Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30
By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o'clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. – Luke 23:44-45 NLT
Some of the last words spoken by Jesus from the cross were, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" (Mark 15:34 NLT). This took place at the most crucial moment during His entire ordeal. It was at this point that all the sins of mankind were placed on Him. The penalty and burden of all the sins of all time were transferred onto Jesus and His holy, righteous Father had to turn away. For the first and only time, God the Father and God the Son were separated. Their inseparable bond was broken. No longer could God look on Jesus and say, "This is My Son in whom I am well pleased." He could not look on His Son at all, because of the sins of men. This scene is similar to that in the Old Testament during the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Each year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was instructed by God to select two goats. One was sacrificed as a sin offering for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. This first goat was slaughtered and its blood was taken inside the curtain into the Holy of Holies, where it was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. This would purify the Most Holy Place from the sins and rebellion of the people. Then Aaron would sprinkle the remainder of the blood throughout the Tabernacle, purifying it as well. The second goat, called the scapegoat, was kept alive. After having cleansed the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle and the altar, Aaron was to place his hands on the head of the goat and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. This act symbolically transferred the people's sins onto the goat. It bore their sins – the sins of the entire nation of Israel. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, away from the presence of God, where it was left to die. This event had to take place every single year in order to provide cleansing and forgiveness of sin for the people. But when Jesus died, He satisfied the demands of God once and for all. The book of Hebrews tells us, "The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship" (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Instead, they served as a constant reminder of their sins year after year. But Jesus came to change all that. "For God's will was for us to made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time" (Hebrews 10:10 NLT). "But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time" (Hebrews 10:12 NLT). Jesus, our scapegoat, took on all our sins and bore the penalty we deserved. He paid our debt with His own life – once and for all.
And when Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?, it was not cry of surprise or despair. He was not off guard by what was happening. He was actually quoting Psalm 22:1. That incredible Psalm goes on to describe the death of Jesus in amazing detail. "My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divine my garments among themselves and throw dice for my clothing" (Psalm 22:16-18 NLT). This moment on the cross, when Jesus was temporarily separated from His Son due to the sins of mankind, was all part of the plan. It had to happen. Jesus had to become our scapegoat. And when He had taken on our sins, an amazing thing happened. Luke tells us that at that moment, in the Temple, the heavy curtain that hung at the entrance into the Most Holy Place, was torn from top to bottom. This symbolic barrier between God and man, separating them from one another because ofthe holiness of God and the sins of men, was ripped down the middle. No longer would there be a barrier preventing men from having access to God. There would be no more need for a sacrificial lamb or for blood to be sprinkled by the high priest on the Mercy Seat. When Jesus took on the weight, the burden and the penalty of our sins, He did so once and for all. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place" (Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT). Jesus bore the penalty for our sins so we wouldn't have to. He suffered separation from the Father so we could gain access to the Father. He died so that we might live. He suffered so we might be saved. So "let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22 NLT).
Father, I can't thank You enough for this incredible plan of Yours. That You would allow Your own Son to take on my sins and die in my place blows me away. I can't fathom why You would do something so incredible. I know it was not because I deserved it. It was because of Your love. Rather than giving me what I justly deserved, You gave me what I could never have earned on my own – Your grace, mercy, favor and forgiveness. Your Son's death provided me with access into Your very presence. The barrier is removed. Access has been granted. Thank You! Amen.