It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23v44-49 (NIV)
'...he breathed his last.' People die everyday. Some, if you are a leader or celebrity, will get mentioned in the news or have their funeral televised. Most of us don't get a mention beyond family and friends. But for all of us, whoever we are, nothing really happens when we die. You wouldn't know if someone had died, unless you were told. When Jesus died it was unavoidable. Not just for those who were present, but for all those living everywhere: 'for the sun stopped shining'.
It seems Jesus' death was no ordinary death. Something extraordinary was happening on a cosmic scale. Luke records for us two earth shattering events that happened as Jesus died; 'darkness came over the whole land' and, 'the curtain of the temple was torn in two.' What was their significance?
First, the darkness falls on Jesus. From noon until three in the afternoon, when the sun is at it's brightest, 'darkness came over the whole land.' Darkness represents all that is going on at the cross. There is the darkness of evil, an innocent man is condemned to death; There is the darkness of spiritual forces, the devil wanted rid of Jesus; and There is the darkness of judgement, separation from God.
Jesus is rejected, destroyed and judged. He enters into the very darkness of hell itself. For just a brief moment in time we get a glimpse of all that Jesus endured, so that we don't have to.
Second, the way is opened by Jesus. As the darkness fell 'the curtain of the temple was torn in two.' The Temple was symbolic of God's presence. Although God can't be contained by blocks and timber, it represented a place to meet God. However, the curtain in the temple acted as a great barrier between God and people. God is holy, pure and perfect in all he does; Humanity is sinful, broken and lost. The curtain was a constant reminder that we are separated from God, access is denied, we can't live with God. But then the curtain is torn in two, not by itself, but by God. The way has been opened, our sinful broken lives dealt with by Jesus so that we can come to God, welcomed, accepted and loved. Because Jesus took the darkness for us we now have access to God, we can run to the Father without fear.
Knowledge is one thing, experience is another. We can all know the account of Jesus death and what happened, but for us to experience the benefits of Jesus death we must respond like the centurion who: 'seeing what had happened, praised God and said, 'Surely this was a righteous man'. He made it personal - Jesus took the darkness I deserved so that I could be welcomed and accepted by the Father forever.
Father, on this Good Friday, as I remember the death of your Son I praise you and thank you. Help me to move beyond knowledge to personal experience of all your blessings and benefits. I ask you to forgive me, and to accept me because of what Jesus has done through his death on the cross.