Date: April 19, 2019
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Scripture: Matthew 27:50–27:61
Title: “Responding to the Cross”
Text: Matthew 27:50-61
TBI: The significance of the cross demands a response.
Outline: Three responses to the death of Christ
It would be a very rare event to require a response from everyone who has ever lived.
There are several reasons for this.
Many events are bound by geography. A town in Missouri ravaged by a tornado will respond to the storm differently than a town a hundred miles away in Illinois.
Some events are confined by a historical context. We can’t expect people today who first learn of the end of the second world war to respond the same way people did in September of 1945.
Some events are personal. As important as it is to you, people around the world won’t respond to your graduation, marriage, or birth of a child like you did.
For many reasons, we don’t expect all people to respond to all events.
But, what if there was one event that was so unique, so significant, that it was worthy of a response from everyone who ever lived?
The argument I want to persuade you of tonight is simply this: The significance of the cross demands your response.
Look at the cross friends. Look with me at verse 50, in Matthew 27, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”
This puts us right at the point of Christ’s death. We talked last Sunday about what was happening here on the cross. Jesus was experiencing the height of human torture. But, beyond that, there was the invisible and doubly difficult divine wrath that he was bearing. Jesus, upon the cross, was taking the punishment that we deserved. He was satisfying divine judgment—in our place! He was there, standing in our place, taking everything that a sinner like you and me deserves. We know from the other gospels (Mark, Luke, and John) that Jesus had seven cries from the cross. This last one that Matthew is referencing is most certainly what John records for us in his 19th chapter when our Lord declared triumphantly, “It is finished.” For the believer in Christ, the only wrath that's left for you is what remains in the cup. It is finished! "He drank damnation dry!"
Notice also, that the text says, he yielded up his spirit. This is important. He voluntarily laid down his life. The Romans did not conquer Christ. He conquered sin, Satan, and death! “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10.18
In the gospel according to Matthew, we will have a front-row seat at the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. And we’ll see surprising and significant responses.
I’ve arranged my sermon tonight around three headers, they are three responses to the death of Christ. First, meaningful miracles; second, stunned soldiers; and third, devoted disciples.
What is the response to Christ’s death?
We have three miracles in this passage.
The first is in the temple. The curtain is torn. Look at verse 51, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”
What’s going on here? For the Jews, the temple was placed where God met with his people. There were various levels of the temple that had restrictions upon where you could go. There was one barrier that communicated that all people must stay out. The only one who could pass through this place was the high priest and then only once per year, on the day of atonement.
This reminds us of the Garden of Eden when after Adam and Eve sinned, they were banished in judgment from the presence of God. There were cherubim placed at the entrance of the Garden to guard and protect, preventing all from entry.
This curtain was about 60 feet tall and about 30 feet wide. It was about as thick as your hand.
And you know what was stitched upon the curtain? Cherubim. Yes, reflecting the Garden of Eden, Exodus tells us that this curtain had the stitching upon it warning all to stay out.
But at the death of Christ, there is a miracle. This massive curtain is torn in two, from top to bottom!
What does this mean? It means the through the sacrifice of his body, the true temple, Christ has made a way into the holy place. He entered into the holy place for us and secured our access into God’s presence, not with the blood of animals but with his own precious blood.
The torn temple is God’s response to the death of Christ—There is access to God through the death of Christ.
The second is the earthquake. In the second half of the verse, we read that the earth shook and the rock split. It’s a testimony of the power and significance of the moment as if creation itself is joining into to celebrate and respond to the significance of the moment. It’s a momentous event! Even the earth responds!
The third is the opening of the tombs. Look with me at verse 52-53, The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
This is one of those verses that perhaps we wish Matthew would have said more about. It’s certainly curious and compelling. What is this all about? This is what we do know. The resurrection of Christ is the first fruits or the first of the rest resurrection. His resurrection indicates the first of what the future will be like. Believers will be raised in the likeness of his resurrection (1 Cor. 15).
What is likely happening here is that the death of Christ signifies a whole new order, a new era. And those faithful believing saints are raised out of the ground and went about the city testifying to the uniqueness and power of Christ’s death.
Friends listen, the death of Christ is so significant that the dead respond to it!
These are meaningful miracles. They communicate access to God, significance and power, and resurrection.
This is quite a surprise. The man standing by witnessing the death of Christ responds.
Why is it a surprise?
First, who he is. This is a Roman soldier. Crucifixions were as common to them as traffic is to a Boston cop. He’s seen countless crucifixions. But he’s never seen anything like this.
Second, what he sees. Matthew highlights the events surrounding the death, especially the earthquake and what accompanied it. Mark points to how he breathed his last.
This likely points to how peaceful and powerful he was. He had never seen a man like this.
Also, how he was forgiving his enemies, praying on their behalf.
Further, he was in complete control, even amid his agony.
He was trusting his Father amid the cross.
He was bearing divine wrath.
He was triumphant. He declared it is finished!
No one died like this. His suffering was unique. He was unique.
This is why the Centurion responds.
Third, what he says, we read that he said, “Truly this was the Son of God.” We aren’t sure of all of what this man might have understood —some claim he became a Christian—we don’t know, but we know this, he declared that Christ was different. His suffering, his death, how he died, he was remarkable.
And the stoic, steel-faced Centurion, was struck by Jesus of Nazareth.
We have these devoted disciples. These women are listed in verses 55-56. They are looking on and watching Christ. Just as his life captured their eyes so too now in the hour of his death, they are fixed upon him. We know from reading forward, that they are also the first witnesses of his resurrection. Sacrificing and risking potential harm and suffering, they are there.
Then there is another disciple there. Joseph of Arimathea. We read in Luke that he was a member of the council, he was a part of the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin. He was not supportive of them killing Christ. He is a believer, won to Christ by his life and claims. And he too risked his life. He went to Pilate and asked for his body. And according to custom, he requested the body of Christ to be taken down before evening and put in a tomb. He is fulfilling what we read prophesied in Is. 53:9 that the Messiah will be buried in a rich man’s tomb.
Then we have more women there. As we read in verse 55, “many women there, looking on from a distance who had followed Jesus.” These are his disciples standing by beholding the cross of Christ. Watching, marveling, sacrificing, and taking in the cross.
We know from the rest of the story that they would be back in a couple of days to visit the tomb. They would follow their resurrected Lord’s Words to go to Galilee. They would go ahead and take his message to the nations. They would continue to be devoted to him.
And so we have the cross set before us tonight. We see the sinless Savior give up his life.
This is the most significant life and a most significant event. So important, that everyone must respond to it.
We see some here. We see meaningful miracles (a 70’ curtain, earthquakes, and the dead raised), we see a stunned soldier, and we see devoted disciples.
How about you?
How do you respond to the cross of Christ?
It is an even with unparalleled significance. You must respond to it.