Jesus Christ has all of God’s authority because He is God and Man in the same Person. God is three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son of God. God the Son has entered into His creation bringing the Kingdom of God with Him. Therefore the authority Jesus exercised while on earth was kingdom-authority.
Not only was Jesus revealing His divinity through His miracles, He was also revealing His Kingdom. Jesus had authority as a Teacher. He has authority over sickness. He healed the paralytic. He has authority over nature. He calmed the storm. He has authority over evil spirits. He commanded two-thousand trembling demons to leave a man and they obeyed. Jesus has authority over death. He raised the ruler of the synagogue’s twelve-year old daughter back to life. And Jesus has authority to forgive sins. He forgave the paralytic his sins. And finally, Jesus has authority over people, even you and me. He called the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow Him – and they went immediately.
We are now going to be looking at Christ on the cross. Coupled with the resurrection the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is at the centre of Christianity. The cross has become the symbol of Christianity. If you look in a street directory churches are symbolized by a little cross. All nations recognize the cross as the symbol of Christianity.
Jesus hung on that cross for six hours. We’re going to look at what happened during those six hours.
The Barrier Between God and Us.
In Mark 15:33-39 we see Jesus Christ cry out with a loud voice, and breathe His last breath. He was hanging on the cross for six hours, from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon. At high noon we see something very strange happen: it got very dark. Mark 15:33, “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” So, for three hours – beginning at the sixth hour, (i.e., mid-day) – Jesus hung there in the dark. Darkness was over the face of the whole land. So, by our way of reckoning time, the darkness lifted at three in the afternoon.
Now, we need to see how this darkness is connected to the words Jesus cried out, and the significance of the tearing of the curtain or veil in the Temple. So the picture is this: Jesus had been hanging on the cross for three hours – since nine in the morning. Then at twelve-noon darkness fell upon Jesus and the whole land for three hours. Just before the end of the three hours of darkness Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Then He died. And we should take note that the darkness lifted or ended when He died. For the darkness was until the ninth hour, i.e., 3PM. But notice what it says in Mark 15:38, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
So, what’s the connection then between the darkness, the cry, and the curtain?
Well, in a word, the darkness and the veil are both barriers. They are barriers separating us from God. Let me explain: The darkness here is a supernatural darkness. How do we know this darkness was a supernatural darkness? Well, we know because Jesus died at the time of Passover. Therefore, this darkness could not have been caused by an eclipse of the sun – as suggested by some – because Passover was held when there was a full moon. And if there is a full moon in the sky then there is no way that it can block out the sun’s rays. And anyway, who’s ever heard of a solar eclipse that lasted for three hours? It doesn’t happen. And to have the darkness lift the moment Christ dies on the cross shows us that is supernatural.
So then, if the darkness is a supernatural darkness, this tells us that God is doing something supernatural, doesn’t it? What was God doing? Well, this is where the Temple curtain comes in. The veil that hung in the Temple was what separated God from the people. In the Temple there was a big room called the Holies. And attached to the Holies was a smaller room called the Holy of Holies.
Have you got that? The priests and the representatives of the people were in the larger room called the Holies. And God was to be met only in the smaller room called the Holy of Holies or the Holiest of All. And that which separated the larger from the smaller room was a huge thick curtain. In other words the priests and the people in the Temple were separated from God by a thick veil.
Now, you might think it strange that God dwelt in a small room in the Temple. But that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence. In the Old Testament God is said to dwell between the cherubim of glory (Exodus 25:22; Hebrews 9:5).
So, in the small room, the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. Now, the Ark of the Covenant was essentially a wooden box. The box contained the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone – the ones Moses had. The lid of the box was what was called the Mercy Seat or Seat of Atonement. Looking down on the Mercy Seat were two carved cherubs with their wings touching each other’s. The Ten Commandments were the reminder that mankind has broken God’s Law, even God’s Covenant. The Mercy Seat was where blood was to be poured or sprinkled to symbolize the covering up our law or covenant-breaking, which is our sins.
The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement and sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat. The faces of the cherubim looked down upon the Mercy Seat. And so too did God who, so to speak, dwelt between the cherubim. Ultimately there needed to be a covering of blood – even Christ’s blood – between the broken Commandments and God, if our sins were to be covered or atoned for forever.
So, what needed to happen then, was for Jesus Christ as our High Priest to enter into the Holy of Holies with His own shed blood. That’s what the tearing of the veil from top to bottom was all about. It signified that Christ, our High Priest, was entering into the Holiest of All with His own blood to pour it on the Mercy Seat or Seat of Atonement.
But, the tearing of the veil also signifies something else. It was the removal of that which was separating us from God. Just as the darkness as it were was separating Jesus on the cross from God, so the veil in the Temple symbolized our separation from God.
Do you remember what God did when He ejected our first parents Adam and Eve from the Garden? After Adam and Eve had sinned by breaking God’s covenant-laws, i.e., the Ten Commandments, by eating the forbidden fruit, God placed cherubim at the east of the Garden, and a flaming sword which turned every way. So, angelic beings – cherubim as they’re called – blocked the way to the tree of life and God. Would it surprise you to hear that the embroidering on the Temple veil depicted these cherubim? E.g., 2 Chronicles 3:14, “And he made the veil of blue, purple, crimson, and fine linen; and wove cherubim into it.”
So, that curtain was also a reminder of man’s expulsion from Paradise. It was the reminder that man was separated from God on account of his sins. If we were ever going to be reconciled to God our sins would need to be removed. As a dark cloud blocks out the sun, our sins block out God from us. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was removing the darkness of our sins.
But not only was He removing our sins, He was also paying the price for our sins. (We’ll look at the price He paid for our sins just shortly), but, for the moment I want you to think about the supernatural darkness. God was doing something supernatural when Christ was hanging on the cross in darkness.
Here’s what God was doing: He was transferring the sin of the world on to Christ. Ever since the Fall man has always had a barrier between himself and God. That barrier is sin. But Jesus Christ had no sins. Therefore He had no barrier between Himself and God. So, what God did in the darkness, then, was impute or give to Jesus our sins. Here are a couple of Bible verses that state this: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” 2 Corinthians 5:21. And “[He] bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” 1 Peter 2:24. “[Righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of justification.” Romans 4:24b-25.
As God accounted our sins to Jesus as He hung there on the cross, Jesus could feel in His humanity that there was now, for the first time, a barrier between Him and God! That’s why He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This was total torment and absolute agony of soul for Jesus Christ – an excruciating feeling of forsakenness, abandonment. Hell is to be forsaken by God for eternity. And because Jesus is God and Man in one Divine Person, His suffering went out into all eternity.
Now, we need to be careful here, God the Father never for an instant stopped loving God the Son. God cannot deny Himself. Therefore what Jesus was experiencing was a feeling of forsakenness only in His human nature as God, as it were, turned His face away from Him. Jesus was experiencing agony of soul. Thus He experienced Hell on the cross. And isn’t Hell utter darkness? Forsakenness?
So, the darkness was what was separating Jesus from God. The darkness was representative of our sin, and representative of God’s judgment upon our sin. As God has said in His Word, even in Amos 8:9, “‘And it shall come to pass in that day’, says the LORD God, ‘that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.’”
So, with the sin of the world now upon His shoulders Jesus cried out with a loud voice, not a feeble voice – a loud voice – “and breathed His last.” Mark 15:37. Then we read in v. 38, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Like the darkness, this tearing of the veil was a supernatural event. It was Jesus entering into the Holy of Holies by the Spirit to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with His own blood. As it says in Heb. 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever…” So, when Jesus died on the cross the darkness between Himself and God lifted and the veil that separated us from God was torn in two.
And just before we move on, let me ask you, when God transferred all our sins to Jesus on the cross, what barrier is there remaining between you and God? The barrier represented by the veil and the supernatural-darkness is removed, isn’t it? The cherubim have stepped aside to let us through, so to speak. They turned the fiery sword upon Jesus on the cross, instead of you and me. And now because of Jesus Christ we can enter into the presence of God.
The Bargain Between God and Jesus Christ.
We need to consider something else that took place while Jesus was on the cross. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a. Therefore Jesus was on the cross receiving our wages for us. Jesus on the cross took away our sin as God transferred our sin from us to His Son while imputing His Son’s righteousness to us. But not only did Jesus receive our sins on the cross, He also received the punishment our sins deserve.
So the cross then is the place where Jesus collected our wages for us – which is death. The transaction was completed when Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and breathed His last. The words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” are proof that not only was Jesus receiving our sin, but that He was also receiving the wages of our sin, which is death. Put another way, we can say that sin has a price tag attached to it. If you were to read that price tag it would say “death”.
Now then, Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Therefore, if He were going to take away our sin, He would need to pay an awfully great price. Think about it, would you or I be able to pay for the sin of the world? No, we are disqualified from the start because we are part of the sin of the world. The only thing that you and I can pay for are our own personal sins which we would pay for by going to and remaining in the debtor’s prison of Hell forever!
But Jesus is different to you and me, isn’t He? Unlike us, He has no sin of His own. It’s because He is without any sin of His own that His death is worth something. And because Jesus Christ is a Divine Person, i.e., the God-man His death is of infinite worth.
So, it’s here that we see the true bargain. It’s here that we see that God and Jesus have a bargain. The bargain we’re talking about is the covenant between the Father and the Son. The Apostle Peter speaks of the heart of the bargain thus: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust…” 1 Peter 3:18a.
Are you getting the picture? There is an exchange of sorts – a bargain if you will – taking place on the cross. One perfect Man of infinite worth for an innumerable amount of sinners! Mark back in chapter 10:45 calls this transaction or exchange or bargain a ‘ransom.’ He says there, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and TO GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY.”
So we see then that Jesus on the cross was handing over a ransom. And the ransom He was delivering was His own perfect life. That was the bargain between the Father and the Son, that the righteous One would die for the unrighteous, the Just for the unjust.
Those who play chess, what’s a pawn worth? Not much? How about a knight or a bishop? A bit more? How about a queen? She’s worth a fair bit. But what about a king? If you lose your king you’ve lost everything, right? The king is worth every other man on the board – right?
On the cross, above Jesus Christ’s head, was the inscription, as recorded in Mark 15:26, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore Jesus is worth a king’s ransom because He is a king. But not only was Jesus the King of the Jews, He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords, isn’t He? Therefore, He has infinite bargaining power. God accepted Jesus’ perfect life as the ransom for setting us free from His righteous wrath on sinners.
The Bible tells us that God is love, but the Bible also tells us that God is just. Therefore God had a problem, how was He going to set us free without punishing us for our sins? God solved that problem by sending His only begotten Son to redeem us, i.e., to buy us back – to receive the punishment for us. Therefore you should take note that, even though we were taken captive by the Devil, it’s not the Devil who received the ransom. Rather, it’s God righteous justice – which is His wrath upon sin. That’s what we have been redeemed from – God’s justice. Therefore God’s justice has been satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is proof of this satisfaction.
So we see then that Jesus Christ has paid the price that God demanded for our sins. God would not accept all the rivers of blood from sacrificed animals over the centuries. Nor would He accept the well-intentioned, yet always imperfect lives of millions of sinners. God would accept nothing but the perfect covenant-keeping life of His own Son. Thus Jesus Christ took our punishment for us on the cross.
We have seen something of why the cross is so crucial to Christianity. By the way, the word “crucial” has to do with the crucifixion, i.e., the cross. The word “excruciating” also has to do with the cross. Christ’s excruciating crucifixion is crucial to Christianity. Without the cross of Christ we have no bargain with God and the barrier between God and us remains. The cross was the place where the great exchange took place.
So, let’s say a person wants to ignore the cross of Christ. Then that person is attempting to by-pass the only means provided by God for salvation and will therefore perish in his sins forever.
The benefits of Christ crucifixion are not automatic. Another transaction needs to take place. You need to receive Christ first before you will receive the benefits of His cross. No Christ, no forgiveness for your sins. Therefore I urge you to receive Him, if you haven’t done so. Don’t leave it too late or you’ll have to pay the price owed for your sins yourself.
We receive Jesus Christ by acknowledging our sinfulness and acknowledging that Jesus is King, and as King He has authority over us. We enter the King’s Kingdom through believing in our heart that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and by confessing that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords, even your Lord and King.
And if you’ve seen even a little of the pain and suffering that Christ went through, then you’ll know that an eternity in Hell is not something you would like. Those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation have a renewed and everlasting friendship with God. Because of what Jesus did on the cross God is no longer angry with us. We have been reconciled to God, and God has been reconciled to us.
The only way to know for sure that God is your friend is to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and to keep on following Him till the day you breathe your last breath. Won’t you – if you haven’t already – cry out to God? Won’t you cry out to Him before you breathe your last?
(This is an exerpt of my book "Demystifying the Gospel" @ US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1364511267&sr=1-10
For a list of all my books see Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5464221.Neil_Cullan_McKinlay