Free forgiveness in Christ/MATTHEW 27:45-46
In these verses we see the death of Jesus. Jesus was and is the Son of God, so this is a mysterious event, but it is the heart of the Christian faith. The cross of Christ is simple, yet the most profound truth in human history.
In verse 45 we read, “Now from the 6th hour there was darkness over all the land until the 9th hour.” Jesus is on the cross. The earth becomes dark. When Jesus was born there was the favor of heaven upon earth. Angelic choirs sang as the glory of the Lord appeared, because a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, had come (Luke 2).
But now, as he is nearing death, there is darkness. Darkness represents the absence of life or the judgment of God. In Exodus 10, the plague of darkness over Egypt lasted 3 days. Here it lasts 3 hours. In Amos 8, the Lord is displeased with the evil of men and says, “I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
The darkness is the impressions of God’s displeasure with man’s sin. On the cross, it is Christ Jesus who is the object of God’s displeasure, not because of any sin he committed, but because he has chosen to bear the sins of men upon himself.
The darkness that came while Jesus was on the cross was a supernatural occurrence, like the Day of Judgment will be. It is of God. When God looked upon Christ, he saw the perversity and wickedness of men. All the sins of men were imputed to Christ. So the wrath of God was directed at the Lord Jesus.
In the Old Testament the priestly benediction was: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” If you have that blessing you have all. That blessing was not upon Christ on the cross so that it could be upon us.
In verse 46, as he nears death, Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is not a cry of bewilderment, but agony. Before Jesus was arrested he prayed to his Father, “If possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thy will.” On the cross, Jesus is drinking the cup of God's displeasure.
Jesus didn’t just feel forsaken, he was forsaken. He was making atonement for sin. He was paying the debt of man’s sin. He was meeting the obligation of the law of God, or we can say, God was letting the law take its course. Every violation of the law incurs a debt. This was a judicial punishment the Lord Jesus was receiving.
This is good news for sinners. There is a fountain of life in Christ, free forgiveness in his name for all who believe. It is by faith we are saved, looking away from ourselves to the gift of God. In Christ we are freed from condemnation and given the favor of God forever. We have no ground for boasting in ourselves, but much ground for boasting in Christ.
When we see Christ forsaken on the cross, we are comforted in our despair. There may be no affliction as great as the feeling of God hiding his favorable countenance. But for the Christian, it is only a feeling of desertion. It is not judicial, but sanctifying. It is God purifying you, or reserving for himself honor from you by your faith even in despair.
I read of a minister as he neared death saying to another minister, “What is to be thought of one who has preached Christ all his life, but facing death, has not the comfortable presence of Christ?” The other minister responded, “What do you say of the dreadful darkness and desertion of our Savior when dying?” This brought the dying man peace. Christ alone can give a sinner peace.
Christ died that we may have joy. In John 15 He says, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We will face troubles, temptations, and battles with our own sin, but it is good we remember our Lord’s disposition; He loved enough to give himself for me.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Union.