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Matthew 27:45-66; Mark 15:33-47;    Listen Podcast
Luke 23:44-56; John 19:28-42

In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:

Darkness in the middle of the day! (Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

Matthew 27
Mark 15
Luke 23
John 19
45 ¶ Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
47 ¶ Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”
48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
49 ¶ The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”
50 ¶ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
33 ¶ Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
35 ¶ Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!”
36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”
37 ¶ And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
44 ¶ Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.
47 ¶ So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
48 ¶ And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.
49 But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
28 ¶ After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”
29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.
30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

It is passover day, Nisan 14. See the discussion in the box to the right of this text for a full discussion of the significance of this day.

John doesn't mention the darkness in the middle of the day; Matthew, Mark and Luke do state that "there was darkness over the whole land." This darkness lasted from 12:00 noon (the sixth hour) until 3:00 p.m. How did they explain that? At the conclusion of the three hours of darkness, Jesus expresses the essence of the crucifixion when he took upon himself the sin debt of the whole world and says, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" [Quoted by Jesus from Psalm 22:1, see notes] Jesus had taken our sins upon himself and was, at that moment, viewed by God as the greatest sinner to have ever lived - not for his own sins, but for ours. With one more statement from the cross recorded in Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46 and John 19:30, Jesus "gave up His spirit." Matthew and Mark do not specify the last statement made by Jesus, but Luke records Jesus as saying, "into Your hands I commit My spirit" (taken from Psalm 31:5, see notes), and John further records Jesus saying, "It is finished." So, Jesus died around 3:00 p.m. on Nisan 14, the Passover day.

By taking the accounts of all four Gospel writers, we are able to surmise this chronological order of events for those last three hours on the cross:

Scholars have researched extra-biblical documents to attempt to understand why Jesus was given the vinegar to drink at this point. Many have suggested that the "vinegar" was the cheap sour wine the legionnaires drank. While Jesus did receive this drink just seconds before his death, he had refused a similar offer earlier (Matthew 27:34, Mark 15:23 - see notes). That previous vinegar offering was mixed with other ingredients, presumably to lessen the suffering. We infer from that refusal that Jesus did not want to lessen the pain of his sacrificial suffering on the cross. However, just after receiving this drink, Jesus utters his last words and death follows immediately.

Naturally, the Jewish leaders were pleased to see Jesus disposed of at Roman hands. Since the trials had all taken place through the night, it is likely that most of the people who had listened to Jesus teach in the days leading up to the crucifixion thought that this crucifixion was completely a Roman project. The Roman centurion's reaction to the crucifixion in Luke 23:47 is noteworthy, "So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, 'Certainly this was a righteous Man!'" Moreover, we see others come to the cross in verse 48, "And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned." As they "beat their breasts," it was an indication of mourning as seen with the praying publican in Luke 18:13 (see notes) where it says of him, "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'"

That big ol' curtain in the temple ripped (Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41)

Matthew 27
Mark 15
51 ¶ Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 ¶ So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 ¶ And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,
56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
38 ¶ Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”
40 ¶ There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,
41 who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

Between the Most Holy Place (aka Holy of Holies) and the Holy Place of the temple was a big thick curtain that separated them. At the death of Jesus, that curtain was supernaturally torn in half - presumably as a result of an earthquake at that moment. Actually, John makes no mention of this at all; Luke only mentions it in passing in verse 23:45. However Matthew and Mark specifically deal with this event along with the exact timing of when it took place. That's a very symbolic incident. You will recall that only the High Priest was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies. The ripping of that curtain down the middle completely into two halves represented the end of the Aaronic priesthood. Today, Jesus is our High Priest. Matthew goes on to make some comments about an incident that takes place after Christ's resurrection in 27:52-54. If you're interested, see the discussion about these verses by looking at the notes on Ephesians 4:1-16 - click here. The miracles surrounding the death of Jesus caused the Roman centurion looking on to say, "Truly this was the Son of God."

Incidentally, Caiaphas (the High Priest) had violated Mosaic Law earlier that day (Matthew 26:65, see notes) when he rent his garment in frustration at the questioning of Jesus. This was a violation of Leviticus 21:10 (see notes) regarding the High Priest, "He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes." Perhaps the two incidences together serve to demonstrate that Caiaphas' act declared the end to the Aaronic priesthood while the ripping of the curtain marks the beginning of the priesthood of Jesus Christ as our redeemer. Today the temple of God is not a physical structure of building materials, but is, instead, individual Believers (I Corinthians 3:16-17, see notes; I Corinthians 6:19-20, see notes).

Breaking their legs (John 19:31-37)

John 19
31 ¶ Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him.
33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.
34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.
36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”
37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins at sundown. It's 3:00 p.m., and the Jews are concerned with having Jesus off the cross and buried before the High Sabbath begins. Many people have mistakenly thought that the Sabbath day that followed the crucifixion was the regular Saturday sabbath, but verse 31 specifically states that it was "a high day," a reference to the special Sabbath of the Jewish festival which begins at sundown on Nisan 15. Therefore, contrary to traditional thought, Jesus was crucified on a Thursday - not Friday. So, here's the sequence: Thursday was the Passover day, Nisan 14. In Judaism, Nisan 14 was a regular work day and Christ was crucified on Passover day. Jesus and his disciples had observed the Passover meal the night before after sundown at the beginning of Nisan 14. On Thursday (still Nisan 14, Passover day) Jesus was crucified. Jesus must be removed from the cross before the special Sabbath day which begins on Nisan 15, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6, see notes). Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 12:40 (see notes), "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Therefore, it is obvious and indisputable that Jesus was not crucified on Friday. A Friday crucifixion ignores the Feast of Unleavened Bread and only gives Jesus two nights before his resurrection.

The breaking of the legs (recorded by John only) was probably to keep those being crucified from lifting themselves up with their legs so that they could expand their lungs for air intake. It was not necessary to break the legs of Jesus when they saw that he was already dead. John relates it with Old Testament prophecy. The bones of the Passover lamb were left unbroken (Exodus 12:46, see notes). The prophetic significance of the pierced side is referred to in Zechariah 12:10 (see notes), where it is related to the final manifestation of the Lord to Israel.

Regarding the piercing of Jesus' side with a spear, the Expositor's Bible Commentary explains:

One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with his spear, probably to see whether there would be any reaction. The flow of “blood and water” has been variously explained. Ordinarily dead bodies do not bleed because there is no action of the heart to produce arterial pressure. One suggestion is that since the body was erect, the flow was due to gravity and that the crassamentum (the heavy, red corpuscles) and the serum (the yellowish white aqueous part) of the blood had already begun to separate. Another is that either the stomach or the lungs contained water that flowed with the blood.

Jesus is buried (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

Matthew 27
Mark 15
Luke 23
John 19
57 ¶ Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.
58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.
59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.
42 ¶ Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,
43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
44 Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.
45 So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.
46 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.
50 ¶ Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man.
51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God.
52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.
54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.
55 ¶ And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.
56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
38 ¶ After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.
39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

A rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph went to Pilate and begged for Jesus' body. We don't know very much about Joseph, but Matthew and John tell us that he was rich while Mark and Luke tell us that he was a "council member," indicating that he was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, a point further substantiated by Luke when he says in verse 51, "He had not consented to their decision and deed." That would indicate that he did not support the Sanhedrin decision to turn Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion. He may not have even been notified during the night of the illegal trials that were being held. Joseph buried him in his own sepulcher. Nicodemus (a prominent Jewish leader from John 3, see notes) came also and brought the embalming materials. Nicodemus is mentioned favorably also in John 7:50 (see notes); he only gets named in John's Gospel. They bound Jesus in burial linen and placed him in the tomb. It's worth noting here that Isaiah had prophesied the burial of Jesus in the tomb of a man of wealth in Isaiah 53:9 (see notes), "And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth."

You just can't be too careful (Matthew 27:62-66)

Matthew 27
62 ¶ On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate,
63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’
64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 ¶ Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”
66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

Only Matthew records the actions of the Jewish leaders after the burial. They were afraid that the disciples might come and take the body of Jesus away, thus creating the impression that he had resurrected. Therefore, they wanted guards posted around the tomb to make certain of its security. Pilate declines their request for Roman guards, but allows them to use their own Temple guards for the task.