GETTING THE MESSAGE/Matthew 27:32-56
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:00 PM
In this passage Matthew gives us an account of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to see Christ’s glory in this. The foundation of the Christian religion, the ground of all our hopes in salvation, is the revelation of God by Christ. We must not forget Jesus on the cross did not cease to be God when he became man. By taking upon himself human nature, Christ reveals infinite humility and love.
Seeing the glory of God in Christ is life. Man is continually seeking for self –satisfaction. However, no creature can find eternal blessedness or satisfaction in itself, for no creature is self-sufficient. We must find our blessedness in God if we are to have life that is really life. God alone lacks nothing and stands in need of nothing. Nothing can be added to him to increase his blessedness. In Christ, God reveals himself for our blessedness. Put another way, if you do not see the glory of Christ in what is written about him, you will remain lost and in darkness.
In this brief passage we have depths to dive into. What heart can conceive, what tongue can express the glory of that mind of Christ that brought him down from infinite glory to hang on a cross for sinners? Yet in verses 32-44 we see that Jesus is mocked as he is crucified. God’s love for him is brought into question: “He trusts in God, let God rescue him.”
God does not rescue him. In verse 45 we read that darkness came over the land for three hours. This is a sign of God’s displeasure. The staggering thing about this is that the displeasure is directed at Jesus rather than those who mock him. Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This does not mean Jesus was surprised by God’s wrath, he willingly took it. It was the due penalty for sinners.
Jesus quotes psalm 22 with his cry. In the psalm the servant of God is subject to God’s displeasure, yet at the end of the psalm he is vindicated and exalted by God. Jesus is identifying himself as that servant. We see God vindicating Jesus after he gave up his spirit (verse 50). The curtain leading into the temple of the holy of holies is rent in two. There is an earthquake and tombs open up to release saints of old in resurrected bodies (verses 51-52). Each of these things has significant meanings attached to them, but the overall sense is that God the Father is vindicating Christ with events impossible to ignore.
This is good news. The Son of God, in obedience to the will of his Father, has brought me back into communion with the living God revealing infinite love and justice in doing so. In John 17, Jesus prays that his redeemed people will know the Father’s love; even as he has loved the Son of God. To know this love we must look deeply into the message of the cross. Let us look at three vivid images in our passage.
One is the cross. It represents a curse. It is not the tree of life. It is the tree of death. Jesus must eat of it in order for us to partake of the tree of life. In Galatians three, Paul writes that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.
The second image is the darkness. Darkness represents God’s judgment against the unrighteous, meaning those who deserve judgment according to his righteous justice. In Exodus, the plague of darkness enveloped Egypt for three days. There was light only in the dwellings of the Israelites because they would be provided the Passover Lamb before death came against the unrighteous. Christ is our Passover lamb bringing light and life out of darkness and death to all who believe in him.
The third image is Jesus crucified between two sinners. He was numbered with the transgressors. All these images convey intercession by way of substitution. Jesus offers himself in our place. Both of these sinners hurled insults at Jesus. However, before he died, one of them saw the glory of Christ and asked to be identified with him before God.
This is an image of all men. There are sinners on one side of Christ who remain there and ignore so great a salvation. There are sinners on the other side of Christ who embrace him and come to live to exalt him. There is not life apart from believing and loving the glory of Christ.