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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Miracles of Calvary

Good Friday

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 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?”).

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

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. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

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

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

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!”

Matthew 27:45-54

A miracle is an act of God that goes against nature or natural laws. Miracles are things like changing water into wine, healing a man born blind, raising someone from the dead, and walking on water. These things are miracles.

There were 5 miracles in today’s Gospel lesson. The first miracle occurred from noon until 3:00pm when “darkness came over all the land.” This was not an eclipse either. They only last a few minutes – this darkness lasted 3 hours! Besides, Luke tells us that “the sun stopped shining.” And this was at the time of Passover, which means there was a full moon – at which time an eclipse of the sun is impossible.

From 9am until noon Jesus had been active – if you can be active while you’re nailed to a cross. He had continuously prayed for those who were crucifying Him; He had promised salvation to the penitent thief, He had referred His mother to John; the soldiers had mocked Him and divided His garments; the priests had complained about the inscription on the cross; scoffers had been railing against Him. Then it was noon and we read of nothing being said.

When Jesus was born, the glory of the Lord shone around the angels; it was light in the middle of the night. Now, on Good Friday, it’s dark at noon! Jesus was paying for our sins – with inconceivable suffering! And at 3 o’clock the darkness and the silence was broken with His cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We can’t even begin to imagine what Jesus went through on that cross, for us! His task was finished, and crying out with a loud shout, He gave up His spirit.

Immediately the second miracle took place. Matthew tells us, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” This curtain, or veil, was hanging loose, so it wasn’t torn by an earthquake, as some would like to say. Besides, the temple in which it was hanging stood firm. “Torn in two, from top to bottom,” as if God had reached down from Heaven with two hands and tore it in half!

In the temple’s outer court were the brazen altar and the laver, for sacrificing and cleansing – symbols of what’s needed to draw near to God.

Then in the Holy Place were the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense – symbols of union and fellowship with God.

Finally, behind the veil, which blocked the view and prevented entrance, was the most holy place, or Holy of Holies. Here was the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat – the symbol of God’s presence, power, and grace. It was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, at the time of the beginning of the evening sacrifice. Priests were in the Holy Place, in front of the veil, when suddenly it was torn in two, from top to bottom. God meant it to be seen, and understood. And in Acts we read that “a great number of the priests became obedient to the faith.”

The veil was torn – the way into the Holy of Holies open to anyone. The Lamb of God had taken His own blood directly to God, Himself. And now there is one mediator between God and man – Christ Jesus! That’s why the railing is open between you and the altar. We don’t go to God through priests – we go to God through Jesus Christ!

The third miracle took place at the same time: “The earth shook and the rocks split.” A miraculous earthquake, at the instant of Christ’s death. This earthquake wasn’t caused by fires within the earth, but by a voice on the earth. With the tearing of the veil, it was caused by Jesus' shout of victory, as Jesus cried out… in a loud voice!

Here was Calvary answering Sinai. There were earthquakes and rumblings when God gave Moses the Law – and now an earthquake with the final payment made, required by the Law. So we read that Jesus “redeemed them that were under the Law.”

And then there was the miracle of the open tombs. The tombs around Calvary were sepulchers, excavations in the rocks, or caves. And they were sealed with large stones, sometimes rolled into place like the tomb in which Jesus was buried.

And we read that the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The splitting of the rocks was evidence of great force. The opening of the tombs was evidence of God’s design. Open from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, exposed to thousands of spectators – who couldn’t touch them nor close them because it was the Sabbath!

Then Easter Sunday morning the fifth miracle happened, as dead saints who had come to life went into the city, after Jesus’ resurrection – and appeared to many people! Wow! That must have shaken up some people!

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and these saints’ resurrection from the dead is proof of John 3:16 that we “shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The miracles are evidence that we have an all-powerful God. And Jesus’ death is evidence – and proof – that we have a loving God!

The cross of Christ is the ultimate evidence of God’s love. Maybe we need evidence of His love, because there often seems to be so much evidence that He’s not a God of love: personal tragedies, floods and earthquakes, hunger and poverty, tyranny and torture, disease and death – how are these things to be reconciled with a God of love?

Christianity doesn’t offer glib answers, but it does offer evidence of God’s love – evidence just as historical and objective as the evidence that seems to deny it. This evidence is the cross.

John wrote in his first letter, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” He says that, apart from Christ and His cross, the world would never have known what true love is! Of course all human beings have experienced some degree of love. But John is saying that only one act of pure love (with no taint at all of any ulterior motive) only one act of pure love has ever been performed in the history of the world, namely that of God giving Himself in Christ on the cross, for undeserving sinners. That’s why, if we’re looking for a definition of love, we shouldn’t look in a dictionary, we should look at Calvary!

John has another statement, even more precise: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Because we were sinners, we deserved to die under the righteous anger of God. But God sent His only Son – and in sending Him, came Himself – to die that death, and bear that wrath, instead of us. It was an act of sheer, pure, unmerited love.

Paul also writes about the love of God. In his letter to the Romans he writes, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It’s God’s very own love, for there’s no other love like it! God gave His Son to die for us. That’s how He demonstrated His love. Look at the 3 parts of what God gave:

1) God gave His Son to die for us. If God had sent a man to us, as He had sent the prophets to Israel, we would have been grateful. If He had sent an angel, as He did to Mary at the annunciation, we’d have considered it a great privilege. But in either case He would have sent us a third party, since men and angels are creatures of His making. But in sending His own Son, eternally begotten from his own being, He wasn’t sending a creature, a third party, but He was actually giving Himself!

2) God gave His Son to die for us. His body died, and His soul died too – died the death of separation from God. We’re the ones who sinned – but He’s the one who died! For the Sinless One to be made sin, for the Immortal One to die – there’s no way we can even begin to imagine the terror or the pain in these experiences of Jesus.

3) God gave His Son to die for us. That is to say, for undeserving sinners like us. And here’s the greatest miracle of Calvary! God gave Himself to die for us, so that we might live forever with Him! What a loving God we have! What a miracle of love and grace we see when we look at the cross!

Do you know the song, “It Took A Miracle”? The chorus goes like this:

It took a miracle to put the stars in place,

It took a miracle to hang the world in space;

But when He saved my soul,

Cleansed and made me whole,

It took a miracle of love and grace.

Thank you, Lord, for that miracle!


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