The cross of Jesus Christ
is the center of everything.
Early in the Gospels we
hear Christ declaring that He set His face
steadfastly toward Jerusalem and the cross. His
entire life was spent in the shadow of the cross.
He was ever eager to go
to the cross because apart from that He could not
fulfill His divine mission.
The cross was perpetually
present to the mind of Christ. It was always in His
heart and on His lips after Peter’s great confession
of Him as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. He
was always moving toward that cross as a Victor, not
a victim. He was always moving toward the ultimate
final victory over sin and death.
It was on His mind as He
spoke to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent
in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be
lifted up: that whoever believes may in Him have
eternal life" (John 3:14). The cross was the only
way Jesus could fulfill His mission. His death was a
vicarious, substitutionary sinner’s death even
though He never experienced sin. He was the sinners’
representative dying in his place.
Why did God choose
crucifixion since it was an unspeakably horrible
death? Cicero was well acquainted with it and said
it was the most cruel and shameful of all
punishments. "Let it never," he said, "come near the
body of a Roman citizen; nay, not even near his
thoughts, or eyes, or ears."
So it pleased the LORD
God to put to grief His Suffering Servant, when He
who knew no sin was made sin for us. Let’s examine
for a few moments the circumstances around the death
AROUND JESUS DEATH (23:44-45)
Luke's arrangement of the
events at Calvary the day Christ died is topical,
not chronological. We get the whole picture when we
examine the death of Christ in all four of the
Gospels. Each writer has selected events that helped
him to explain the message of salvation.
There were six miracles
at Calvary. A miraculous darkness enveloped the
scene for three hours, and the thick curtain in the
Temple was torn from top to bottom like gigantic
hands took hold of it at the top and ripped it
apart. An earthquake rocked Jerusalem and split open
rocks. People came out of their graves after Jesus'
resurrection and entered the city of Jerusalem.
"It was now about the
sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land
until the ninth hour" (Luke 23:44; cf. Matt. 27:45;
The very fact that this
darkness is mentioned shows it must have stood out
in memory as having been of great intensity and an
unforgettable experience. It occurred when least
expected, at high noon, and lasted three hours, not
a few minutes like an eclipse. Besides it was the
time of the full moon at Passover when the darkness
covered the whole land. No one can say the darkness
did not extend over the whole of the daylight half
of the globe. This darkness was in the presence of
the full sun and covered the sun at noonday. All at
once the darkness covered the land and it seems to
have departed just as suddenly. It was not late
afternoon as the sun normally goes down quietly, but
it was a frightful darkness that suddenly dropped
like a thick curtain. It was very extensive
and concentrated like the three days darkness in
Egypt during the plagues preceding the first
Passover. Like that event there is only one
explanation––God. It was a special act of God. It
was as if God put His hand over the sun and blocked
its light for three hours.
The gospel writers say
"darkness" and then everything falls silent for
three intense hours. Even the Divine Sufferer is
silent until just before the darkness ends. Out of
that impenetrable frightening darkness is a shout of
God forsakenness, "My God, my God, why have You
forsaken Me?" The incredible thing is how that
exclusive darkness attached itself to the death of
What did this darkness
mean? The darkness meant judgment, the judgment of
God upon our sins. The punishment was borne by
Jesus, so that He, as our Substitute, suffered the
most intense agony, indescribable woe, and terrible
isolation for our sins. Hell came to Calvary that
day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its
horrors in our stead. He died for you and me that
The judgment of God came
upon our sins that day. Our representative and
substitute died in our place. Jesus Christ the Son
of God was suffering the torments of hell. The Son
of God was dying as the Lamb of God who takes away
the sin of the world. He was enduring the
inconceivable wrath of His Father against our sin.
He was paying our debt.
Darkness is associated
with the judgment of God in the Bible. At the second
coming of Christ we are told that climatic changes
will take place in the heavens. Isaiah 5:30; 60:2;
Joel 2:30, 31; Amos 5:18, 20; Zephaniah 1:14-18;
Matthew 24:29, 30; Acts 2:20; 2 Peter 2:17;
On the cross the agony of
judgment that Jesus was suffering was so intense He
finally uttered the words, "My God, My God, why hast
thou forsaken me?" Jesus was giving His life as a
"ransom" for our sins (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28;
26:28). And God drew the curtains over Calvary so
sinful man could not see the intensity of God
The Temple veil was
Moreover, in the moment
Jesus died the one-inch thick woven loose–hanging
curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy
of Hollies into two rooms was sliced into from top
to bottom. It did not shake to pieces, but was like
a giant hand took hold of it at the top of the veil
and ripped it apart from top to bottom.
The moment Christ died
"the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to
bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were
split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the
saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming
out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered
the holy city and appeared to many" (Matthew
27:51-53). Luke simply says, "the veil of the temple
was torn in two" (Luke 23:45). Referring to the same
event Mark writes, "And Jesus uttered a loud cry,
and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple
was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:37-38).
The rending of the veil occurred at the moment of
God the Father acted, as
any devoted Jewish father standing by His Son's
deathbed would have done renting His garments. This
was a customary Jewish mourning gesture. God tore
the veil as if renting His own outer garment.
This tearing of the veil
happed at three p.m., when the priests were busy in
the temple slaughtering the Passover lambs. Think
for a moment if you had been a Jewish priest
slitting the throats of the lambs preparing for the
Passover that would begin at late evening when the
first star appeared in the distant sky. Perhaps you
would have been throwing incense on the altar at
that precise moment! What if it had been your
Passover lamb that was being slain at that exact
moment? Some of the priests working in the temple
would have been eyewitnesses to this event. That is
probably the reason why "a great many of the priests
one after one were becoming obedient to the faith"
in Jesus Christ as their Savior (Acts 6:7).
Through the death of
Christ the way into the heavenly sanctuary was
opened for all mankind. All may now freely enter in
by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews
6:19; 9:3). "Therefore, brethren, since we have
confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of
Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated
for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and
since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near with a sincere heart in full
assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled
clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed
with pure water" (10:19–22). Now we can experience
an intimate, love relationship with Christ because
His sacrificial death opened a way for every
believer to enter into the holiest "through the
veil" of His flesh. "Therefore let us draw near with
confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may
receive mercy and find grace to help in time of
need" (Hebrews 4:16; Cf. Eph. 2:18-19; 3:11-12).
At that moment the throne
of grace was opened up for all who will believe. The
way into God's presence is now open for all to come
in. Jesus is the only sacrifice needed for us to
have a right relationship with God. However, there
is only one way to enter and that is through the
blood of Jesus (Acts 4:12). The Temple in Jerusalem
was no longer God's dwelling–place. The Temple was
profaned, and consequently abolished by God Himself
when in A. D. 70 the Roman army burned it. From the
day of Pentecost every believer’s body became the
dwelling place of God (1 Cor. 3:16).
graves split open
Matthew tells us that
other things happened. "And behold, the veil of the
temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the
earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were
opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen
asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs
after His resurrection they entered the holy city
and appeared to many" (Matthew 27:51-53).
Josephus (War VI.
299) tells of a quaking in the temple before the
destruction and the Talmud tells of a quaking forty
years before the destruction of the temple.
A. T. Robertson gives
keen insight, "We come back to miracles connected
with the birth of Jesus, God’s Son coming into the
world. If we grant the possibility of such
manifestations of God’s power, there is little to
disturb one here in the story of the death of God’s
Son." The obvious conclusion is the tombs broke open
at Christ’s death when the earthquake rocked
Jerusalem, but the bodies of the saints were not
raised until Christ rose three days later.
Yes, amazing things
happened the day Christ died. But where is the
evidence of His death?
THE CRY OF JESUS AT
HIS DEATH (23:46)
"Father, into Thy
hands I commend my spirit."
The victorious Son
commits His all to His Father. This is what we would
expect of the person who lived the way Jesus did. He
had a perfect trust in the heavenly Father which was
He then addressed His
Father in the final statement from the cross,
"Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Psalm
31:5). Jesus died with a bedtime prayer upon His
lips that every Jewish mother taught her children.
He had learned it in the arms of Mary. Only one word
is added to this verse, "Father." It tells us
how our Lord died: confidently, willingly (John
10:17–18), and victoriously (John 19:30). Barclay
says, "Even on a cross, Jesus died like a child
falling asleep in his father's arms." Moreover,
everyone who knows Jesus as their Savior may die
with the same confidence and assurance (2 Cor.
5:1–8; Phil. 1:20–23).
Jesus was an obedient Son
throughout His life and ministry. Everything that He
said or did can be understood only in the light of
the cross. Calvary is the key to truth. The message
of God centers in His Son on the cross dying for
sinning humanity. Unless we are the instruments of
His will we blunder through our physical existence
without any worthwhile purpose. Jesus repeatedly
tells us He did nothing except in the Father’s will.
"I can do nothing," Jesus said, "on My own
initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is
just, because I do not seek My own will, but the
will of Him who sent Me" (John 5:30). "My Father is
working until now, and I Myself am working. . .
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing
of Himself, unless it is something He sees the
Father doing, whatever the Father does, these things
the Son also does in like manner" (vv. 19-20). Jesus
came to do the Father’s will and on the cross He is
accomplishing the ultimate purpose of His coming to
"Into God's hands" must
go all that we are and all that we have. God
reconciled us to Himself through Christ. 2
Corinthians 5:19 says, "God was in Christ
reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their
trespasses against them . . ." How could He do that?
Paul tells us "for in Christ all the fullness of
Deity dwells in bodily form . . ." (Colossians 2:9).
Jesus died in
obedience to the Father's will.
Jesus breathed His last
breath. He died. The expression "He breathed His
last," or "He gave up His spirit" means "to breath
out, to expire, to die." Geldenhuys explains the
last moments in the death of Jesus were a "calm
restfulness." He had accomplished with satisfaction
what the Father gave Him to do.
The March 21, 1986
edition of the Journal of the American Medical
Association had an article on "The Physical
Death of Jesus Christ." Here is the conclusion by
the author: "Thus it remains unsettled whether Jesus
died of cardiac rupture, or a cardio respiratory
failure, however the important feature may not be
how He died, but whether He died. Clearly the weight
of historical and medical evidence indicates that
Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was
inflicted, and supports the traditional view that
the spear thrust between His right ribs probably
perforated not only the right lung but also the
pericardium and the heart, and thereby insured His
death. Accordingly interpretations based upon the
assumption that Jesus did not die on the Cross
appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge."
The meaning of His death
What was the purpose of
His death? The apostle Peter writes, "you were not
redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold
from your futile way of life inherited from your
forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb
unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1
Peter 1:18, 19).
The blood of Christ is
nothing less than the eternal power of God. The
wonderful truth is that it is the blood of Jesus
that cleanses from all sin and its effects on the
believing sinner. Instead of lambs it is the blood
of Jesus that is offered on the altar for our
The Bible tells us, "The
wages of sin is death." It is the punishment of sin.
The blood, the death, of the innocent lamb on the
altar was a covering for sin. It atoned for sin. The
sinner placed his hands on the head of the sacrifice
and confessed his sins, thus laying his sins on the
victim. The death of the substitute was reckoned as
the death or punishment for the worshiper.
The blood was thus the
life given up to death for the satisfaction of the
law of God, and in obedience to His command. Sin was
so entirely covered and atoned for, it was no longer
reckoned as that of the transgressor. He was
forgiven. Based upon the sacrifice of Jesus the LORD
God could declare the believing sinner acquitted.
It is not just that Jesus
died, but that He died as our personal Savior. His
death was not the death of just anyone. He was God’s
lamb dying for a specific purpose. Therefore, His
blood is the only cleansing for sin.
But all these sacrifices
and offerings were only types, and shadows, till the
Lord Jesus came. His blood was the reality to which
these types pointed.
His blood was of infinite
worth, because it carried His soul or life. It was
none other than the Son of God who died. In holy
obedience to the Father’s will the Son of God
subjected Himself to the penalty of the broken law,
by pouring out His soul unto death. By that death,
not only was the penalty paid in full, but the law
was satisfied completely, and the Father glorified.
Therefore God could be "just and the justifier of
the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26b). His
blood atoned for sin, and thus made it powerless. It
does this by cleansing us of all sin and guilt (1
John 1: 7-10). It has a marvelous power for removing
sin, cleansing and sanctifying.
The Gospels each reminds
us that the death of Jesus was a victorious death.
The only death Jesus could die was a vicarious
voluntary death. No one could take His life. He
voluntarily gave it up as a representative of the
sinner. Only the blood of Jesus can satisfy the law
and the righteousness of God. No sinner can do that.
Jesus died the only kind
of death that was able to satisfy the justice of God
and to save men (John 10:11, 15, 17–18).
Jesus did not yield to
death in weakness. Jesus summoned death like a
chariot or limousine to serve His purposes! It is
significant the inspired writer does not say, "He
died," but "He gave up the spirit." NASB reads, "He
breathed His last." He breathed out his life,
clearly indicating the voluntary nature of the act.
Augustine had a good
understanding of this great truth. He said, "He gave
up His life because He willed it, when He willed it,
and as he willed it." No other person has ever done
that. You and I don’t have that kind a choice about
matters of life and death.
The word translated
"commend," or "commit" could be translated "I render
up, or lay down." It means, "to deposit with
another, to give him charge, to commit." Luke
noted that Jesus’ death occurred because He willed
it. Breathing His last (Luke 23:46), He willingly
and voluntarily gave up His life (John 10:15,
One of the amazing things
about His death was the timing. The death of Jesus
was unusually quick. Most of the victims of
crucifixion were left on the cross for a week to die
a slow horrible death of hunger, thirst,
dehydration, insanity and infection in the blazing
Palestinian sun. When Jesus knew the payment was
paid in full He chose to give up His spirit. He was
sovereign in His own death. He died like no other
man. Jesus chose the timing of His own death to the
Only the death of
Jesus could satisfy the righteousness of God.
Jesus, as the High Priest
on that last Passover Day, was offering Himself to
God as the bleeding sacrifice to atone for man’s
sin. His cross is the altar of the sacrifice. His
body is the bloody Sacrifice. Jesus is the Great
High priest offering up Himself as the sacrifice
that covers our every sin. By His voluntary death,
this Priest carried His sacrifice into the Holy of
Hollies of God’s presence; and with these words
offered it to God. The deed is done, finished,
Year after year, for
centuries, the Jewish priests had been doing it.
Thousands upon thousands of lambs had been slain.
Little did they realize that very day just outside
the walls of the city, a different kind of Priest
had appeared, with a Lamb that brought bloody
sacrifice forever to an end. Jesus, the Son of God,
offers His broken body, without spot or blemish, to
God. He pours out precious and efficacious blood at
the foot of the cross. The veil of the temple is
rent in two from top to the bottom. God Almighty is
satisfied! His wrath is propitiated through the
blood of Jesus. He comes from the secret place,
saying, "It is enough! No more priests, but Jesus!
No more blood, but His blood! The work is done!"
The New Testament has
much to say about the sacrifice of Christ. Hebrews
7:22-27; 9:24-28; Romans 5:6, 8; 6:10; 8:34; 2
At Calvary's altar, the
crucified Priest offered Himself, the Lamb of God,
to take away the sin of the world.
TESTIMONY AT JESUS' DEATH (23:47-48)
The Roman centurion in
charge of the execution was a professional executor
who had never seen anything like this before. He
watched how Jesus conducted Himself in the midst of
all the hostility and hatred. In His last moments
Jesus’ loud cry of "restful resignation" made a
profound never to be forgotten affect upon that
soldier. It was a "voluntary surrender" of His life
into the Father’s hands. This was a cry of
The centurion testified,
"Certainly this was a righteous [innocent] man, the
Son of God" (Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47). He was greatly
impressed by the darkness, the earthquake (Matt.
27:54), and certainly the manner in which Jesus
suffered and died. Never had he heard a victim
praying for his enemies. This hardened Roman soldier
must have been shocked when Jesus shouted and then
instantly died, for victims of crucifixion often
lingered for days and did not have the strength to
Praising God (v.
The Roman centurion had
seen men die, but none like this. Spurgeon suggests
this King commanded death to come to His service and
convey His spirit to God. Never had the world seen
anything like this before. Jesus ordered Rome’s
death chariot to carry Him back home! From that
moment on death became the doorway and vehicle to
heaven. Jesus transformed the Roman symbol of the
power of death and made it His servant by using the
very thing it stood for––death and despair––to
accomplish His eternal purpose of victory over
A. T. Robertson notes the
centurion, "Began to glorify . . . or kept on
glorifying." He kept it up. The Roman centurion
began to praise or glorify God probably by
acknowledging the righteousness of God and he
continued to do so (Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39; Lk.
Reaction of the
The crowds’ reaction is
seen in verse forty–eight. Luke describes the people
slowly winding their way back to Jerusalem. They
must have said to themselves over and over again in
deep agonizing conviction of their evil party as
they slowly walked, "We did this!" "We did this!"
"How could we have been party to this?" Cf. Acts
2:36; 1 Thess. 2:14, 15. Returning to the city they
began to beat their breasts in self-reproach. Lenski
says, "They came to witness a show; they left with
feelings of woe." They knew they were guilty before
God and deserved death (Rom. 6:23). They must have
gone away sounding like the tax collector in Luke
18:13, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner par
excellence!" It was a time of mourning and lament
for the common people who were present.
The burial of Jesus
All four Gospel writers
present details of the death and burial of Jesus.
His death and burial is a historical fact.
When Jesus died, Joseph
immediately went to Pilate for permission to have
the body, and Nicodemus probably stayed at Calvary
to keep watch. They tenderly took Jesus from the
cross, quickly carried Him to the garden, washed the
body, and wrapped it with the spices. It was a hasty
temporary burial. They would return after the
Sabbath on the first day of the week to do the job
properly. When they laid Jesus into the new tomb,
they fulfilled Isaiah 53:9 and they kept the Romans
from throwing His body on the garbage dump in
Gehenna outside the city. Condemned criminals lost
the right to proper burial; however God saw to it
that His Son’s body was buried with dignity and
It was important that the
body be buried properly, for God would raise Jesus
from the dead. If there were any doubt about His
death or burial, that could affect the message and
the ministry of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1–8). The
resurrection of Jesus caught everyone by surprise.
It was not an anticipated event. No one believed
Jesus when He said He would rise from the dead. They
spiritualized the prophecy or simply could not grasp
the possibility. Every one of the disciples was
shocked three days later when He was raised. They
thought that was the end when Jesus died and was
What will you do
The most discerning
people who mingled about the cross that day were not
the Jewish religious leaders, but a criminal and a
Roman centurion. The executed criminal died that day
with great assurance of eternal life, and the
centurion spent the rest of his life praising God.
Here were two converts, saved by grace through faith
in Jesus Christ!
Can you imagine with me
what it will be like when Jesus Christ returns and
those who have heard the message of the cross and
have chanted down through the ages, "Crucify Him!
Crucify Him!" And then when they see His face will
only beat their breasts and scream "We did this!" We
are guilty. We have sinned. We have done Him wrong.
We have rejected Him! "For all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God." "The wages of sin is
death." "The soul that sins will surely die." "How
shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"
At that time it will be
too late. It will be even worse than when these
people came back from the ugly scene at Golgotha and
deep under the convicting power of God realized they
had crucified a righteous and holy God!
Now is the day of
salvation. Jesus went to the cross and died for you.
Your sin debt has been paid in fully by Jesus
Christ. He died for you on the cross. God can now
pardon and forgive you of every sin and bestow on
you the free gift of eternal life. The reason He can
do that is because Jesus was obedient to the
Father’s will, even unto death. Now a righteous and
holy God can offer us forgiveness through His grace.
Jesus Christ has already done everything for you. By
offering up His Son, God is able to make sons and
daughters of all who respond to this work by faith.
"Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson
He washed it white as snow."
God has swung the door of
eternal life wide open for you to come to Him, even
as you read this. Put your trust in the finished
work of Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther was going
through terrible periods of depression. Luther
seemed to see a repulsive and wicked form inscribing
the record of his own sins and transgressions on the
walls of his room. The condemning hand wrote down
the sinful thoughts, the sinful words, the evil
deeds, the sins of omission and commission, secret
sins, open sins––there seemed to be no end to the
list of his sins. Luther bowed his head in prayer.
When he looked up again, the writer had paused and
was facing him. "You have forgotten just on thing!"
said Luther. "And that?" queried his tormenter.
"Take your pen once more and write cross it all:
'The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from
all sin!'" At the mention of the blood of Jesus, the
evil spirit vanished and the walls were clean!
All you need to do is
trust Him. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you
shall be saved." "Whosoever shall call upon the name
of the Lord shall be saved."
The apostle Paul wrote,
"if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and
believe in your heart that God raised Him from the
dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person
believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the
mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Romans
All we need to do is call
upon His name and believe on what He did for us on
the cross. His sacrifice is all sufficient to
forgive us our sins and cloth us in Christ’s
righteousness. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and
you shall be saved."
Complete Series on 7 Last Saying of Christ
Title: Luke 23:46
"Father into Thy Hands"
Series: Seven Last Saying