Title: Forsaken by God, Access Granted
Text: Matthew 27:45-56
FCF: We often think that we can approach God on our own merits.
Prop: Jesus’ death changed everything about how we access God, so we must depend on Jesus to access the Father.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 27. Last week, we saw the shame that Jesus bore for us from men. Shame deserved for a criminal. But today, we will see the culmination of Christ’s work on earth. It has all led to this moment. This is the turning point of the book of Matthew.
I’m in Matthew 27 and I’ll start in verse 45, I am reading from the NET which you can follow in the pew bible on page 1129 or in whatever version you have. If you don’t own a bible, take the one in the pew.
This is it. Everything changes after this. Are you ready?
I.) Jesus took our place on the cross, so we must depend on Jesus to access the Father. (45-50)
a. [Slide 2] 45 – Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land.
i. Matthew mentions this detail in passing, as does every other gospel writer.
ii. I’d imagine for them, the miraculousness of it was not met with skepticism but awestruck humility.
iii. For our rational western minds we want to try to let the bible be right but also explainable by human means. This isn’t necessarily wrong. I have recently come to the conclusion that God intervening and breaking the rules of the world He set up is less wonderous than His providential hand guiding things to happen to fulfill His purposes for a specific occasion. That seems more wondrous. Still, combining what we hold as scientific and astrological truth, this is quite a tall order. Let me explain why.
1. The darkness cannot be the result of a solar eclipse by the moon for a couple reasons.
a. It says darkness. In a solar eclipse it doesn’t actually get dark. Darker, but not dark.
b. Nisan 14 would mean that that evening would be a full moon, and a solar eclipse from the moon is only possible on a new moon.
2. The darkness could be the result of an asteroid or other celestial mass coming between earth and the sun, but…
a. Solar eclipses last, what 8 minutes? How big would this thing have to be to last 3 hours?
b. Possibly a gigantic celestial mass coming toward the earth and just missing it would last for 3 hours? But that seems even less likely.
3. Now whether you see this as God’s divine hand covering the sun for 3 hours or God’s hand guiding an asteroid of the perfect size, shape, speed, trajectory and angle to keep the light from shining for 3 hours. Either way – this is clearly God’s work.
iv. And what is God communicating with this act? From an Old Testament perspective – we’ve seen darkness covering a land before. Where have we seen that? The plagues of Egypt. Sudden and complete miraculous darkness is the harbinger of God’s Judgment. And indeed, as Jesus prophesied, it will one day be the harbinger of God’s ultimate judgment as well.
v. But who is God judging? The answer may surprise you.
b. [Slide 3] 46 – At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, (aee-LEE, aee-LEE/ leh-MAW/
sah-BOCK-tahn-ee)“Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani” that is, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”
i. What day is this again? The day of preparation – Nisan 14.
ii. Where are the chief priests? They are gone from every single gospel writer’s narrative until they conspire to make sure that the disciples don’t tamper with Jesus’ body. And they do that, the next day.
iii. Where do they go for the rest of the day?
iv. They are busy killing Passover lambs. And what time do you suppose they started doing this?
v. 3 in the afternoon. How interesting then, that as they kill the Passover lambs, the lamb of God is being offered up as a sin offering for many.
vi. But what does Jesus say? aee-LEE, aee-LEE / leh MAW/ sah-BOCK-tahn- ee
1. Eli is Hebrew
2. Lema and Sabachthani are both Aramaic and Hebrew. In other words, Aramaic speaking people would have understood “why have you forsaken me” but not necessarily the name.
3. We’ll cover this saying and perhaps why Jesus said it this way in a moment.
vii. But what could it mean?
viii. First of all, this is a direct quote from Psalm 22:1.
1. A Messianic Psalm of David about an undisclosed time in David’s life when he is surrounded by enemies that are pressing him on all sides seeking to take his life. David expresses his confidence that the Lord will deliver him and promises to give thanks to God when he does deliver him.
2. Does the whole content of this psalm need to be crammed into Jesus’ words here? Is He praying the whole prayer of David?
3. Or do we only take the words He says, and discard the rest.
4. It is very difficult to be conclusive, and for me I guess I don’t really have a problem with either so long as we do not see deliverance as God rescuing Him from physical death, but rather from death itself. In other words, God’s rescue comes after He dies, lifting Him to give Him a name above every other.
ix. Secondly, what is the significance of Jesus saying, My God?
1. When Jesus was speaking directly to God throughout Matthew, and indeed throughout the New Testament, He always called Him Father. Or My Father.
2. A Shift from my Father to My God seems to indicate distance. A lack of closeness. And it is not a distance of Jesus from God, but God from Him. Notice He says “My God”. And why have YOU forsaken ME?
3. The distance is on God’s side. True, God promises to never leave or forsake, but in every context in which this is said, it is predicated on the obedience and faithfulness of the one to whom the promise is given.
4. But wait a second – Jesus didn’t disobey right? Right… He was perfect. Just keep all this in the back of your mind for now.
x. Thirdly, what is the meaning of the word forsaken?
1. The Greek word (egkataleipeV) is a compound word. The prefix means in and the word itself means to leave, or to desert.
2. So the prefix adds a measure of hopelessness that it is not just that they have been left or deserted, but that they have been left behind or deserted to a specific fate or purpose. They are beyond intercession. They are beyond help.
3. Therefore our English word forsake – is a great translation. It means to utterly leave destitute. Helpless. Hopeless.
xi. Pulling all this together – what is happening to Jesus here?
xii. Assuming this is not just a meaningless quote but that Jesus was actually experiencing something significant here – we see something quite horrific happening to Jesus. Not just distance between the Father and the Son – but disconnection. A severing.
xiii. This is a very BIG theological discussion. And it deals primarily with the nature of the atonement of Jesus. Why did Jesus come? Why was it necessary for Him to die? And was it just His physical death that God desired, or was it something more?
xiv. Realistically speaking we are at most 5 weeks away from being finished with the book of Matthew. Rather than trying to cram an entire sermon on the atonement of Christ into this Matthew study, I will kick that very large can down the road J And we will cover it in more detail after Matthew is complete.
xv. But for now – what does this say about Christ’s death?
xvi. At 3pm on Nisan 14, while all the other lambs were taking the place of the Israelites, Jesus the second person of the Godhead was for the first time and the last time severed from the Father. The bible says he became a sin offering. The bible says he became a curse. The bible says He was made to be sin, not a sinner, or even into sin itself, but that He was treated as if all of sin’s guilt, shame, and power, was on Him. The bible says that through His death, God’s wrath was extinguished and reconciliation was achieved for those who are in Him.
xvii. When He screams – MY GOD, MY GOD - WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME! He asked a question a son should never have to ask His Father, in order that we orphans could be adopted. He plead words the innocent should never have to plead, so that we lawbreakers could be forgiven and made into law keepers. He yelled words of helplessness that the God of the universe would never need yell, but He did it so he could kill our helplessness and give us His power over sin and death.
xviii. His mission was accomplished. The substitution was complete.
c. [Slide 4] 47-50 – When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit.
i. They assume that he is calling for Elijah. In Hebrew My God Why - is aee-LEE, leh MAW. Elijah is aee-lee-YAH-hoo. Hence the reason they think that is what he said. I’m sure Jesus annunciation was probably not extremely crystal clear being on the brink of death. His tongue cleaving to the roof of His mouth.
ii. And in John we see Him, knowing that His work was finished – and to fulfill the last prophesy regarding his death he said, “I thirst.”
iii. This is where they offer him a sponge filled with sour wine to fulfill Psalm 69:21 where they give him vinegar to drink, and Psalm 22:15 where his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth.
iv. Although it is unclear, Matthew’s point is probably NOT that they were genuinely interested to see if Elijah would come and save Him. They had a tradition that if you were in trouble and loved of God, Elijah would come and save you. But based on their actions up to this point, it is more likely that this is another example of unbelief, even while He was atoning for sin.
v. Then, according to John, he said – It is finished. Many preachers shout this as if it was a cry of victory. But the text simply says that he said this.
vi. However, Luke indicates that the last thing Jesus shouted before death was Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
vii. Father – relational connection, even when it is severed, he expresses trust in God the Father – into your hands I commit my Spirit. What does this mean? Well it means he dies right? No. It is deeper than that friend.
1. First, He lays down His life. He does not slowly expire. Perhaps His body had long failed, and the only thing keeping his human heart beating was the simple fact that He was God too. And so, As God, He wills Himself to succumb to death.
2. Second, in this statement He expresses confidence that the Father’s promise will be fulfilled. And what is that promise?
viii. That He will rejoin Him at His right hand. That He will be lifted up.
ix. Understand that He says this – when the connection between them is severed. This is faith in action. Believing the Father will keep His word, even when His presence is absent.
d. [Slide 5] Passage Truth: But Matthew’s focus is different than Luke’s. Although we know Christ was faithful to God until His last breath, Matthew chooses to focus on His desolation. Why do you suppose that is? Matthew wants make a very strong soteriological point here. One that many are trying to subvert in our culture today. To the Jews, Matthew wants to convey, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus, the Messiah of God, aside from whatever else He was doing on that cross, He primarily was there, purposefully, to drink the cup. And that was not simply physical suffering and death. That was separation from God. That was abandonment. Whatever else the atonement is, it MUST include this aspect. That this Messiah, this King of Israel was Forsaken of God on their behalf. He was their perfect Substitute for sin. Because God dwells in inapproachable light to those who are sinners. That is why the temple system worked the way it did. That is why the sacrifices were necessary. That is why they tied ropes to the High Priest’s ankle when he went into the holy of holies. God and man are distanced. Severed. And Jesus Unlike the countless lambs that would need to be killed every single year for God to merely overlook their sins… Their own King, has taken their sins once and for all, he has borne their shame, He has taken their severed connection. And died with it. He took it with Him to the grave!
e. Passage Application: This is why Jesus is the only option. This is why Jesus is the only way to approach the Father. He bore their sins! So Matthew pleads with the Jews to see Him as He is. The Perfect Substitute. Not just the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb of God!
f. [Slide 6] Broader Biblical Truth: And the message is identical for us. We don’t have to spend a lot of time translating this to our culture or updating it to our time. Because He remains our perfect substitute today. He has borne our sorrows, by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 says – But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought HE was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something He had done… he was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of His wounds we have been healed.
g. Broader Biblical Application: Friends, we ought not think that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was purely to obey God, set an example, break the power of Satan, restore us to a relationship with God – now all of these are true. But at the very core of Christ’s death. The reason it was done, truly, is in Isaiah 53:11 – My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.” His crucifixion was the final criminal trial. He endured 3 with the Jews, 3 with the Gentiles and now 1 before God. And although innocent, he was treated as though He was guilty. Although an honored son, he was forsaken as the cursed of God. Although He was almighty God, He was crushed as God’s enemy. This is the core of the atonement. We do not fully understand salvation if we do not understand this. Therefore, we too must cry out to God for His acquittal, for His mercy.
[Slide 7 (blank)] And there it was. The one event in history that truly changed EVERYTHING. But how do we know that is true? Matthew next points out how God shows us it is true.
II.) God the Father affirms that access to Him is granted through His Son’s atonement, so we must depend on Jesus to access the Father (51-56)
a. [Slide 8] 51 – Just then, the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart.
i. God’s commentary on what just happened is inescapable.
ii. There is disagreement as to which curtain is torn here. There was an outer curtain separating the court from the holy place and there was also a curtain that separated the holy place from the holy of holies.
1. Arguments for the outer curtain include the more public nature of the tearing, versus the inner curtain being only seen by priests.
2. These arguments are not compelling.
3. But in either case the meaning of this event is clear. The Old way of gaining access to God, stepping into His presence and receiving from Him mercy and grace, the old way has been discarded. Because a new and better way has been achieved.
4. Hebrews in general alludes to this but in Hebrews 4:14-16 it is made clear. Access to God is no longer in temples made with hands, but heaven itself, and the curtain we pass through is the broken body of Christ. The Temple curtain was split top to bottom, and our Savior’s body was rent asunder so we could enter that holy court. He will be our High Priest, who by the one-time sacrifice of His blood, has made an eternal way for us to be reconciled to God.
5. So that whenever we need grace or mercy – through Christ – we have it.
6. Praise the Lord!
iii. The earth shook, so badly that rocks split apart.
iv. This earthquake is well documented, in Jewish, Roman, and biblical histories. It is also an earthquake that ONLY affected Jerusalem.
v. Although it is difficult to know for certain, but Matthew writing to a Jewish audience, and having already referenced the splitting of the temple curtain – now sees rocks also split apart.
vi. In Israel’s History, God provided water to His people by breaking a rock in two. One of the first interactions Jesus had as He began His ministry was to tell a promiscuous Samaritan woman that He was living water.
vii. I don’t want to press the imagery too far here, but Matthew is taking great pains to very obviously shift from a pre-death of Christ context to a post-death of Christ context.
viii. His point is that everything is different. Promises, long forgotten have been fulfilled. Shadows and symbols, long abused, have now been completed.
ix. Everything is different. Spiritually, Physically, the realm of the dead, the realm of the living. The hearts of those who nailed Him to the tree, and those who remained faithful. Everything is new.
b. [Slide 9] 52-53 – And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
i. In verse 53 we are told that after Jesus was resurrected, the resurrected saints came out of their tombs and appeared to many. In verse 52 we are told that their tombs were open and their bodies were raised.
ii. So does this mean their tombs were opened at Christ’s death and at His resurrection they were raised and walked out of their tombs? Does this mean that at Christ’s death their tombs were open and they were raised, but they stayed in their tombs, alive, till Sunday?
iii. Theologically, we know that Christ was raised first. He was the firstborn of many sons.
iv. So the real question is, why does Matthew insert this here?
v. Matthew, as he did with verse 46, is making a soteriological point. So much so that He is willing to pull an event out of chronological order to do it. And what is that point?
vi. Even though Christ’s resurrection is what caused these dead saints to come alive and walk around, presumably in glorified bodies, to bear witness to a new reality… The cross. The death of Christ is linked to this event. Why?
vii. We often try desperately to focus on one aspect of Jesus’ work on earth over another. Whether that be the cross, or Matthew’s concern, the resurrection. Matthew wants us to understand that you cannot have one without the other. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is one complete event. Paul says without the resurrection we’d still be in sin, and Matthew says that because of the cross, the dead saints could be raised. Both of them in effect, are saying the same thing. The whole package is necessary. Don’t emphasize one over another.
viii. And beyond that soteriological point, Matthew continues this theme, that everything is being remade. That now, even death is different. The dead live! And they bear witness to how things have been changed. FOREVER!
c. [Slide 10] 54 – Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!”
i. A centurion. A commander of 100 men. A non-commissioned officer who would work for 25 years to earn his citizenship of Rome.
ii. This man, and his men were struck with fear at all that transpired.
iii. They watched terror as the earth shook and rocks split. Perhaps the lights came on again at that point. The smell of death was in the air as tombs were opened nearby. Commotion came from the temple mount as priests fled from the holy place as the holy of holies was opened.
iv. And with sudden understanding and deep fear he confesses – truly this one was God’s Son.
v. Is this legitimate conversion? Is this repentance? It is very hard to say. But it is a testimony about Jesus that was inescapable to a Gentile.
vi. Again, everything is different now. Even though we’ve seen this crop up throughout Matthew – now, Gentiles are being awoken to truth! After Jesus’ death – A Gentile officer confesses – all things are different now.
d. [Slide 11] 55-56 – Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
i. Women from Galilee, having been shown mercy and grace – not wishing to see Christ crucified, but not wishing to leave Him either, watching from a distance. (I couldn’t find a picture where they were watching from a distance. So here ya go) They are the audience of His death, and will be the audience of His burial and resurrection also.
ii. And they too are illuminated. They too bear witness to the change! Women, allowed to attend the crucifixion because they offered no potential threat – NOW – they are made alive! A new threat has come.
iii. Everything is new! Everything has changed! A new day has dawned! And this is only the beginning.
iv. And it was all because of His cross!
e. [Slide 12] Passage Truth: From the testimony of God Himself, through supernatural events and confessions and faithfulness from unlikely sources, Matthew shows the Jews the truth. Jesus’ death has made all things new.
f. Passage Application: If you are to approach God the Father – you cannot access Him by being a Jew only, a male only, by your own righteousness, or by the blood of sheep and goats. Because they never really did away with sin anyway. The only access is by your High Priest, who tore the curtain of His flesh, and offers the blood of Himself once to put away your sin. You must depend on Him alone.
g. [Slide 13] Broader Biblical Truth: The same is true for us. We as Gentiles, Jews, Human beings. There is no other way to the Father but by Him. He took our place. He bore our shame. He bore our guilt. He succumbed to our death. Once – for all. And now through His death we have been granted new access to God.
h. Broader Biblical Application: We must depend on Him and only on Him if we hope to access the Father who dwells in inapproachable light.
[Slide 14 (blank)] So how does this application impact us today?
How doesn’t it is the better question I think.
My friends, I won’t linger long here, because either the Spirit is moving or He isn’t.
Here is the truth. Jesus, the Son of God, bore the wrath, shame, and death of His people. The only question you must answer is – are you one of them?
If you are – This message although a message of our King being left desolate, is by its very nature a message of how His desolation became our salvation. We ought to leave Here praising Him greatly because as the song said – we are now – MORE than conquerors through Christ. He is the power in us. He is our victory. May we live in His victory.
But if you are not yet His child. If, you have been attending here for a little while and you think you are a Christian. You think you understand. Your putting your trust in your obedience, your penance, your power. Listen to me. Christ died because your obedience was not enough. He died because no penance could ever achieve what His 1 time sacrifice could. He died so that you might see that you have no power, no righteousness, and no life apart from Him.
Is God waking you up? Have the scales fallen off yet? Won’t you come. Repent of your dead works. Repent of the gods you serve that are not God. And depend ONLY and CONTINUALLY on Jesus. [Slide 15(Attribution)]