Jesus had hung on the cross since 9:00 AM that morning. Those watching had mocked the Lord of Glory. They had asked for a sign, but it was at midday that they saw a sign. Everything started to go dark. Joshua was there the day the sun stood still, but this day was the opposite. Darkness came over the whole land. This is the darkest day in the history of mankind. There had been dark days before and dark days in the future but nothing like this. Jesus had said the Son of Man came to suffer and to give his life as a ransom for many. All of this is pointing to this moment.
Silence from the Father
The darkness had covered the land for three hours. I am sure the crowd had dispersed, and the mocking had dwindled. Yet finally at 3:00 PM, Jesus who has been silent as he hung upon a tree cried out, “Eli, Eli lama sabaththani?” A desperate cry to his Father. At this moment there is no response. Silence. At Jesus’ baptism as he came out of the water a voice boomed from Heaven, “You are my beloved son, in you, I am well pleased.” Same again as Jesus went up to the top of the mount of transfiguration, as he was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. The booming voice came from heaven, “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.” But now the Father is silent. Now those around him thought he was crying out for Elijah to come down and save him. However, Jesus is saying the first words found in Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Now it would be great to study this Psalm together, but we do not have time to do so at this time. However, I seek to point out one key aspect of this Psalm, it is not that God is never going to answer, but there appears a time of silence. God does answer his cry. Psalm 22:24 says, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him but has heard when he cried to him.” The author of Hebrews explains that God the Father heard his prayer and answered it, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7).
Author of Life breathed his last. (vs 37)
The darkest moment of history, in which the author of life was crucified by the ones who should have worshiped him. The sinless, spotless, perfect lamb of God was slain. God the Son, who was there from before creation, who was there when Adam was only a clump of dirt, and God the Spirit breathed into the lungs of Adam. As his lungs filled will air and his chest began to move in and out. God the Son, hypostatically joined to the human body on the cross, as the breathed one last time. The air when in and out but no more. His heart stopped. The author of life was dead. God the Son was hypostatically united to a human corpse. Paul explains that he was crucified in weakness (2 Cor 13:4). You think of this that at this point Christianity calls this victory. Paul said this is of first importance, “that Christ died… (1 Cor 15:3). However, there is more than that, Paul continues to say, “Christ died for our sins.” J. Gresham Machen puts it well in Christianity and Liberalism, “Christ died”–that is history; “Christ died for our sins”–that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.”
Mark records, what happens, and will see some important aspects of this as we study. But I want to point out an important connection to what the Bible explains. It is not that at this point in History Jesus Christ died (this is true) but the Bible explains that those who are Christ’s whom the Father has given to him, also died. “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20). “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world…” (Col 2:20). “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him…” (2 Tim 2:11). “For if we have been united with him in a death like his…” (Romans 6:5). The Christian’s union with Christ means that we are united to him in his death. This is an important principle because the Bible then often shows that this point is our death to sin, then in Christ’s resurrection is the new life in which we walk. But more than that in his death we find the defeat of the curse (Gal 3:13), the death is destroyed (2 Tim 1:10), and the enemy is destroyed (1 Cor 15:26). All of these glorious doctrines come from the history of Mark 15:37, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.”
However, Mark tells us of three things of this time at Jesus’ death, speaks about the curtain, the centurion, and the circle of women.
The Curtain (38)
Mark explains that the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Mark is not merely making a historical statement this is one rich in theological significance. The curtain was what separated the Holy place from the holy of Holies in the temple.
And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy” (Exodus 26:31–33).
The Most Holy was where the Ark was placed, and only once a year the High Priest would enter. This was a great process of purification and sacrifices and offerings. He would go in and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, which is the place between the two cherubim on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Often they would ties a piece of rope around the foot of the high priest because they were fearful if he died no one could enter to collect his body. Now when we talk of a curtain, we are not speaking of a small dinky shower curtain you get at the dollar store, but one this big curtain. Roughly 60’ by 30’, and Jewish historians said it was about 4” thick. This curtain represented two things, the space of the Holy of Holies, which was representative of the Presence of God. But now Through Christ’s death, he would not only dwell with his people but in his people through the Holy Spirit. And secondly, it separated the unclean and unholy from the holiness of God. Yet now, through Christ’s death, and his union with his people they are made holy, spotless, and sinless.
But also note how Mark tells us that the curtain tore from the top to the bottom. From heaven to earth, not earth to heaven. That God made the way for his people to enter not that man has made a way to God. The author of Hebrews explains this perfectly (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), in Chapter 9, I encourage you to study this while thinking about the Gospel of Mark.
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:11–14)
The Centurion is one of the great examples of Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark. As Mark has asked the question, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” This unnamed centurion is the only human who utters this phrase. Peter in his confession at Caesarea Philippi, says, “You are the Christ.” However, Mark does not tell us what Matthew’s gospel tells us, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mark, has these words come out of the mouth of a Centurion soldier watching Jesus die? Remember Mark 1:1, the thesis statement which Mark told us at the very beginning, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Here the centurion is the one who speaks of Jesus as the Son of God. Again, Mark shows that the Blind are the ones who see Jesus. And here it is not the religious leaders who should have known who Jesus was because they had the scriptures. But this Centurion soldier professes Jesus as the Son of God. As Mark writes to a majority gentile audience in Rome, he points out that it is a roman soldier who believes. Most likely seeking to stir the hearts of those who hear this gospel, asking the question, “who do you say that Jesus is?”
The Circle of Women
Lastly, Mark highlights the circle of women who are present at Jesus’ death. Interestingly, this is the first time we specifically met these women in Mark’s gospel. Mark tells us that they followed Jesus since his ministry in Galilee, and came up with him when he came to Jerusalem. However, we have no mention of them specifically during this time. We hear more about the twelve disciples, Peter, James, and John than these three women, the two Marys, and Salome. However, all the other disciples have fled and scattered. Peter denied Jesus, but these three women watched his crucifixion. John tells us that he was there (John 19:26-27), however, Mark does not point this out to us. Mark begins another one of his Markan Sandwiches by that the women who saw Jesus die, as eyewitnesses were also the women who saw him following the resurrection. You have here three witnesses (plus the centurion who confirms his death) see not only his death but also the resurrected body. Now Mark does seem to highlight some form of distance between the women and Jesus (Mark 15:40), which I also think he emphasizes their fear and trembling in the second portion of the Markan sandwich (Mark 16:1-8). Which we will study in a couple of weeks.
In all of this, we see a key portion of the Gospel message but not the whole gospel message. We know that day is but for a moment. We know that Sunday is coming. But that does not mean we should overlook the significance of this day. Mark tells us of the history and other theological truths, and the other authors of the Scripture tell us of additional theologically rich truths. However, they need to be personal theological truths. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” Do you believe that he died, great, do you believe he died in accordance with the Scriptures? Terrific. Yet we do not merely want to know history or theology, it needs to be personal. Did he die for your sins? Is he your savior? Your anchor. Your Payment. Your redeemer. Your Lord. Your Rest. Your high priest. This is the question everyone needs to ask and answer. We all need that reminder. We say it often, Christ died. But we need to grasp the glorious truth, Christ died we died. Christ rose from the dead, we are now alive in him. As the great hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander, “There is a Green Hill Far Away” says,
There is a green hill far away,
without a city wall,
where the dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.
We may not know, we cannot tell,
what pains he had to bear;
but we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.
He died that we might be forgiv’n,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heav’n,
saved by his precious blood.
There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin;
he only could unlock the gate
of heav’n, and let us in.