Phenomena Accompanying Jesus Death
After he said this, a shudder ran through nature. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. Christs Spirit descended into Hades to set free all the captive spirits of Gods saints who had died.
At that same instant a great bolt of lightning came out of the ominous cloud, striking the massive 60 feet high by 30 feet wide curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Thick as a mans hand, the veil was ripped into two pieces, from top to bottom. The instantaneous boom of thunder was so intense that it knocked people to the ground. For the priests who were there, the phenomenon was a terrible portent. They looked down at the burnt place in the stone where the lightning had passed into the ground, and knew Gods own hand had torn their veil, forever deserting and throwing open that Most Holy Place where he had so long dwelt in mystery. With this sign, Christ immediately became the great High Priest, the only intercessor between God and humankind.
Along the streets, people were pouring from their houses, their eyes turned fearfully toward the strange cloud that still hovered like a black omen of destruction above the Temple. Something terrible must have happened to it.
Cornelius and the other soldiers were frightened by the earthquake and lightning storm. The centurion looked up at Jesus body, whose face was so calm in death. Suddenly he felt a warm feeling of peace that he never possessed and couldnt explain. Somehow the lightning of faith had struck his heart and ignited his soul.
This man was innocent, Cornelius shouted so his men could hear. Truly, he was the Son of God! The other soldiers were too awed to say anything, fearing the wrath of God for what they had done.
It was getting toward evening, and the Jewish leaders did not want the victims left up on their crosses when the special Passover Sabbath began at 6 pm. They asked Pilate to hasten their death so they could be taken down. The soldiers broke the legs of the two on either side of Jesus so they couldnt use their feet to lift themselves up to breathe.
When the guards came to Christ they saw he was already dead and it was not necessary. But just to make sure, one of them took a spear and pierced Jesus pericardium (membrane surrounding the heart) which was distended and pressing against his side. Immediately a double stream of blood and water flowed out. The meaning conveyed by the blood (from the heart) and the water (from the pericardium) was double symbolism most true: he had literally broken his heart and corruption had not set in. Even death had no power or hold on him! It was undeniable post-mortem evidence that verified his words, I lay down my life to receive it back again. No one takes it away from me.
As John looked at this phenomenon, he remembered it was in fulfillment of the Scriptures, Not one of his bones will be broken, and They will look on him whom they pierced.
The spectators at Calvary hill were now gone. Only the small group of Jesus friends and his mother remained watching while Nicodemus recited the prophecy of Isaiah:
He was despised, shunned by all.
Yet it was our afflictions he was bearing,
our pain he endured.
He was pierced for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
the chastisement he bore restored us to health
and by his wounds we are healed.
We had all strayed like sheep, each going his own way,
but the Lord laid on him the guilt of us all.
He was arrested, sentenced, and taken away,
Yet the Lord took thought for his oppressed servant
and healed him who had given himself as a sacrifice for sin.
By submitting to death, our Lord took away its power for all time by burying its shaft into his own heart. He bore the weight of every sin that every one of us has ever committed, and endured every moment of every sinners isolation. He who was utterly sinless endured the torment of the damned, the conviction of being eternally separated from God that is called the Second Death. No man could have endured this. Only Almighty God could have endured it. Having given his life as a ransom with his precious blood, he obtained eternal redemption and life for all humankind.
It has been truly said that all of us, if only once in our lives as far as we are capable, must face the Cross of Christ. Sheer gratitude demands it of us. It is a thing we can only do by ourselves. Neither the written nor the spoken word, nor the painted picture dare say too much. They can only map out the way for a journey that we must take alone.
Which was hea blaspheming impostor or the Christ? Let history decide; let the heart and conscience of humankind give answer. If he had been what Israel said, he deserved the death of the cross. If he is what chimes of Resurrection morning ring out, then we rightly worship him as the Son of the living God, the Christ, and the Savior of all!