Shock and Awe by God – Matthew 27:44-54

God Announces Significant Events With Signs and Wonders

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Drape Divided

At three o’clock local time in Israel, on April 3, 33 C.E.*, the temple veil was torn in two.  This is significant for several reasons.

First, the temple veil kept the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies (in the Greek, the naos), separate from the rest of the temple.  It was holy – set apart for God and God alone.  Only the high priest could enter this area, and only once a year to perform the yearly sacrifice for sin for the Israelites.  When the veil was torn in two, it symbolically announced the arrival of the time that Jesus had foretold to the Samaritan woman at the well:

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Indeed – the time had come when all true worshipers would worship in truth and spirit.

Secondly, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  This signified that it was God who tore the veil, and not man.  God was the one who now changed the relationship between man and Himself.  No longer would there be a separation between God and man, requiring that people come to the temple to worship.

Thirdly, God changed the location of the temple.  The naos** was the location where the presence of God dwelt.  Up until the time of the death of Jesus, this was the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now, God dwells in each believer.  God has forsaken the vessels built by man and is now inhabiting the vessel built by God – the believer’s body.  The temple is no longer a building but the very bodies God has given us:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple** and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Enormous Earthquake

When God makes a statement, He generally tends to do it either softly (the still, small voice), or with a lot of panache.  On this day, God used a LOT of panache.  Not only did the veil hiding the Holy of Holies tear from top to bottom, but there was a great earthquake.  God wanted to make sure He got EVERYONE’S attention.  Signs in the Sun, Moon, and stars were going on, and if people weren’t paying attention, they would miss it.  God ensured that everyone in Israel would be stirred to attention to what had just happened.

Boulders Broken

Not only did the ground shake, the boulders shook as well.   They Bible says that the rocks were rent in two – the rocks had cried out and bore witness to the sorrow of the death of the Son of God.  Having no clothing to rent (tear apart), they tore themselves apart.

Death Defied

Not to be outdone, God wanted everyone to know that this was no ordinary day of events.  God raised the dead from their graves and sent them into Jerusalem.  The dead had risen – only The Lord God Almighty has the ability to raise the dead.  This day would not be soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it.  And just to make sure, God ensured that the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus on the cross bore witness when they cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Heavenly Hosts

And God, who does not change, made sure that this event had a heavenly sign as well.  When the Moon rose that night, it was a full blood Moon, as prophesied by Joel***.  But the most interesting part was that at exactly 3:00 PM Israel local time, when Jesus gave His last breath, the Moon went into eclipse.  The people of Israel would not have seen the Moon until about 6:00 PM.  And when they did, they would have seen that the Woman rose with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  But this time, she was not clothed with the sun.  She came in darkness, the most blackest darkness as befitted the death of the most Holy Son of God.  And the Moon, which first rose as a new, white-as-snow crescent Moon at the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a life just starting, now rose as full Moon, stained blood-red with Jesus’ death, a life fully lived.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I paying attention to the signs that God is placing in the sky with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You show us signs and wonders when You do significant things.  Help us to be a people who pay attention to Your word, and what You are doing.  Give me a sense of urgency in my heart for what troubles Yours, and help me to bring about Your plan that You have put into place to tell the world about You, Your Son, our sin, and Your desire to reconcile with us here on Earth rather than at the White Throne seat of judgment, where we will no longer have any chance to settle our debt with You.  Father, You are a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Make my heart ache as I watch those who do not know you.  Give me a sense of purpose and boldness, that I too would testify about Jesus as Peter did at Pentecost and before the Sanhedrin.  And Father, help me to pay attention to the signs that You are giving that Jesus is coming soon.  For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes – This blog has been edited for clarity.

*Fred Larson has definitively identified April 3, 33 C.E. as the day of the death of Christ.  Using logic and clues from the Bible, he was able to accurately determine the date.  Using the software program Starry Night, Fred Larson was able to corroborate that this was the day by confirming that a blood Moon – a full lunar eclipse – occurred on this day as well.

**  The Greek word used here is naos, the same word that is used for the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies.  God had Paul use this word because it was the only part of the temple that God could reside in.  It was declared holy – set apart for God’s plans and purposes.  In the same way, we are set apart as well.  Paul later reminds us of this in Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*** The sun turned to darkness is interesting.  From the perspective of the Earth, the Moon turned to blood.  If you were able to stand on the Moon and look at the Sun (a REALLY COOL feature of the Starry Night software program!), you would see that the sun was now in full eclipse as well – it would appear as black as sackcloth.  When Jesus died on the cross, and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, God the Father withdrew His presence, power, glory, and His holy light from His One and Only Son.  And indeed, from Jesus’ perspective (the Moon was blood-red, indicating that it was representative of Christ’s condition and position, so the Sun would represent God the Father’s position and condition in relation to the Son), the light had indeed turned to darkness. (Special thanks to Fred Larson for spelling this out in his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem“.)

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