“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. 48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. 49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. 54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:45-54).
We are presented here with a series of miracles, that are so briefly mentioned, it is possible to overlook their monumental significance. Rather than press on in the narrative, let us pause and consider the miracles of Calvary, beginning with the depths of darkness.
The first miracle which invites attention is found in Matthew 27:45. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land, unto the ninth hour.”
The sixth hour refers to midday. Jesus had been on the Cross since the third hour of the morning, or since 9 o’clock. It was daylight when Jesus was crucified. Now it was dark, and the darkness was alarming, for the sun should have been shining at its brightest.
People grew frightened.
Something strange was happening.
This darkness was different than anything the people had known.
This darkness was different in its duration.
This was not a solar eclipse because it lasted for three hours.
The longest eclipse can last for only a few minutes. In fact, the longest total solar eclipse has not happened yet. It is scheduled for July 16, 2186, and will last for 7 minutes and 4 seconds. Personally, I do not mind waiting for it.
This darkness was different in its density. It covered the glory of the noonday sun. The brightest rays, of a brilliant yellow star, could not penetrate the covering that was caused to pass over the land. Voices suddenly grew strangely silent. Up to this point, there had been much chattering at Calvary. A cacophony of sounds clashed.
Many things were happening, such as the intercession of Christ for those who were killing Him.
Jesus had prayed,
“Forgive them. They know not what they do.”
You have been correctly taught, that every prayer Jesus made was answered. This prayer was no exception. Acts 6:7 reveals one way that this prayer was answered after the resurrection of Jesus, and His ascension to heaven. The Bible says, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Not just some, but many, a great company, of those who had orchestrated the death of Jesus, and encouraged the people to demand His crucifixion, had been prayed for, and they came to faith.
Where great sin abounded, greater grace abounded, for there is no sin, too great for the grace of God. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom was right when she said,
“There is no pit so deep,
that God’s love is not deeper still.”
If we believe the Bible, it is very possible the worse sinner who has ever lived has already been converted.
He was a religious man.
He was a Pharisee.
He moved in the highest echelons of society.
His birth name was Saul.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, after his conversion, Saul, now Paul, wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Today, Paul would join others to sing and ask,
“And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?”
In addition to praying for others, Christ had been listening to the cry for mercy by one of the dying thieves.
“Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Jesus did remember him, for the Lord said, “Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The Lord said that because His kingdom has come.
The kingdom of heaven is not something to be relegated to the future. It is a present reality.
The message of the historic church for 2,000 years plus has been,
“The King has come;
come to the King,
and into His kingdom.”
Those who believe in Christ, are transferred from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). In the Revelation, John declares that Christ has made, “us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
Many Christians today do not view believers as kings, or as priests, or even as part of the kingdom of God. Many have been taught to relegate all that to the future. But the spiritual reality is that where the King is, there is His kingdom, which is why Jesus said “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). The reason Jesus could perform miracles was because of the present reality of His kingdom, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).
It is true that the kingdom does not come with observation
It is true “the kingdom of God is not meat [food] and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
It is also true that the church is a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that we should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
As a holy nation, we as Christians have reigning over us the King of all kings, who can comfort us in death, and take us to paradise. Is it any wonder that Jesus taught His disciples saying, “Fear not?” Let the church sing,
“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
God will take care of you,
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.”
There were other activities at Calvary.
Jesus had recognized His mother, and executed His last will with John.
He had watched the soldiers gamble for His garments.
And the Lord listened, as the people of Jerusalem passed by, wagging their heads, and commenting with cruelty,
“He saved others.
Let Him save Himself!”
Suddenly, the cruel laughter, and the casual talking stopped.
People strained to listen.
The soft sound of dripping blood could be heard.
There was the terrible sound of silence.
Even the Roman soldiers began to beat upon their chests, in order to make a noise, and reassure themselves that everything was all right.
What no one realized, at the time, was that in the eerie darkness, spiritual truth was being declared.
God the Father was putting His seal of approval upon the message of His own dear Son.
Jesus had predicted His death.
Jesus had often told His disciples that the Son of man would be betrayed, arrested, and crucified.
Now the world knew, Jesus did not lie. He was not wrong.
Christ had presented Himself, “as the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.”
“Show us a sign,” demanded the angry Pharisees, “that You are whom You claim to be.”
And the sky grew dark to cover the heinous sin of Deicide. This was God in the hands of angry sinners!
As God the Father was pleased to put His seal of approval upon His Son, so He was determined to display His own hatred of sin.
Sin is a foul thing.
Sin brings death.
Sin brings separation.
Sin produces guilt and shame.
Sin has caused all of creation to be cursed.
Sin is the reason why a crowd gathered at Calvary.
The world could not look for very long upon the lingering Lord.
Angels, spread your wings, and cover your holy eyes.
Children, turn away.
Sinners, bow your head, and consider what your behavior has cost the Son of God.
Be astonished enough to ask with Isaac Watts,
“Alas! And did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I!
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!”
Dr. T.T. Shields was the pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada (1910 – 1955). He tells this wonderful story, illustrating the love of God. Dr. Shields was visiting in the home of a friend one day. As he sat in an easy chair, and his friend sat on the couch opposite him, a little boy, named Neil, about three or four years old, came into the room. He went to his father’s side, and Dr. Shields said, I heard him whisper, “Papa, get up and show Mr. Shields how much you love me.”
“I knew at once, there was a secret between these two, as there should be between father and child, and that was a secret in which the child rejoiced. His father smiled, and said, “Oh, run away, Neil, and play; we are busy talking, and Mr. Shields knows I love you.”
“Yes,” said the little fellow, “but I want you to show him how much.”
Again, and again the father tried to put Neil off, but the child persisted in his plea that the Pastor be shown how much the father loved him.
At length the father yielded, and as he stood, the child stood between the two men, and, holding up his index finger, with a glance first at his father and then at Dr. Shields, he said, “Now you watch till you see how much my papa loves me.”
Neil’s father was a tall, and nicely built man. First, he partially extended one arm, but the child exclaimed,
“No, more than that.”
The other arm was extended, but the little fellow was not content, and demanded,
“More than that.”
Then, one after the other, both arms were outstretched to the full, only the fingers remaining closed. But still the child insisted,
“More than that.”
Then, in response to his repeated demands, as Neil playfully stamped his little foot, and clapped his hands and cried,
“No! No! It’s more than that!”
One finger after another on either hand was extended, until his father’s arms were opened to their utmost reach, and to each was added the full extension of the fingers.
Then the child turned to me, and gleefully clapping his hands exclaimed,
“See? That’s how much papa loves me.”
Then he ran off to his play, content.
“I charge thee, sinner, let not your unbelief drive you beyond the far reach of mercy’s fingertips! There is no country this side of hell, which is not shadowed by that Cross. Behold, and believe, how much God loves you!” (T.T. Shields) It is a love beyond degree!
As suddenly as the darkness came, it passed. Light shone once more, and that too is significant. It reminds us that the true Light of the world shall rise again.
The second miracle of Calvary is recorded in Matthew 27:51. “And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, and the earth did shake, and the rocks split.”
The curtain that is referred to, was the massive veil that hung in the Temple of Jerusalem. This curtain was a lovely, and faithful, reproduction of the cloth first produced for the Tabernacle, used by the children of Israel during their journey in the desert for forty years. The only difference was the size and strength of the two. The curtain in the Temple was stronger, and larger, as it separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
It was said that a team of horses, pulling in opposite directions, could not tear the curtain. But here we read that it was torn in half. How did that happen?
It did not happen by an earthquake.
It is a strange earthquake, to be sure, that can tear a hanging curtain in half, while leaving the building alone.
No, it was not an earthquake that tore the curtain, for the Bible says the veil was torn first, and then did the earth quake.
We ask again.
“What caused the massive and holy curtain to be torn from top to bottom in two jagged, pieces?”
The answer is this.
The last cry of Christ from the Cross of Calvary caused the curtain in the Temple to tear. When Jesus had cried again with a loud voice saying, “Telelesti” “It is finished,” He dismissed His spirit, and with the dismissal, the curtain ripped.
Jesus did not say, “I am finished.”
He did say “it”, the great work of redemption was accomplished so that it could be applied to all who are the heirs of salvation.
Jesus died and saved His people from their sins.
In the very moment of Christ’s death, the majestic curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet, decorated with the image of angels, hanging on golden hooks, was torn.
The symbolism was significant.
Suddenly, the way into the Holy of Holies was made possible. Men, women, and young people were invited to draw closer to God than they had ever been before. The flesh of Jesus, which the curtain represented, according to Hebrews 10:19-20, had been broken. A way had been made to be with God the Father in an intimate way. By the ultimate bloody sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the question of sin had been settled. That simple truth is illustrated in the miracle of the torn curtain of the temple.
As the tearing of the Temple veil was a supernatural act, so was the quaking of the earth. That God was present at this precise moment is manifested in the fact that the earth shook at the death of Jesus. The shaking of the earth coincided with the sudden darkness of the day, which was preceded by the shout of victory. Moreover, only the graves were disturbed. The Cross itself was not touched, for this was a controlled shaking of the earth, to remind all of creation that everything has been affected by sin. “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth, until now” (Romans 8:22). Paradise has been lost. Nevertheless, “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
The fourth miracle of Calvary is found in Matthew 27:52: when the earth shook, and the graves were opened. By the place of execution, was a graveyard. There were rocky sepulchers, or excavations in the rocks, wherein bodies could be placed. Here, Joseph, of Arimathea, had purchased a tomb for burial. The entrances of these graves were made secure by doors of stone.
Here was an amazing event.
The graves were opened by the shaking of the earth.
Nothing happened, at least, not yet. But something was going to happen, for the graves were opened by Divine design. This event is significant, because it speaks of an exhibition. It seems as if God the Father was reminding people to keep their eyes on the graveyard.
Many times, Jesus had promised to rise again, the third day. Early in His ministry, Jesus had said to His disciples, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day’” (Matt. 17: 22–23).
In the hour of crisis, it was easy to forget the Lord’s message. So, God the Father caused certain graves to be opened, in such a way, they could not be shut too quickly, for the Sabbath was coming.
No devout Jew would have anything to do with the dead during the Sabbath, unless compelled. With an eye on the open graves, the biblical narrative moves on to the fifth miracle of Calvary, which is the miracle of the collapsed clothing.
In John 20:6-8, we read,
“Then came Simon Peter, following him [John], and went into the sepulcher, and seeing the linen wrappings lying there, And the face-cloth, that had been on His head, Not lying with the linen wrappings, But rolled together in a place by itself.”
While, this miracle took place on Easter morning, its origin is at Calvary. If Christ had not died, if Jesus had not been taken from the Cross and buried, the details of this event would not have occurred.
This is what happened.
When the Sabbath was ended, Peter and John received word that Jesus was alive. Neither one could believe the good news, so they literally ran to the grave site. John outran Peter, and arrived at the grave-site first. He looked inside, but would not go in.
Peter did go inside the sepulcher. Peter could be as bold, and brazen, as he could be weak, and vacillating. Peter went inside the tomb. He stooped down, and he saw the collapsed burial clothes of Christ. The cloth, that had been wrapped around the body, was in one place; the cloth that had been placed on the face of Jesus, was in another place. What was missing was the body of Jesus. Where was it?
There was no doubt Christ had died. The Roman soldiers were convinced of the death of Christ. They had seen death often. The Jewish leaders were certain that the Imposter, in their opinion, had truly died. Their reputations were at stake. The disciples knew that Jesus had been killed. They saw the blood and water flow from His wounded side when His body was pierced by a spear (John 19:31-34). Their hope had vanished, and they were afraid.
But now, the grave cloth testified to the fact of a resurrected Christ, and that takes us back to Matthew 27:52, 53, and the sixth miracle of Calvary, which is the resurrection of the righteous.
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the Holy city, and appeared unto many.”
This is one of the most remarkable passages in the Bible, not only for what is said, but also for what is not said. There are many details that would be interesting to know, but here are the facts. After the resurrection of Jesus, many bodies of the saints that had died, arose, and came out of the graves. They went into the city of Jerusalem, and appeared unto others. These saints did not go about in secret. Rather, there was a widespread, and public manifestation of their presence.
These saints were resuscitated, much like the five restorations to life that happened elsewhere, according to the Scriptures. These saints who went into Jerusalem from among the dead, following the resurrection of Christ, were but a temporary manifestation of the permanent glory that awaits all Christians at the Second Coming of Christ. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
Here, then, are six wonderful events recorded in Scripture surrounding the death of deaths in the death of Christ. There is the miracle of the depths of darkness, the tearing of the Temple curtain,
the quaking of the Earth, the graves being opened, the miracle of the collapsed clothing, and the resurrection of the righteous.
Unfortunately, these six events will only be segments of a pretty story, apart from personal salvation. If you have never been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, if your spiritual eyes have never been moistened by the gospel, or opened so that you look at the Cross and cry, “God be merciful to me the sinner,” if you have never seen the resurrected Christ in all His glory, if you have never bowed before God and cried, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” then it does not matter what miracles have happened in the past.
The truth of the matter is that you need a miracle. You need the seventh miracle associated with Calvary, and that is the new birth. Salvation really is a miracle because it takes a direct act of Almighty God to impart spiritual life in your soul.
In most things, God is pleased to work through the Laws of Providence, or Nature. There is the First Law of the Universe that says matter cannot be created, or destroyed. There is the Second Law of the Universe that says all things go from order, to disorder. There is the Law of Gravity, what goes up, must come down. There are many natural laws, but there is nothing in heaven, or in earth, or in self, that can bring the soul of a person back to spiritual life, if it is dead in trespasses and sin.
God must act.
God must speak, if the heart is to be changed.
Perhaps there is someone today who needs this seventh miracle of Calvary.
You are not a Christian, but you would like to be.
If that is the desire of your heart, then call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask Christ to forgive you of your sins. Ask the Lord to save you by His great love. “For there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved” Acts 4:12.
It may be that God is right now working a miracle, and a soul is being saved. I have prayed, that would happen. Whoever you are, wherever you are, if you will but call upon Christ, a miracle of the new birth will take place.
Spiritually blind eyes will see.
Spiritually deaf ears will hear.
A cold spiritual heart of stone will become flesh, and quiver. God will give you a new heart.
New life, eternal life, will be given.
Salvation is yours for the asking, it is yours for the receiving.
In the hour of believing, your new life in Christ Jesus, will become the seventh miracle of Calvary.
Today, is the day of salvation. Do not turn away as the Rich Young Ruler. Bow before the Cross and pray, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner.” You will depart justified, saved by sovereign grace.
“Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus, ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power.
He is able, He is able;
He is willing; doubt no more.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you, this He gives you,
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.”