He hung there for several hours slowly suffocating without complaining about the excruciating pain but then something happened that changed everything. Having taken upon Himself all the sins of mankind, He actually became the physical embodiment of sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The Father could no longer bear to look at Him and turned away. As He did He took the light from the world and at noon it became like night.
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos 8:9) Friends, this was not a normal eclipse. The average eclipse lasts 8 minutes or less. The Good Friday eclipse lasted 3 hours and was observed far away including the city of Rome.
Separation from His Father is something Jesus had never experienced and could not have anticipated, and it was so much worse than the physical pain that He finally cried out in anguish.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Psalm 22, written 1000 years earlier, is a first person account of what it feels like to be crucified and contains several details specific to the Lord’s ordeal.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:14-18)
Finally, after spending 6 hours in a consuming fog of pain that none of us will ever experience, He died. In the last act of His life, He asked for and received a drink of wine. He did this knowing that the work He had come to do had been completed. The Scriptures had been fulfilled. Having paid the price for our sins He knew the Kingdom of God had come to Earth. The drink of wine He took is our proof of this because He had sworn not to drink of the fruit of the vine again until it did (Luke 22:18). Then He said, “It is finished” and died (John 19:28-30). The price for all the sins of mankind had been paid in full. Light returned to the Earth.
A few hours later, the Chief Priests asked Pilate to allow the soldiers to hasten the deaths of the men being crucified. At sunset the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin and it was a special Sabbath on which no work could be done (Exodus 12:16). They wanted the men dead and off their crosses before the Sabbath began. Since crucifixion is ultimately a death by suffocation, breaking the men’s legs would prevent even their limited breathing and they would quickly die. When the soldiers came to Jesus He was already dead so they didn’t break His legs, but stabbed Him in the heart instead.
“(The Passover Lamb)must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. (Exodus 12:46)
A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:19-20)
Typically, crucified men were denied burial. Their dead bodies were simply thrown on the city’s garbage dump where wild dogs consumed them. But one of the richest men in the area petitioned Pilate for the body of Jesus and laid it in his own tomb near the site of the crucifixion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9)
But that was not the end of it. Three days and three nights later, before His body even began to decompose, He rose from the grave, fully and eternally alive.
You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Psalm 16:10)
It was proof positive that His death had paid the full penalty due for the sins of mankind. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It was also the unmistakable sign of Jonah. He was Israel’s Messiah.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)
On the night of His arrest, Jesus had prayed that if there was any other way to redeem mankind, He wanted to be released from His commitment to die for us. Then He prayed that not His will but the Father’s will be done. (The Hebrew word translated knowledge above also means perception or discernment. The Lord perceived that His Father’s will was correct and chose to follow it rather than His own.)
This passage from Isaiah shows us that there was no other way. It was the Father’s will for the Son to die so we could live. But it was also His will that the Son be resurrected, because without the resurrection there would be no proof that they had been successful in redeeming us. This is why Paul said we have to believe in our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead in order to be saved (Romans 10:9). The Resurrection is proof that all our sins have been taken away. The fact that He conquered death is proof that we will too. Therefore, belief in a bodily resurrection from the dead is absolutely essential to our salvation.
Writing to the Ephesians Paul said, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21).
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7)
The resurrection is the synergistic combination of power and love. Greater than the Creation or the Exodus, which required only power; greater even than the birth of the Messiah, which required only love; it’s God’s crowning achievement. Resurrection Sunday was nothing less than the greatest day in the history of human existence. He is risen! Kristos anesti!