45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
Matthew 27:45-46, 50- 51
It is midnight at midday, as the sun refuses to shine. The Father withdraws the light of his presence, as his beloved Son struggles under the weight of the sin of the world. Throughout Scripture this kind of darkness has been the harbinger of God’s judgment (Exodus 10:21-23, Amos 8:9-10). And now God’s judgment strikes hard against his Son who cries out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
All this is happening to Jesus just as the prophets had long foretold: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). It is unfolding just as the Apostle Paul declared: “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). At this moment Jesus is pouring out his life for our sin.
Judgment’s darkness lingers over Jesus until his death, at “about three o’clock.” This is the long appointed hour for the evening sacrifice in the Temple. It is just as the priests are offering up the sacrificial lamb on the altar, that they look up and see the veil of the temple ripped “from top to bottom.”
This was the heavy, thick veil that separated the Holy of Holies – the earthly dwelling of God’s presence – from the rest of the temple where the people worshipped. It was only the high priest who, one day a year, was permitted to pass through the veil to enter into God’s presence to make atonement for sin (Leviticus 16). Rabbinic writings from the time of the temple tell us that this veil was 40 cubits (60 feet) long, and 20 cubits (30 feet) wide, and was the thickness of the palm of the hand.
It is significant that the veil was torn from top to bottom. God did this! And the tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death symbolizes his opening the way for us into the very presence of God. Through his cross Jesus made atonement for all sin and opened the way for all people to come to God: 14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession?…16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in
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