Hey I’m Josh Hawkins, this is episode 148 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the past couple of episodes I’ve been working through the details all four of the Gospels give us of Jesus’ actual crucifixion, which took place on a Friday morning in April of 29AD. We saw how the soldiers cast lots for His clothing, how many derided and mocked Him, and how He interacted with the rebels that were crucified with Him. Today we’ll look at a few more details the Gospels give us. Again, my goal is not to expound all that much theologically, but just continue to tell the story. So let’s read today from John 19:
“… but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."
(John 19:25–27 ESV)
Here we have another example of the complementary nature of the Gospels. John leaves out so many of the details that the other three synoptic Gospels give us, and immediately goes right from the casting lots for Jesus’ garments to telling us about the women with him around the cross. This could have also been because he returned to the city to bring Jesus’ mother and the others out to the crucifixion site. Now just imagine how Jesus would have been feeling at this point. He’s in excruciating pain, dangling just a few feet above the earth with nails in his hands and feet, repeatedly being insulted and mocked, and looks up and sees His mother and John, the disciple He loved dearly. In this moment, He does something remarkable, which shows His utter selflessness once again. The traditional role of the oldest son in a Jewish family was to provide for the care for the mother when the husband or father of the house was no longer around or able to care for her. Jesus, as the oldest son in a family that no longer had a father around, is fulfilling that duty here by entrusting the care of His mother Mary into the hands of John. In this moment, Jesus could have begged for mercy and asked for their help to come down from the cross, but He didn’t. Again, this is just such a selfless act on Jesus’ part, ensuring that the one who carried Him in the womb would be well-cared for after His death. Well, let’s continue looking at some more details. I’ll read from Matthew 27:
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour."
(Matthew 27:45 ESV)
Mark and Luke’s Gospels record this same event - that darkness covered the land from the sixth hour, or noon time, until Jesus’ death at the 9th hour, or 3pm. Remember, the Jewish day began at 6am with the sunrise, and in Episode 146 we saw that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, or at 9am. So this darkness came all over the land three hours after Jesus had been crucified, and lasted three hours until His death. During this final three hours until just before Jesus’ death, the Gospels don’t record any other events besides this. Luke 23 verse 45 adds the detail that “the sun’s light failed”. We’re not sure what the cause of this darkness was. Some have indicated that this could not have been a solar eclipse, because that could not occur at the time of a full moon during Passover. But whatever the cause, whether it be heavy cloud cover, a dust storm, or something else we don’t know about, the Gospel authors are not including the detail as if it was just a weather report. Remember, there’s a potent story going on in the Gospels that involves God and the nation of Israel, and darkness during the day is common imagery from the Old Testament of God’s judgment and displeasure. Look at some of these passages. First, Deuteronomy 28:
"“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you… you shall grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness, and you shall not prosper in your ways. And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you."
(Deuteronomy 28:15, 29 ESV)
And Amos 8:
"“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."
(Amos 8:9–10 ESV)
And Isaiah 13:
"Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light."
(Isaiah 13:9–10 ESV)
So what’s going on here? First we have to be clear that the Gospel authors are not attempting to tell us that somehow the promises of the Day of the LORD and the last days eschatological judgment have been redefined such that Jesus’ death on the cross is that great Day that the Law and the Prophets spoke about. We’ve got to remember that before He was crucified, Jesus has already prophesied the destruction of the Temple and the scattering of the nation, all in line with the curses of the covenant spoken by God through Moses in Deuteronomy 28. So this darkness is a sign of the coming judgment upon the nation for their failure to repent and turn back to God. Also, as I’ve spoken about often in this series, Jesus is the head or representative of the nation of Israel, and this darkness and His imminent death (as well as the other signs we’re about to look at) are reminders to Israel of what the Law and Prophets have said about their future as a people. With this in mind, you could roughly say “As Jesus goes, so goes the nation of Israel.” I talked about some of these things all the way back in episode 41 and 42 when we looked at the baptism of Jesus as well as His time in the wilderness, even recently in episode 145 where we saw Jesus quoting Hosea 10, talking about the people crying to the mountains and hills to fall on them as well as His words about the green wood and the dry wood. So just as Jesus, the head of the nation, undergoes a death and resurrection, so the nation of Israel will undergo a death and resurrection before entering into their calling to be the chief of the nations. This coming tribulation, spoken about by Moses in the Law and called “Jacob’s trouble” by the prophet Jeremiah, will shatter the strength of the whole nation before God Himself comes in power to deliver them from the cords of death. There’s so much more that could be said, but let’s look at the next detail the Gospels give us from Mark 15:
"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, aluh-hi, aluh-hi, le-mah shavach-TANI “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”"
(Mark 15:34 ESV)
This statement, as recorded in Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, is probably one of the most misunderstood statements of Jesus. As the darkness pervaded the land and His death drew near, Jesus uttered this cry. What is often wrongly believed is that somehow Jesus no longer felt the presence of God and that the communion He had with His Father was broken. Jesus is not saying that the fellowship of the Trinity had been broken. Nor is this a cry of despair either, as if somehow Jesus was no longer trusting in God for deliverance. That would be sin, and sin is something the scriptures say that Jesus was without. So we first should admit that there is more going on here than we realize, and that should drive us to examine the larger context and larger story to better understand Jesus’ words. This is something we’ve done so much already throughout our look at the Gospels. Jesus here is quoting Psalm 22 verse 1. Let’s read a little from the Psalm:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest… But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” … Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast … For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."
(Psalm 22:1-2,6-8,12,14-18 ESV)
We’ve already seen the words of this Psalm of David closely associated with Jesus’ crucifixion. I believe that one of the ways we should understand Jesus’ words here is in light of the story of Israel and the story of the Gospels we’ve seen thus far, looking at Jesus as a representative or head of the nation. Again, recall the pattern I mentioned earlier - as Jesus goes, so goes the nation of Israel. I believe Jesus has in mind the past and future afflictions of Israel, especially the coming affliction of Jacob’s trouble in the latter days. Jesus is enduring crucifixion, forsakenness, and death, directly identifying with the prophesied future of the nation of Israel. I think a familiar passage in Isaiah can help explain a little more:
"Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you [Israel]— his [the servant’s] appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he [the servant] sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand."
(Isaiah 52:13–15 ESV)
Here, Isaiah links the servant, whom we know to be Jesus, with the nation itself, and the astonishment at both of them in like manner. And just as Jesus would soon be resurrected by God’s power, so Israel would, after their time of suffering, be resurrected and restored by God’s power, as passages like Deuteronomy 32, Ezekiel 37, and Daniel 12 say so clearly. Even Psalm 22, though beginning with this cry of forsakenness, ends with hope and thanksgiving, with the nations remembering the affliction and coming up to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. Check it out:
"You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him… All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations."
(Psalm 22:21-24,27-28 ESV)
So I believe that Jesus’ words “my God, why have you forsaken me” should be understood at least in this identificational way, if not in other ways as well. This really isn’t the space for me to develop the story of the Old Testament. My goal here is simply to give you a little more context and some other ideas to consider beyond the familiar understanding of this passage, hopefully to help you see that there is so much more going on here than we may have realized.
Well, in the next episode we’ll look at the details the Gospels give us surrounding the death of Jesus. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes in this series, find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time.