Starting at noon, and ending at three, the day went dark. This is a literal event. It really got dark. It was a crucifixion miracle, God supernaturally darkened the sun. It was not a natural occurrence. It lasted three hours. A full eclipse lasts a few minutes. It happened near Passover, which is celebrated at Full Moon, when the Moon is on the wrong side of the Earth to cause an eclipse.
It is also an event referenced by secular sources. Tertuullian, sometime around 200 A.D., wrote about it, saying “wonder is related in your own annals and is preserved in your archives to this day. Eusebius quoted a Romans historian, Phlegon, who described a day of extraordinary darkness at this time.
It was also a symbolic event: it showed God’s judgment and wrath as Jesus bore it for us. Amos 5:18 says “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD: It is darkness and not light…is not the day of the LORD darkness and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?”
Amos 8:9-10 says:
And on that day, declares the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
Zephaniah 1:15 called the day of the Lord a day of wrath that is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.
The curtain of the temple was also torn “in two”. (45) This is also literal occurrence with a symbolic meaning. This was the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies). No one but the High Priest could enter into the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence dwelt. But now that curtain is torn, symbolizing that men and women could now, through the work of Christ, come directly into the presence of God without the mediation of an earthly priest. That is because Jesus made the last sacrifice that would ever be needed for sins. As Hebrews 9:26 says, he appeared once for all to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Those who say you can “lose” your salvation effectively deny the sufficiency of Christ’s death, his sacrifice, to pay the penalty of our sins. Those who say it takes works in addition to Christ’s death to pay for our sins do the same.
This was the second crucifixion miracle. The curtain was 30 feet wide and 30 feet high, made of heavy material. It was tightly woven. No man could tear it with his hands.
Jesus died then crying out “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. He quoted Psalm 31:5 almost verbatim. He died, willingly laying down his life, as he had the authority to do. (John 10:17-18). By calling God “Father”, he showed that, even suffering God’s wrath for us, he did not let go of his sonship, his intimate relationship with the Father. Although Jesus had the authority to lay his life down and pick it up again, he still prayed it to commit himself to God, knowing the Father would do all he promised to do.
It is a good example for us at death, committing ourselves to God in trust that he will do as he promised, bringing us into heaven to be with him for eternity.
At death, the human body ceases to function, but the spirit remains. The spirit of the believer goes to be in the presence of God. Ecclesiates 12:7 says “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God, who gave it.”
That is why Paul could say he was torn between life an death, for death meant to depart and be with Christ. (Philippians 1:21-23) He also said if we are home in the body we are away from the Lord, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Jesus’ human spirit went to the Father, his body having ceased to function, having died.
The Aftermath - Reactions
When Jesus died, people reacted to his death and the way he died.
The third crucifixion miracle is the reaction of the centurion. This hardened soldier and leader praised God and declared Jesus’ innocence. (47) By witnessing Jesus’ death and the accompanying events, this man’s heart was changed from executioner to believer. Mark 15:39 tells us the centurion proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. This was not a physical miracle, but a spiritual miracle.
The crowd of people who came to watch the “spectacle”, evidently to be entertained, went home beating their breasts. This is an expression of sorrow or anger, indicating that the people believed Jesus was innocent and had been killed unjustly.
Finally, Luke noted that two groups of people stood off at a distance and watched. They were they women who followed Jesus during his ministry and his “acquaintances”. That is the first time that word has been applied to those around Jesus. It is not clear who they were, but they were at least people who knew Jesus. The NIV in fact says “all those who knew him”. It might have been those like Nicodemus who were not disciples, but either believed in Jesus or were impressed by him. It may have included the disciples.
Standing at a distance indicates they were still afraid to identify with Jesus. Let us not stand far off. Let us stand up for Jesus in word and in deed.
These verses tell how Jesus was buried after he died on the cross.
The burial was accomplished by a man named Joseph. He was a man of some standing since he was a member of the council, the Sanhedrin. (50) He also had access to Pilate, the governor, and was able to obtain Jesus’ body. Luke wrote that he was good and righteous. He had not consented when the Sanhedrin voted to put Jesus to death. (51) That had to have been an unpopular decision.
Luke also wrote that Joseph was “looking for the kingdom of God”. (51) This seems means he was a believer, especially if when we consider Matthew 27:57 which calls him a disciple of Jesus.
Joseph got Pilate’s permission to take care of Jesus’ body, then he took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen shroud, and placed it in a tomb made of stone. This would be a rich man’s tomb and, indeed, Matthew 27 says Joseph was rich. It is likely that this tomb was intended to be Joseph’s own tomb, but he used it to bury Jesus. Isaiah 53:9 says they made his grave…with a rich man his death.”
It was fitting that the tomb had never been used. No body had been placed in it. That would seem normal to us, but at that time, bodies were placed on shelves in tombs, but when the flesh had decayed from the bones, the bones were gathered and placed into a box.
In the Old Testament, nothing used for worshipping or ministering to God could be used for anything else. And it is that way at Jesus’ burial; no one had ever used the tomb. (53)
Luke placed a time stamp on these activities. It was Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath. Preparations had to be made on the day before the Sabbath since one could not work on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath started Friday at sundown, these things happened on Friday afternoon.
Verse 55 begins the telling of the story of the women who followed Jesus and wanted to take care of his body. You have to love these women for their devotion to Jesus. And it is so typical of women, thinking even in sorrow of the things that need to be done, even unpleasant things.
The women followed Joseph and his helpers to the tomb so that they would know where it was. They observed the placement of the body, so they would know which one it was. Jesus’ body would be covered in a shroud and they would expect that other bodies might be there also. In other words, they made sure they knew where Jesus’ body was so they could take care of it. They knew they would not have time to do this before the Sabbath began, and they would not violate the Sabbath.
In that day, the Jews prepared bodies by placing spices and ointments on the body and in the shroud. After the women made sure they knew where the body was, they went home and prepared the spices. (56) They got all this done before sundown, and then observed the Sabbath.
Why did Luke go into this detail about Jesus’ burial? As a historian, Luke wanted to record all of the relevant details for those who would read his gospel to learn about Jesus. As a theologian, Luke, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wanted to record that Jesus was indeed dead and buried. Unless Jesus is buried, he cannot be resurrected.
You see this in Paul’s confession in 1 Corinthians 15. He called it a matter of first importance that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raise on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
It is still of first importance that Jesus died for us. It is still of first importance that he was buried. Next, we will see the importance of his resurrection.