Victory Cry ~ Mark 15: 33-47
Three hours of darkness descend on Jerusalem. This is not an eclipse, cloudy day, or dust storm. This darkness was a felt, horror/terror, it was the removal of God’s countenance (His smiling face) from Jesus (the sin that was laid upon Him).
Amos 8: 9-10, “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noonand darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious festivals (Passover) into mourningand all your singing into weeping.I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
We take for granted God's common grace upon our planet. If God were to remove His presence from the earth – it would immediately fall into darkness, chaos, and the absolute absence of anything good. This is hell – where God is not. We have no idea of such a place – not even in our worst imaginations.
The Father Almighty turns His face away from the Son – away from the sin (that He can not look upon). It is here – that the heaviest, most crushing blow falls on Jesus – He is separated – for the first time in all eternity – from the Father. Jesus cries out v.34, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" quoting from the famous Psalm 22.
Yet, because He was God (without sin) – "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isaiah 53:10). Jesus was a pleasing, atoning, perfect, ultimate substitute – the beautiful, terrible cross!
Psalm 22 was understood as a Messianic cry/prayer – the righteous one who suffers without cause. Rejected and scorned by Israel, sacrificed as a political pawn by Rome, denied and abandoned by His own followers, Jesus is wholly forsaken and exposed to the horror of humanity's sin. (J.R. Edwards).
The bystanders invoke Elijah's name at Jesus' crucifixion, perhaps because they mistake Jesus' call to God as an appeal to Elijah (who did not die but was taken away by God on a flaming chariot). Surely if Jesus is righteous, God will spare Him from suffering and death, "because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse" (Deuteronomy 21:23).
The bystanders then – and some today – fail to see what the centurion comes to see and understands – that Jesus fulfills God's plan of redemption precisely in His suffering, by "giving His life as a ransom for many" (10:45) and taking the curse of humanity on Himself. Galatians 3:13, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us!"
Verse 37, "with a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last." Mark wants us to understand that this was no murmur or squeal. The Greek word is (megalen) meaning 'a great, glorious, loud (megaphone) roar! This was a battle cry. This was a victory screech. This was a man overcoming – not despairing – but defeating His foes.
At that moment – the great curtains of the temple were split from 'top to bottom.' These curtains were the dividing walls between sacred spaces. There was one separating the court of gentiles from the inner, Jewish courts, then another curtain separating the Holy of Holies (where Yahweh's presence dwelt) from the inner courts. This cry of Jesus caused a chain reaction that sends the presence of God shining into the world – fulfilling the temple's purpose definitely – once and for all.
Josephus describes the outer curtain as a tapestry portraying "a panorama of the heavens" (sun, moon, and stars). That is a striking parallel to the tearing of heavens in Mark 1:10 at Jesus’ baptism. Thus, at both uses of 'tearing,' Mark signifies the rending of the skies – to open heaven to humanity in the baptism of Jesus and to open the temple at the death of Jesus.
In a real way – the temple is torn in two, and God is revealed not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles. Immediately, the living temple, tabernacle of God, the Word made flesh, among us, Jesus Christ was split open - and who now sees God's power? A Gentile, Roman centurion!
A Roman, pagan, battle-hardened, desensitized centurion – who just oversaw the torture and murder of Christ – is suddenly undone. He did not just witness a poor man die with a whisper – He just witnessed a divine act. He just saw a man-crush death. He witnessed the power of God. The sign of Jonah. Beloved, has the veil been torn before you? Can you see Jesus on the cross for you?
In this way - Jesus is only fully understood at the cross, where the meaning of Christ (Messiah/deliver/overcomer) intersects with the meaning of faith. Until you see your sins upon this man and His power over them – faith will never make sense. But – if you can see His strength – His victory over the greatest enemy (indeed this centurion had seen many!) than you can only say, "Surely, this man was THE son of God!" This fulfilled Jesus' promise "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to Myself" (John 12:32).
Beloved, what must we make of this? What must we remember this Holy Thursday?
1.) Jesus never gave a cry of despair, and neither should we. In the contest with faith, a gravestone will try to provoke despair and finality, but the resurrection proves that Jesus must finally win the day.
2.) Jesus gave a cry of victory, and so should we. Jesus has overcome! His shoulders are strong. Only He is able to carry the day. Therefore, if we die with him – we will rise with Him. This is a grounds for cries of victory. This is why the cross has become a symbol of triumph and not defeat.
3.) The centurion gave a cry of faith, and so must we. (B. Gore). Who do you see upon the cross? A great poet? Teacher? A fraud? A thief? Or do you see the Son of God? Who laid down His life for you (even though YOU put the nails in His hands). Beloved, WE are the centurion. Your sin put Him on the tree. You dragged Him up that hill. You mocked Him. You spit upon Him. See how He died. See how He cried. See how He overcomes. Give a cry of faith. Cling to the cross. Take of this body, drink of this blood – for it is the power unto salvation!