Matthew 27:45-66 Part 4


Before we go on to verses fifty-one and beyond, let’s spend just a few more minutes with the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  Although I’m not even going to attempt to answer some of the questions here, we still need to approach Him… as close as we dare.  The Church is to suffer with Him and for Him (that’s a part of who we are and what we are); therefore the need to enter in to His suffering… to whatever extent we can.  While the Church suffers, the Kingdom is extended… and we are participants in that suffering because we are members of His Church.  So we step up there to His cross with fear… and we look cautiously into what has been revealed by the Spirit.

It was only John who reports the sixth Word from the cross… “It is finished.”  And Luke alone the seventh… “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit.”  Matthew and Mark both abbreviate by simply commenting on His expiration… “He yielded the spirit.”  And they report that He did so “with a mighty shout.”

Now, the incomprehensibility of what did occur on the cross that day is centered, for the most part, in the three hours of darkness during which God abandoned and forsook Jesus the Christ… and in His “yielding the spirit”, i.e. the death of Jesus the Christ.

This is where we want to spend a few more minutes trying to understand as much as we can.  But, as we already know, we will necessarily be left thirsting for more.

You will remember that it was in Gethsemane that our Lord began to be forsaken by God.  He was near death then; and He was ministered to by angels in order to hold Him together and preserve Him for more wrath… preserve Him for more punishment.  God had said – save Him until I have complete justice… save Him until it is finished!

It was “forsakenness” – the abandonment – that was so dreaded… and which was the source of His suffering and pleading and bloody sweat.

You also remember Psalm twenty-two, from which Jesus quotes the first and last verses from the cross.  First it was, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  And then, at the end of the three hours of darkness He said, “It is finished.”

In between those two cries (in Psalm twenty-two) is the most vivid description of going “down” under the flood… going “under” and down into the deep and being abandoned into the abyss.  This is the Older Testament metaphorical vocabulary of “forsakenness”.  That dark, deep descent into “hades” is what is so feared by the saints of old.

We don’t know what it is to be forsaken by God.  Further, we don’t know what it is that Jesus was forsaken by God!  And hopefully no one here will ever know what it is.  But it is hades.  It is hell.  It is a state of absolute repugnance and repudiation.  It means that God, Who upholds all by the Word of His Power, and Who is perfect holiness and goodness, and Who is so repulsed by the sin and the uncleanness, “absents” Himself from that person.  God, Who is Light and Life, and Who causes all things to be in existence, rejects and forsakes.  And we do not know what devastation occurs in the absence of God!  We don’t know what it means to sink into the abyss of forsakenness!  We only know that it is the “ultimate” fear – to be feared above all fears.

But Jesus did that.  He Who was without sin, and perfectly in obedience to His Father, received that punishment for the sin of the world.  He was forsaken… repugnant and repulsive, He was repudiated by God and delivered unto devastation under a flood of darkness and judgment.

And it was finished.  He was completely humiliated, completely forsaken, completely devastated, suffered the “descent” into hell (where the three hours qualitatively finished the punishment for us).  Then upon the exit of darkness He cried out for a drink in order to prepare Himself to give His life.  Death did not take Him… He, Himself, yielded the Spirit to the Father.  As the Royal High Priest, He dutifully gave the sacrifice of His life to the Father.

Now, twice His death is called “yielding the spirit”, or “giving up the spirit”.  And in speaking to the thief on the cross He said, “This day you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke twenty-three, verse forty-three).  In verse forty-six Like says that Jesus yielded the spirit into His Father’s hands.  In John seventeen Jesus prayed that The Father would now glorify Him with His glory which He had with Him before the world was.

So the High Priest performed His duty and offered the sacrifice to the Father.  And “entered into”, or “returned into” His glory.  He surrendered Himself “essentially”… He gave Himself up completely.  He did it.  He caused it.  It was self-determined.  You see, nothing is more relevant to the act of a servant then to yield the spirit into the Father’s hands.  It is risk-free!

Now, His surrendering to the Father is a reference to His descent into hell, isn’t it?  One follows from the other.  First there is a “descent”; and then there is an “ascent”.  The second follows the first and is in reference to the first.

This comes out clearly in the tenses and “moods” of the verbs used by the Evangelists.  “It is finished” is written in a “perfected” sense.  He is utterly emptied… without form… having entered the lowest shaft of degradation… having received the full force of punishment for sin and the curse.  Forsakenness is “perfected”.

But “…into Thy hands I commit My Spirit…” is in the “imperfect”!  In His surrender to the Father He begins His ascent to glory.  There is no “perfected completion” here – but “beginning”… and “on-going”.

How perfectly He loved the Father and the Father’s people!  He surrendered Himself to the One Who had devastated Him.  The devastation was elemental… fundamental; His surrender is also that.  It was a radical surrender.  It was a complete gift… an indispensable gift… an extreme act of willingness.

What can we say about the death of Jesus Christ… God the Son?  Can we say something about it?  Yes….  Can we say much about it?  No….  No…. Not much.

What was it that was “finished” in the three hours of judgment?  “Forsakenness” was finished.  Was the humiliation finished?  No.  He had yet to “die” in the sight of men.  He had suffered the “second death” in His abandonment and descent into hades; now He had to die the “first death” before men.

Was God’s Justice finished?  No.  Penalizing Justice – God’s Holy Law – had to be finished.  It required death for sin.  And the Law required the death of the sacrifice for atonement for sin.

Before men… in the sight of men… the final humiliation and complete justice must needs be accomplished.  It was of necessity!  Therefore it was Revelation.  It was Revelation of the Law which demanded payment.  Therefore Christ permitted everything to be taken from Him.  Every jot and tittle of His Father’s Law-Word had to be satisfied; every aspect of the ceremonial Law-Word completed – fulfilled; therefore Jesus had to give… everything.  God’s Justice demanded it!

There must be a second “humanity”.  The first Adam died; the Second is a life-giving Spirit.  The first Adam sinned; was cursed; and died.  The second Adam did not sin; was cursed; and died!

You must see the “reversal”!  All men suffer the first death… and then the second occurs – the abandonment and judgment of God.  But Jesus suffered the second – first!  And then the first – second!  There is, in the death of Christ, a reversal of the effects of the curse upon Adamic humanity!

It was a necessity that Jesus The God-Man die the death of all humanity in order to restore the Paradise which Adam lost when he sinned against God!  In full view of men, and under the Law imposed by God upon men, the Lord Jesus Christ suffered death – fully Man and fully God – (suffered) in order that there be a new Beginning for man.

One had to die the death for many; a PERFECT One had to die the death for many.  And so we say that Jesus’ death was a perfect substitutionary atonement for the many.

“Into Thy hands I commit My Spirit”, He shouted.  Completely emptied, He bowed His head and expired… willingly giving His life – and His death – to complete the work.

And we must stop right there.  There is more to say about it in the next verses… and with regard to His resurrection; but to say any more here may be going too far.  But be patient.  Many questions will be answered; many more are unanswerable… we’ll do the best we can.


“And lo…” verse fifty-one.  And there’s Matthew’s little word “idou” – lo!  And we know that the apostle is introducing events of great prophetic significance – the “fullness” of which occurred here at the “crux” of history; at the time “aeon” meets “aeon”; at the time that “age” passes into “age”!

At the point of which the wrath of God toward mankind is satiated; at the point of which the fall and the curse is reversed; at the point of which forsakenness and condemnation are “spent” upon the Substitute, and Christ has begun His ascent to glory, and death has “lost its sting”, and mankind is justified; at the point at which all of the sacrificial and ceremonial Law reach their “fullness’ in the Royal High Priest….

At that point “the veil of the temple was rent from above to below into two, and the earth was shaken, and the rocks were split.”

And then Matthew even proceeds to the resurrection of the saints on the third day (verse fifty-three) – and he links that phenomena with these other three…taking it out of its own time and sequence in order to make that connection.  (As you can see, the “sequence” of events is not his aim… but the prophetic significance!)

Here the Lord Jesus Christ yields the Spirit into the hands of the Father; and, at the same time, the great veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom!  What is it that has happened here?

First, here is the original law, given to Moses at Sinai, regarding the veil (Exodus twenty-six, verse thirty-one and following):


“And thou shalt make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen of cunning work; with cherubim shall it be made; and thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.  And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony; and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.  And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.”


The tabernacle was built, and the veil was made, while Israel was in the desert; and later the temple was built in Jerusalem after the same pattern.

But it was the temple that Herod built (and was still being completed at the birth of Jesus) that Josephus describes.  And I would like to read for you his description of the veil that separated the holy place form the holy of holies.  Josephus was describing the “inner” place (as distinct from the “outer” place).  And he said,


“The inner part had golden doors (openings) of fifty-five cubits altitude and sixteen in breadth.  (A cubit is the length of a man’s forearm – about eighteen to twenty inches, so the “opening” was over eighty feet high and over twenty-four feet wide.)

He continues:  “…before these doors (the opening) there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors.  It was a Babylonian curtain; embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful.  Nor was the mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe.  For by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, earth producing the one, and the sea the other.  This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the signs representing living creatures.”  (The cherubim is what he refers to.)


So this man Josephus the historian recognized that the veil that separated the holiest of places from the profane (common) was, itself, an analogy of the universe – the creation of God!  The temple itself was a figure of the universe… on the other side of which (the holy of holies) was the room which was the earthly figure of the glory-cloud Throne-Room of God.

The veil (itself representing the created universe) was the separation between that which was created, and the Creator – Who is wholly Other, Self-existing and Holy.

So the temple and all of its “accoutrements” was a shadowy “figure” of the “real” Throne-Room of God existing “wholly other” from the created realm; and the veil separating the rooms was a “universal” figure of the separation that exists between God and profane (common) creation – especially man and his unclean, cursed human depravity.

At the same time we also must realize that the world was profane; and the ministration of atonement was limited to one people in the world.  And among that people it was limited to one city; and in that city it was limited to one building.  And behind the folds of one magnificent veil in that one building, the figure of God and His Throne-Room was hidden behind the universe! (the veil)

And because of His holiness and His repugnance to sin, only one man – once a year – could enter the shadowy figure of the holy of holies, through the veil (universe), having made sacrifices for all others.  Any approach by any other at any time was met by immediate death.  Although the veil was highly valued and beloved in Jewish culture, there were two terrible words inscribed in the minds of all Israel – NO ADMITTANCE!  You may not approach God in His holy place; He is God, and you are sinful creature!  If you try to approach the Holy One of Israel, you will die.

Just a note here about the Jewish culture and society.  We heard it before.  Along the way – many centuries – there was great perversion of the Scriptures; and a “caste” system was built among the descendants of Levi.  And instead of one, humble, fearful, entrance annually to the “Presence” of God in the holy of holies (to make atonement for the sins of many), the entire priesthood became a noble and proud group – separating themselves from the “common” man.  It was their group, and only their group that was descended from Levi, and that was “good enough” to be admitted through the veil to the holy place.

And it was these men, and their forefathers… along with the elders of the tribes and the pharisee lawyers, who had so perverted the Law and the Prophets, and who had left the nation in such dire condition.

And these men, in their blind arrogance, crucified Messiah when He came.  It was their arrogance by which they hated Him when He “purified” the temple complex; He wasn’t even of the tribe of Levi; he couldn’t even get near the holy place… He wasn’t one of “them”.

And it was their arrogance by which they hated Him when He spoke the Revelation of God to them from the prophets.  He was not an elder!  And He was not a pharisee!  The Scriptures were their domain!  And He presumed to be their teacher!

And it was they, out of such incredible spite, who had Him crucified.  And it was they (many of them) who were working in the temple on Friday… preparing the great sacrifice of Passover.  One of them, probably Caiaphas who was the high priest, was cleansing himself and “donning” the superb robes of the high priesthood and offering sacrifice for himself and the people… one man was preparing himself to enter the holy of holies.

And at three o’clock in the afternoon of Passover day the eighty-foot veil was ripped into two pieces from top to bottom!  The “created universe” of separation between the Throne-Room of God and His creation was torn apart!  The approach to the Creator was “open” to the profane!

It was three o’clock in the afternoon when Jesus said, “Father, into Thy hands I yield My Spirit.”  And He died.  Having suffered the death of Passover, and having completed the atonement, He – the One Man – entered into the Presence of God in the Glory-cloud/Throne-Room of God!  He entered that one time as the obedient Son and Royal High Priest of the Church!

But in the temple (the earthly figure of that reality) there was no longer a veil of separation; there was no longer a “Levitical” priesthood; there was no longer a ceremonial and sacrificial system… for Jesus Christ (not a Levite, but a priest after the order of Melchizedek) had once entered into the holy of holies.  Hebrews chapter nine, twenty-four says:


“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands (which are the figures of the true); but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us….”


And now there is no longer a “universe” of separation between God the Father and His people.

There are several additional things we must hear in connection with Jesus’ death and ascent to glory, but we’re out of time for today.  Next Lord’s Day we’ll hear more about that… and also about the other catastrophic phenomena that occurred at the time of His death.