Luke 23:44-49 … Luke’s record of the last moments of our Savior’s earthly life is a very somber and reverential passage. We, like His acquaintances who were standing at a distance, observe from afar at this holiest moment in all of history … from eternity past to eternity future. 2 Corinthians 5:19 records the significance for us: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. (NASB) We’re given all we need to know in Luke while other Gospels fill in other details of the moment.
Three hours are accounted for here, from noon to 3 p.m. Supernaturally, these are darkened hours – perhaps by eclipse – but surely by the hand of God, the three hours of early afternoon are as dark as night. During these hours several things transpired physically and several more spiritually.
Physically, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This was a thick, layered and heavily embroidered curtain that shielded the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. These were two rooms in the actual temple itself, patterned after the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. The Holy of Holies was where only the High Priest went only once per year on the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur. The Holy Place was where the Table of Showbread, the Golden Candelabra and the Altar of Incense were placed and where priests regularly came in prayer as part of their sacrificial observances in behalf of sinners. The heavy veil separating the rooms miraculously split from top to bottom at the start of these three dark hours. Hebrews 10:20 tells us that this occurred by the hand of God to signify that a new and living way was opened into the presence of God; now, in Christ and His imputed righteousness, we have access to God! (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18) There was also an effect on the mocking multitudes surrounding the cross … they were silenced. Matthew and Mark record that it was during these hours that Jesus cried out (quoting Psalm 22) … My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? … indicating this was also the hour of torment when the burden of penalty for the sins of the world was borne by our Savior. Then the 5and 6things He said from the cross are recorded by John … I am thirsty and It is finished! … meaning that everything God prescribed for the Messiah to accomplish on earth had been completed. Humanity has been redeemed! Salvation has been secured! And all this is in Christ our Savior. Luke records the seventh and last words of Christ – controlling and yielding His earthly life to God the Father by quoting from Psalm 31:5 (Luke 23:46) … Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. The impact on those observing was immediate: the soldier at the foot of the cross acknowledging the innocence of Jesus and praising God, and the mocking people, now silenced in deep repentance, beating their breasts. As you read this brief account, it’s my prayer that we understand the deep significance of the sacrifice of Christ in God’s grace toward us … sinners that we are.
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