The Witnesses of Jesus' Death
Do you believe Jesus actually died?
If there is one unmistakable fact about Jesus is that He was an Innocent man. For weeks we went through a series of encounters with the Innocent. We have seen how Jesus Christ was unjustly tried for and found Innocent by the civil leaders of the day. Still because of God’s predestined plan from the foundation of the world Jesus had to be killed, sacrificed, for the sins of humanity. So the religious leaders of the day instigated the leadership and pressured the civil leaders to put Jesus to death, even though Jesus was an innocent man.
As Jesus was hung on the cross He pleaded with the Father for the forgiveness of those who were hostile toward Him. As Jesus pleads with the Father the people continue to mock Him and mistreat Him. Even the criminals on the cross until one of them is moved by his own circumstance and the thought of having to stand before his Maker moves the criminal to truly repent of his deeds. We looked at this man’s repentance last week. As we looked at His repentant heart we noticed how he Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty, Acknowledged his Own Depravity, Acknowledged Jesus’ Perfection and Trusted in Jesus’ Reign. Once the criminal placed his eternal future in the hands of the Savior the Lord replied with the results of the man true repentance, the result being true Paradise. Paradise being with in the presence of God for all eternity perfected.
Now comes the moment Jesus has come to earth for, the plan is about to come to an end. Just like the three in and a half years of His ministry Jesus is in control and Jesus is completely submissive to the Father. This is a very dark time still there is such hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. The only One at this very moment who knows hope here is Jesus, and the only one who sees God at work is the Gentile.
Let’s go ahead and look at Luke 23:44-49;
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
Here we have the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus hung on the cross we find here many witnesses to His death and many different reactions to Jesus’ death. The first reaction to Jesus’ is creation itself.
The Witness of The Father
The Witness of The Father
Verses 44 and 45 Luke says this, “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. This is supernatural this is an unusual event. The sixth hour is noon, and the ninth hour is 3 pm. This is the time of the day when it is the hottest and the time of the day when it can also be considered the brightest. Many people try to explain away this supernatural event by saying it was an eclipse. That would be impossible because Passover goes by the lunar cycle and it would be during the full moon. Solar eclipse only occur during new moons not full moons so there is no way this could be a solar eclipse.
Some also believe this to have been caused by a sirocco wind which is hurricane like winds coming from the Sahara and these winds could last a half a day to several days. I don’t think it was a normal explainable event. It was supernatural it was unexplainable. This was a witness of nature darkening itself because the Light of the World was dying for the purpose of reconciling all of creation back to God Himself.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Jesus is reconciling all things back to Himself and to the Father. It is not only mankind that has been affected by sin but all of creation has been affected by sin as well. When Jesus dies on the cross He not only reconciles us back to God but through His reconciliation He also brings hope to the creation itself to bring it back to a perfected state as well. We see creation react to Jesus death. Even in Matthew’s gospel we see how God’s creation reacted;
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
Not only was there darkness but there were earthquakes and the splitting of rocks. It was all supernatural when the Creator of the World dies His creation mourns.
The first witness is creation and it reacts by going dark.
The second witness is God the Father. Let’s continue in verse 45-46. The second half of 45 reads “and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke tells us before Jesus died the veil was torn. There are two veils associated with the temple. There is the outer veil which is visible to all in the courtyard. Some believe because of the public nature of these signs that this is the veil ment here.
Then there is the inner veil which protected the Holy of Holies. This veil is mentioned in Exodus
“You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman. “You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver. “You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.
This veil was designed to keep people from seeing God’s throne and coming into His presence. Once a year one priest chosen by lot would go into to sprinkle the blood of atonement on the mercy seat. The veil was hung from ceiling to floor and it was attached to poles on the ceiling and on the floor so the only way to get to the Holy of Holies was to go through the side. This veil was torn from top to bottom. The idea here is no human could have torn it because he would have had to start from the bottom. Even if you want to say the earthquake did it, well that is all well and good but since there is nothing in scripture indicating damage done to the temple outside of the tearing of the veil then and the earthquake could have torn the veil but it would only have happened from the bottom up. This isn’t recorded. This is the veil that was torn. It signifies Jesus has provided the way to God. God can now have His presence with all man and He is not only dwelling with man in the temple.
This is God’s witness He tore the veil. God’s witness also is intensified by how Jesus dies. Look again at verse 46, Jesus cries out, “Father, Into your hands I commit My Spirit.”
In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth.
Jesus is in control, Jesus has died on His own power. See God is witness to Jesus’ death in the fact that God gave Jesus the authority to take His own life and raise it up again. This is God’s own Son, and in order for all the sin to rest on Jesus’ shoulders God had to turn His back on Jesus. Which is another reason for the three hours of darkness. God the Father could not stand idly by and watch His Son take on the sin of the world so Jesus had the authority from God the Father to take His own life and this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus knew what He was doing and Jesus knew where He was going. He had hope because He was fully and completely submissive to the Father. Jesus also had to do this because in His death He made the perfect sacrifice for all of mankind and reconciled us back to God.
Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
This is what Jesus did and who made the covenant, the new covenant? God promised the new covenant, Jesus provided the new covenant and Jesus inaugurates it at the cross with the shedding of His blood. The veil being torn is God’s witness to this truth and Jesus giving up His life to the Father in the way He does here is also a testimony of God power and His desire for the reconciliation of all mankind back to His hands.
We have nature as a witness and God is a witness to Jesus’ death, next we find three groups of people witnessed Jesus’ death as well.
The first of these groups of people who witnessed the death of Jesus is the Gentile Centurion.
The Witness of the Centurion
The Witness of the Centurion
We see this in verse 47, Luke recounts for us, “Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’” It is no coincidence this man’s reaction is the first in the gospel. He is the closest to Jesus and the way Luke has laid this out it when from those closest in proximity to the farthest, but the contrast in this is it went from the farthest in relationship to Christ to the closest. Here is the Gentile by Jewish standing a dreg to God and His people. He was a Roman soldier to boot so he stands as an oppressor to God’s people. Yet, look at his response to what he has just witnessed.
First he praises God, these events were not natural and even a man who didn’t fear God recognised God power and witness in this dramatic event. Second the Gentile realized something very important, Jesus was Innocent. There was divine power going on and this centurion who has witnessed many of these executions who knows how many but this isn’t his first. He has never seen anything like this before. These events he witnessed pointed clearly to God’s glorious power.
The Gentile is the first one to respond and it is fitting he is the first also because what is God’s witness to Jesus’ death, the sealing of the covenant with Jesus and man which is the reconciliation of all mankind back to God which is signified by God Himself tearing the veil of the temple. And here the first one to react to Jesus’ death is the Centurion who can now know God through the blood of Jesus. And his reaction is very telling of who Jesus died for, it was not just for Israel but for all mankind and the Gentile is the first one in this gospel to acknowledge this as a Divine Event.
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
The Next witness moving out are the Jewish Crowds.
The Witness of the Crowds
The Witness of the Crowds
In verse 48 we read, “And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts.” These people were the ones mocking Jesus and telling Him to save Himself. Now as the see the witness of God in this whole matter they are now walking away mourning. This is not so much a mourning for the death of Jesus as much as it is a mourning for the judgment that will come on them because was an Innocent Righteous man.
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
These people didn’t look to Jesus with mercy they didn’t even judge them according to any Law they judged Him according to their own sinful desire and lust for power and following the crowd. So now that they have seen God’s witness of the death of a Righteous man they walk away mourning the fact that they were merciless toward One who demonstrated great mercy in His life and they don’t even realize how much mercy He has just demonstrated in His death.
The next witness is the witness of His disciples
The Witness of the Disciples
The Witness of the Disciples
In verse 49 we read, “And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.” Jesus’ disciples who are closer to Him relationally but farthest in proximity. There is no reaction from them because they just watched the Man they had followed for 3 1/2 years die a gruesome death and now with the witness of the Father through these supernatural events they stand there with the conformation of what they had already believed. The problem is now as they stand there their hope is lost because at this very point they didn’t quite understand the impact of Jesus’ Messiahship.
Later in Luke 24 when Jesus appears to two men on their way to Emmaus we find them recounting the story to a resurrected Jesus,
And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.
They knew but didn’t quite understand. Their hope was dashed but what really happened is Jesus death is what brings true hope. It is His death that seals the covenant that He made at the Last Supper.
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”