Through Christ, God redeemed for Himself a people for His own possession, and in Christ, we belong to that people. Although it is true that everyone will ultimately stand before the judgment seat of God alone, we have not been left to walk through this life alone. Jesus endured the cross alone, but He calls us to take up our crosses and follow Him together. That is what the death of Jesus purchased for us with the tearing of the curtain. Full assurance to come to God as our Father, a sure and steadfast hope that will endure even the end of all things, and a place among the congregation of the righteous.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Mark 15:33-38 ESV
Surely after their three-day journey to the mountain in Moriah, Isaac knew that this sacrifice was far more solemn than normal. Perhaps that is why, as father and son prepared to ascend the mountain, Isaac asked where the lamb for the sacrifice was. Abraham simply answered, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). Upon the mountain, Abraham built the altar, laid the wood, and laid Isaac upon the altar. Although this was Abraham’s sacrifice, the fact that Isaac was the one who carried the wood upon the mountain indicates that he was likely already a young man rather than a small boy. Thus, he evidently trusted his father enough to be bound upon the altar and to be slaughtered by his own father. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham still held onto God’s promise that through Isaac his offspring would be named so he reasoned that God would evidently bring Isaac back from the dead. Was that his comfort to Isaac? Was that faith in resurrection the hope that enabled Isaac to lay in silence like a lamb being slaughtered?
Of course, Abraham did not kill his son. An angel stopped his blade mid-air and a ram caught in a thicket to offer in place of Isaac. Abraham’s words were true; the LORD did provide the lamb. The patriarch called that mountain, “the LORD will provide.” Three thousand years later, those words were fulfilled to the uttermost. Upon another mountain, God the Father laid His only Son, the Son He loved even in the eternity before creation, upon the altar. Although the Son could certainly have called upon angels to rescue Him, like Isaac, He trusted His Father. Unlike Isaac, the knife would not be stopped. This time the Father would drive the knife into His beloved Son, for by the Son’s blood Abraham and Isaac and you and I would be ransomed from our sins once for all.
There was Darkness// Verses 33
In our previous passage, we read of the crucifixion of Christ. Particularly, we noted how Mark (as well as the other three Evangelists) does not emphasize the physical torment of the cross but rather gives attention to the mockery and reviling that Jesus endured alongside the bodily agony. Mark’s Gospel now continues with these words: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
Here we have a supernatural darkness that came over Jerusalem for about three hours in the very middle of the day. The sixth hour was noon, and the ninth hour would have been three in the afternoon. Attempts to align this with an eclipse or some other natural phenomena miss the point. Instead, we ought to read with great wonder that the light of the world Himself was engulfed in darkness and that the Author of life was preparing to die.
R. Kent Hughes notes:
Thirty-three years earlier there had been brightness and music at midnight when Jesus was born. Now there is darkness and silence at noontide as he dies.
Why this darkness? To begin with, it was a sign of mourning. Amos prophesied there would be darkness at the time of the Day of the Lord, saying, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight… I will make it like the mourning for an only son…” (Amos 8:9,10). The cross is draped in the mourning sackcloth of darkness.
In concert with this, the darkness signified the curse of God. At the exodus, a plague of darkness spread over the land before the first Passover lamb was slain. Now before the death of the ultimate Passover Lamb, there again was darkness. God’s judgment was being poured out in a midday night.
Indeed, to further parallel the events in Exodus, we see here that Jesus is not only the Lamb slain to ransom His people from the Destroyer, but He is also the first born of the Father, offered in our place. We may also notice that there was darkness over the whole land, which presumably meant Judea. Thus, with the plague of darkness in Egypt, the Egyptians were cast into darkness, while the land of the Hebrews still had light. Now the reverse was occurring. The land of the Jews was covered in darkness, while the Gentiles nations still had light. Perhaps this was a visual display of Paul point in Romans 3:9-12:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
The Cry of Derecliction // Verses 34-36
After spending three hours plunged in darkness, we read: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?’” We call this Jesus’ cry of dereliction, and indeed it is. It notably is also the opening sentence of Psalm 22, which together with Isaiah 53 is one of the most explicit descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion, even though it was written by David around a thousand years before Jesus’ day. There are a multitude of mysteries and complexities in this cry of anguish that I suspect will never be fully grasped by finite creatures like us.
Perhaps the greatest mystery is how Jesus could be abandoned by His Father. Could the Second Person of the Trinity really be cut off? Some theologians in an effort to avoid such a thought have argued that Jesus was not forsaken at all. Instead, they argue that Jesus was really pointing to the triumphant conclusion of Psalm 22, and He was not truly forsaken by the Father. Not a few unbelievers have used this cry as proof that Jesus became disillusioned before He breathed His last. We must reject both thoughts. It was for this very reason that Christ became incarnate, so He was certainly no disillusioned self-help guru. Neither should we look upon the suffering of Christ as the Donatists look upon His humanity, as if He only seemed to have suffered. No, Jesus did truly suffer, and He was truly forsaken by the Father.
R. C. Sproul writes,
When Jesus took the curse on Himself and so identified with our sin that He became a curse, God cut Him off, and justly so. At the moment when Christ took on Himself the sin of the world, His figure on the cross was the most grotesque, most obscene mass of concentrated sin in the history of the world. God is too holy to look on iniquity, so when Christ hung on the cross, the Father, as it were, turned His back. He averted His face and He cut off His Son. Jesus, Who, touching His human nature, had been in perfect, blessed relationship with God throughout His ministry, now bore the sin of God’s people, and so He was forsaken by God.
As we noted last week, upon the cross, Jesus was redeeming us from the curse of our sins by becoming a curse for us. He was becoming Himself the sacrifice for our sins. He was taking upon Himself the damnation that we rightfully have earned through our rebellion against our Creator. Again, Sproul is right in saying that, “On the cross, He was in hell, totally bereft of the grace and the presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father.”
Thus, Jesus was truly forsaken by the Father. This is what Jesus feared in Gethsemane made reality.