This Sunday @ RVPC

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Sunday Morning Worship (9:30 AM)

Sermon Text (Mark 15:33-39)

[33] And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [35] And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” [36] And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” [37] And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. [38] And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. [39] And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (ESV)

Here in this passage from Mark’s Gospel we see the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we see our Lord Jesus giving His life “as a ransom for many,” even as He said back in Mark 10:45. This was ultimately why He came in the first place!

Darkness Over the Land

And the very first thing that we see in our text is that darkness came over the entire land. In v.33 Mark writes,

“And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”

The “sixth hour” was high noon. Needless to say, this darkness came at a rather unexpected and even astonishing time of day. This was a miraculous act of God, and it is certainly no mere coincidence that it took place just before Jesus breathed His last.

What was the significance of this darkness? Some might say that it was as if no one were worthy to actually behold Christ’s final sufferings. There may be some truth to that idea, but it is far more likely that this was a sign of judgment.

The Scriptures often speak of darkness (as well as clouds) as a sign of judgment. Commentators point to such passages as Joel 2:30, which speaks of the sun being turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes’; and Amos 8:9, which speaks of the LORD ‘making the sun go down at noon,’ and ‘darkening the earth in broad daylight.’ 

Likewise the book of Jude speaks of false teachers as those “for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (v.13, ESV). Revelation 6:12 speaks of the sun becoming “black as sackcloth” on the day of wrath.

This darkness over the land during Christ’s crucifixion brings to mind what occurred just before the very first Passover. The 9th plague to befall the Egyptians, the plague right before the death of the firstborn (the tenth & final plague), was darkness over the land of Egypt. Exodus 10:21 describes it as “a darkness to be felt.” That darkness lasted for three days (Exodus 10:22), while this darkness that came upon the land during Christ’s crucifixion lasted three hours.

Just as darkness enveloped Egypt before the death of the firstborn, even so darkness enveloped the land before the death of God’s only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified during Passover, as He was the true Passover Lamb. The Apostle Paul goes so far as to say that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV).

The darkness over the land during broad daylight when Christ was on the cross was surely a manifestation or outward display of what was going on there on the cross. For on the cross our Lord Jesus was enduring the full wrath of God that we deserve for our sins. That is why William Hendriksen writes,

“Hell came to Calvary that day, and the Savior descended into it and bore its horrors in our stead.” (p.660)

The utter darkness of God’s judgment and wrath is what each of us deserves for our sin and rebellion against a holy God, the one true and living God. But if you are in Christ by faith, see again here in these verses that our Lord Jesus Christ endured the full wrath of God in your place!

What comfort! What peace of conscience, heart, and mind! What unspeakable joy belongs only to those who are in Christ Jesus, who no longer have to fear death, judgment, and hell, because He bore our sins on the cross, and endured all of those things in our place!

Christ’s Cry of Abandonment

The second thing that we see here in our passage is Christ’s cry from the cross. In v.34 Mark writes,

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””

The bystanders misunderstood Christ’s words, and supposed that He was calling out to Elijah (v.35), as if Elijah were going to come take Jesus down from the cross (v.36). Perhaps they somehow thought that if Jesus were really the Messiah, surely Elijah would save him, as an earthly king & deliverer (which many no doubt wrongly thought the Messiah would be) could not deliver His people if he died. Little did they understand that Jesus Christ delivered and saved His people by dying!

And the words of Jesus there were a quotation from Psalm 22:1, where David writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words were penned by King David approximately 1,000 years before the time of Christ! And Jesus here shows us that He is the fulfillment of what David prophesied of there by the Holy Spirit.

In that very same Psalm David even writes, “they have pierced my hands and feet” (v.16)! And he wrote that long before the practice of crucifixion had even been invented!

This cry of abandonment shows what was involved in Christ suffering the wrath of God for our sins – enduring judgment and separation from God in our place!

Our sins cut us off from God (Isaiah 59:2). And just as one of the things that makes heaven heaven is being with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17), part of what makes Hell Hell is suffering “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The Temple Curtain Torn in Two

Lastly, we see the curtain of the temple torn in two (v.38). And when does this take place? At the precise moment when our Lord Jesus Christ gave out one last cry and “breathed His last” (v.37).

Mark does not tell us what Jesus said when He cried out at His death, but Luke 22:46 says that He called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  Here we see our Lord willingly laying down His life as a ransom for many.

And when Jesus died the curtain in the temple was “torn in two, from top to bottom” (v.38). This may seem like a strange detail to our modern ears, but this too is a rather significant and meaningful detail. This curtain was first spoken of in Exodus 26:31–33, which says,

[31] “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. [32] And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. [33] And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. (ESV)

The veil or curtain separated the “Holy Place” from “the Most Holy.” The Most Holy Place was where the ark of testimony was kept, and only the high priest could enter behind that curtain, once a year, on the day of atonement.

Hebrews 9:7-9 says,

[7] but into the second [i.e. the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies] only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. [8] By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing [9] (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, (ESV)

Notice what the writer of the book of Hebrews says about this Old Testament arrangement – this was the Holy Spirit’s way of indicating (teaching!) that “that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age)” (v.8-9). Until that curtain was torn, and was no longer standing, the way into the holy places was inaccessible.

But now with the death of Christ, it has been removed, and the way to God has been fully and finally opened to those who are in Christ by faith!

This is why the writer of Hebrews goes on to say,

[19] Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, [20] by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, [21] and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [22] let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19–23, ESV)

Notice what he says there – that our Lord Jesus opened up “the new and living way” for us (v.20). And how did He do that, “through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” The curtain being torn was a picture of the body of Christ the Savior being torn and broken! His flesh was the true curtain, just like His body was the true temple (John 2:21).

And so what is the takeaway (so to speak) of all of this, according to the writer of the book of Hebrews? Because Christ has opened up the new and living way to eternal life through the curtain of His flesh, and because in Christ we “have a great high priest over the house of God” (v.21), we should then “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (v.22).

In Christ and in him alone, sinners can “draw near” to God! And only in Christ we can do so “with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Why? Because in Jesus Christ, by faith in Him, our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” and “our bodies washed with pure water.” (That is most certainly a reference to baptism, both its significance as well as its mode!)

The writer of Hebrews also tells us that because of what Christ has done for us in His death on the cross, we should not only “draw near” (v.22), but we should also hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (v.23). That confession of our hope was often something tied explicitly to baptism (mentioned in the previous verse – v.22).

Speaking of a “confession of hope,” look at the great confession made by the centurion who witnessed Christ’s death up close – when He saw the manner in which our Lord Jesus breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (v.39).

The very thing that Mark’s Gospel set out to prove and demonstrate, that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) is confessed here by a Roman Centurion (a Gentile, no less!). Somehow he knew that the death of Jesus was no ordinary death! The darkness over the whole land even underscored this fact, didn’t it?

He knew somehow that ultimately no one took the life of Jesus from Him, but that this “innocent” man (Luke 23:47) laid down His life of His own accord!

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you believe that He died for sinners, and that He died for you and your sins? Then draw near to God through Him, and hold fast the confession of your hope that is in Jesus! And, as Hebrews 10:24-25 goes on to say,

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Praise God for His glorious grace, that through His Son Jesus Christ He has opened up the way for sinners to made right with Him!

We hope that you will join us for worship this Sunday, as we hear the Word of Christ preached to us from this great passage of Scripture!

Sunday Night Bible Study (6 PM)

We are continuing our study through the great historic creeds and confessions of the church. This Sunday night we will mark the start of a lengthy study through the Belgic Confession!

The Belgic Confession is a time-tested statement of the essentials of the reformed faith, and can be considered as an abbreviated summary of Calvinism (not to be confused merely with the so-called “5 points” of Calvinism). This Confession has been cherished by Reformed believers for over 450 years!

We hope that you will join us for this helpful and informative study. Bring your Bible, bring your questions, and feel free to bring a friend!