Open your Bible to Luke 23:44-49. We continue today looking at another word of Jesus from the cross. I want you to be on the lookout for four things as we read in this passage. First of all, in verse 44, I want you to be asking yourself the question, “What is the darkness about here?” Then in verse 45, I want you to think about the rending of the veil in the temple. In verse 46 Luke gives you the last word of Christ from the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Finally, in verses 47-49 he shows us the reaction of those present to His death.

I. Jesus Absorbs God’s Judgment

Look in verse 44 at the darkness that is described. “It was now about the sixth hour”—twelve noon—“and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour”—about three in the afternoon—“while the sun's light failed.” What is this darkness? It's the darkness of the judgment of God, and Luke is telling you that Jesus is absorbing the just judgment of God against our sin on the cross. Now you say, “Ligon, that's a lot to deduct from darkness.” Fair enough. Look at Amos 8:7-10. This is just one of several passages we could look at, but in this passage God speaks of darkness as part of the Day of Judgment.

Luke is saying that Day of Judgment has come, but it hasn't fallen on God's people; it's fallen on His only Son. That's what the darkness is about. And Luke is bringing it to our attention because it happened but also because it meant something. It fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament, and so Jesus absorbs the just judgment of God against our sin on the cross. Luke is again telling you what the cross is for, what the cross does, what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

II. Jesus Opens the Way into the Presence of God

Second, at the end of verse 45 Luke describes the rending of the temple's inner veil. “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Now the book of Hebrews makes it clear in 6:19, 9:3, and 10:20 that the rending of the veil symbolized Jesus having opened our way into the presence of God. Luke, like the author of Hebrews, is saying that Jesus has opened our way back into fellowship with God. What did Adam and Eve lose in the garden when they rebelled against God? They lost the joy of His nearer presence. But Jesus has provided the way back into the nearer presence of God. It's not a coincidence that He's just said to the thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” He is providing the way that God's people get back into His presence to enjoy communion with Him.

III. Jesus Willingly Gives Up His Life

Look also at verse 46. These are Jesus’ last words from the cross. Notice that he says them with “a loud voice.” If you have been on a cross for the day, you are more apt to whisper through your parched throat, but Jesus speaks loudly. He's in control to the very end.

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 31:5. Read that verse and notice that the psalmist does not call God, “Father,” but Jesus does. Jesus has just said the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” But at the very end He shows us that He endures to His last breath, entrusting His life to His Father. That is surely a lesson for us, to entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father even in the darkest of distresses.

But then, notice it's almost like Jesus decides when He's going to commit His spirit to God. That's emphasized in the third phrase too. “And having said this, He breathed His last.” It's almost like Luke is saying He decided to stop breathing. Jesus is not a victim of the Romans or Jews. He was a willing sacrifice. He loved you so much that He said, “Father, I will lay down My life for her, for him, because I love them.” Jesus is a willing sacrifice. He even decides when He's going to die!

Now there's another thing that we should learn from this. Jesus, even on the cross, is actually telling Christians how to die, and that's important for us because every single one of us is going to die unless the Lord Jesus comes first. Jesus wins the victory over death that allows us not to be terrified of it. As Jesus trusts His Father in the hour of His death, so we can trust the Father in the hour of our death. As He quotes Scripture in the hour of His death, we can quote Scripture in the hour of death. It changes the way that a Christian approaches death.

IV. Jesus’ Death Profoundly Impacts Everyone

There's one last thing. In verses 47-49 Luke records for us three responses to Jesus’ death by those who were present: the centurion, the crowd, and Jesus’ follower. Luke draws our attention to this because he wants us to see how profoundly what had happened had impacted everyone.

First of all, there's the centurion in verse 47. His response is to declare Jesus’ innocence, as Pilate, Herod, and the thief have already done. The other gospels tell us that this centurion even said, “Surely this was indeed the Son of God!” And Luke tells you, “He was praising God.” So this centurion watched Jesus on the cross, listened to what He said, and said, “This Man was innocent, and He is who He said He was. He's the Son of God.”

Then Luke records how the crowds responded. Look at verse 48. “The crowds returned home, beating their breasts.” This is a Jewish way of mourning. Now, it would not have been uncommon for Jewish women to be at a crucifixion of Jewish people and to do acts of mourning, but Luke is indicating the response as one of a recognition that they were guilty and Jesus was not. It’s almost like saying, “We did this and it was wrong. Surely God's judgment is going to fall.” There's a building sense of sin that may well come to fruition just a few weeks later when thousands come to faith in Christ at Pentecost.

Then there are the disciples--simply called “the acquaintances and the women” here--and they’re standing afar off. Luke's reminding us that, when Jesus saved us, He was virtually alone. No doubt they’re afraid of what the Jews and Romans might do, but Jesus is there on the cross alone for the salvation of the world. We’re not saved by the disciples; we're not saved by church leaders; we're saved by Jesus.

And here's where I want to leave you. I think all of us, if we take stock of ourselves, recognize that we deserve God's judgment. Luke is saying, “That's right, but God has dealt with what we deserve in Jesus, so the way back into fellowship with Him is not in our trying hard enough. It is in faith in Him because He is the only way. He has taken the judgment of God upon Himself for our sins.” So when that sense of God's just judgment against you speaks in your heart, the only right answer is to run to Jesus, the One who has already absorbed the just judgment of God that we might be with Him forever.