixth hour while Jesus is hanging on the cross. John tells us Jesus is in front of Pilate at the sixth hour (Jn 19:14). There is a simple explanation. John uses the Roman clock in Pilate's courtroom which begins at midnight.
Darkness came over the whole land at noon. We aren't talking about dark thunder clouds moving in front of the sun. The sun stopped shining. Literally, the sun failed, ceased, ran out, died out. It is dark, very dark. The darkness covers the whole land. How far did it extend? Just Jerusalem and Judea or did it go up to Samaria and Galilee too? We don't know how far; Luke tells us it came over the whole land. Now, try to put yourself in the place of the people who are responsible for the injustice and abuse. One moment they are mocking, sneering, jeering, and the next moment it is dark, pitch dark, at noon on a beautiful Spring day. How do you think they reacted? Fright, panic, insecurity? Unless they light a lamp, they can't do anything. They can't move. They can't leave Golgotha Hill. They can't go home for lunch.
B What caused the darkness? Some have suggested a lunar eclipse. That is not possible since the Passover is set by the full moon and you can't have an eclipse with a full moon. [By the way, did anyone notice the moon last night? We were sitting outside and it was massive and beautiful. I told Ruth it was a Passover moon.] What caused the darkness? Some say Satan is afflicting Jesus with the power of darkness. This cannot be right either because Satan is not in charge of light and darkness. The only explanation that is left is God.
How do you think the Jewish people viewed the darkness? What would be their first thought when darkness hit at midday and lasted for three hours? They would think of God's plague of darkness in Egypt.
(Ex 10:21-23) 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." (22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. (23) No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.When God brings darkness, it is so thick and so dense it can be felt -- almost like a thick, dark fog. God caused the darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour.
C Darkness means judgment. God's judgment. This is the message we find throughout the Old Testament. I already mentioned the plague of darkness in Egypt; it certainly was God's judgment upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. I also think of the Day of Judgment, what the prophets called the Day of the Lord:
(Joel 2:30-31) I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. (31) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.The Jews know all about the Day of the Lord. They know about the darkness. They know it is a sign of God's judgment. That's why, when the sun started to shine again, Luke tells us the people pounded their chests as a sign of their grief and fear (Lk 23:48).
(Amos 8:9) "In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
(Cf Zeph 1:14-15)
D God came to Calvary. God came to Calvary in the darkness. God came to Calvary in judgment. God showed up in wrath and anger. But it wasn't wrath upon Herod or Pilate. It wasn't wrath upon the Roman soldiers. It wasn't wrath on the chief priests and the teachers of the law. It wasn't wrath on the Jewish people. It wasn't wrath upon you or me. Mind you, everyone of them -- everyone of us -- deserves God's wrath. No, God's wrath did not fall upon any of these. God's wrath, God's judgment, God's anger came upon the Son -- the beloved Son. God unleashed the full extent of His fury upon Jesus. God showed up that day to punish His Son.
My cycling friend Rod heard this sermon a couple of days ago and said, "That punishment must not have taken long." He thought Jesus hardly committed any sin so He hardly experienced any judgment. I explained both earth and heaven declared Jesus did no wrong. I explained Jesus suffered in our place. He took on our sin and our guilt. God showed up that day to punish His Son in the place of sinners everywhere.
During those three awful hours of darkness upon the cross Jesus was cursed by God. Which wrung from Him the cry, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Somehow, in someway, the eternal love relationship between the Father and the Son was shattered for those three hours and the Father hated the Son and poured His wrath upon Him.
This darkness from God, this curse by God, this wrath of God, this absence of God, is the cup Jesus prayed and agonized about in the Garden of Gethsemane:
(Lk 22:42-44) "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (43) An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. (44) And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
II The Drape/Curtain
A This brings us to our second point: the drape or curtain. Listen to the rest of verse 45: "And the curtain of the temple was torn in two."
Now imagine the setting in the Temple. It has been dark, pitch dark, for three hours. Though they don't understand the who or the why, everyone there is apprehensive because they associate the darkness with the judgment of God. All the Passover pilgrims are just standing around in fear and trembling for those three hours. Same with the priests who can't get ready to slaughter the tens of thousands of Passover lambs. Finally, the sun again begins to shine.
Just as they begin to kill the Passover lambs, they hear a noise; a loud, tearing noise as a curtain is torn in two. There are at least thirteen curtains in the Temple. The most important is a set of double curtains that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Matthew tells us this curtain is ripped from top to bottom. Luke simply tells us it is torn in two.
This curtain is not some small, lacy, frilly thing. No, it is big and heavy, measuring thirty feet wide and sixty feet high. Josephus reports the material is four inches thick, is replaced every year, and that horses tied to each side cannot pull it apart. A curtain like this doesn't just simply tear in two.
Amazingly, shockingly, this massive curtain is torn in two from top to bottom. From top to bottom. If it is even possible for man to tear the curtain, he would tear it from bottom to top. But this big, massive curtain is torn from top to bottom. Telling us what? Telling us it is torn by the finger of God Himself. The moment the darkness ends the finger of God tears the curtain.
B Do you know the purpose of the curtain? It barred all but the High Priest from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. And even he was only allowed into the presence of God once a year on the Day of Atonement. Do you know what the closed curtain says? NO ADMITTANCE. It says no one is allowed into the very presence of God -- except for the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Do you know what the torn curtain says? ADMITTANCE TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS. So precisely at the moment the priests begin to slaughter the lambs, God allows access to His presence because of Jesus the Lamb of God.
God tears apart the curtain and with it He tears apart the Jewish religion. Just like that there is no more need for the Jewish high priest to represent the people before God. No more need for the Day of Atonement. No more need for the sin offerings and sacrifices. No more need for priests. No more need for the Temple. No more need for all the rules and regulations of the Jewish religion. Just like that the Temple becomes obsolete.
Earlier in the week Jesus had pronounced the physical destruction of the Temple:
(Lk 21:5-6) Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, (6) "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down."Why? Because the Temple and everything associated with the Temple will no longer be needed. The whole system was nothing but a means by which the sinner could have access to God. But now Christ is our access. That's why God allowed the Temple to be destroyed by Rome in AD 70. That's why God tears the curtain in two in our Bible reading.
III The Death
A Our last point is the death. Listen to what Luke says in verse 46:
(Lk 23:46) Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say the same thing: that Jesus cries out with a loud voice. Humanly speaking this is simply impossible because crucified victims suffocate to death. There is no oxygen, no air, no strength. Jesus should have been barely able to whisper let alone cry out with a loud voice. He should have been unable to think clearly or to put even two words together.
But Jesus cries out with a loud voice, a shout. His voice is strong. He is coherent. He is triumphant. Here is proof that His life was not taken from Him. Here is proof that He gives up His life for the sheep (cf Jn 10).
What does He say? "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." These words come from Psalm 31:5. Every Jew around the cross recognizes these words because they prayed them regularly. It was their night prayer before they went to bed. It was their "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer. "Into your hands I commit my spirit."
B Jesus makes two changes to the prayer. First, He adds the word "Father." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." "Father." The brokenness of the past three hours has now ended. No longer forsaken. No longer in darkness. No longer under the curse and wrath of God. The punishment is over. The suffering is finished. Sweet communion with the Father is reestablished.
Second, Jesus also subtracts a bunch of words. He leaves off "redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth." Jesus is the Redeemer. He doesn't need redeeming. Because, don't forget, both heaven and earth testify to His perfection, His holiness, His sinlessness. Jesus is absolutely righteous in all His ways.
C Notice what happens next: "When he had said this, he breathed his last." So God, God, has slain Jesus as His Passover Lamb. As a sin offering. For your sins and my sins. As an atoning sacrifice.
Good Friday is all about the wrath and love of God. God brought the darkness. God tore the curtain. God killed the Son.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page