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He Gave Up His Spirit

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is great to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson, “He gave up his spirit.” The text is Matthew chapter 27 verses 45 through 54. Let’s listen together to the Word of God.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land, but about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani,” which means my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it in a stick and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God.”

Many years ago I visited a dear Christian woman who had decided to leave the hospital and die at home. She lingered for weeks as cancer wracked her body. Her family begged God to take her. And they also claimed that she was holding back death because some of her family was not yet saved, not yet in Christ. I can assure you, listeners, that human beings do not have the power to delay death simply by our own will and desire. It is true that fervent prayers can influence God, but only God ultimately determines the exact time of death when our spirit, in fact, leaves the body.
In Matthew chapter 27 verses 45 through 54 we have the description of the death of the Son of God. That is an amazing truth in itself. In verse 45 it refers to the time. It was the sixth hour until the ninth hour or, that is, noon until 3 PM. And the life of Jesus Christ was slowing draining away. It tells us also in verse 45 that darkness came over all the land. And this was at about noon when usually the sun is at its zenith in radiance, but not that day. Evidently it was dark, perhaps, for even three solid hours. When Christ was born the night sky was filled with light according to Luke chapter two and verse nine. It tells us there that the glory of the Lord shone around them. But at the death of Christ there was deep darkness. Why? Well, often in the Old Testament, for example, the darkening of the sun was a judgment of God, especially for unusually sinister sin. At Calvary wicked men were crucifying the Son of God. On the cross Christ became sin for us and died for all of our sin.

Jesus Christ himself often spoke of divine judgment in terms of darkness. For example in Matthew chapter 25 and verse 30 where he, Jesus, spoke of darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, referring to a place called hell. Today those who reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as the Savior of the world by his atoning sacrifice on the cross remain in spiritual darkness, remain dead in their sins spiritually. Christ is the light of the world according to John chapter right and verse 12. Jesus said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” meaning eternal life with God. Do you believe this? Do you live it? Do you share it? We must.

In Matthew chapter 27 and verse 46 Jesus cried out, translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out and it wasn’t a whimper. He wailed. He cried out in utter agonizing anguish, because of separation, because of the abandonment that he experienced as the Son from his Father God for the first and only time in all eternity. And why? Because an absolutely holy and just God was pouring out his wrath on his Son who took mankind’s entire sin upon himself. The Son substituted himself for us. The Son paid the price once and for all to ransom us from our sin bondage. The Son was not only our sin bearer, he became the sin offering and even sin itself for us. Really? That is what it says. That is what is revealed in 2 Corinthians chapter five in verse 21 where it says: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The wrath of God was fully exhausted on his Son as our sin bearer. Part of that wrath included God the Father’s forsaking of his Son, an incomparable loss of fellowship with the Father during that dreadful, dark time. And why? Because God the Father and God the Son love us that much. And the Son had to receive the full, unadulterated wrath of God because of sin, our sin. The supreme reason that Christ came to this earth was not to do miracles, was not to teach, not to be the perfect example only, but, as it is revealed in Matthew chapter 20 and verse 28, it says, in part: To give his life as a ransom for many. In the midst of being willingly engulfed in our sins, the sin of all mankind of all time, his anguish was far deeper not from the lacerations on his back or the thorns that pierced his head or the nails that held him to the cross, but from that painful loss of deep fellowship with the Father that the Son had enjoyed throughout eternity, from eternity past and even into eternity future, until that dark time, perhaps, right before he gave up his spirit and died so that we might have life, might live with him.

In Matthew chapter 27 and verse 50 it says: He gave up his spirit. The Son of God died. A person of the creator godhead tasted death. Christ did not commit suicide. He was put to death by wicked men. Christ gave up literally in the original first century Greek he yielded up or let go of his spirit. It was by an act of his will, of Christ’s will. In fact, it tells us in the gospel of John chapter 10 and verse 17 and following the words of Jesus, “I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” It all points to the divinity, to the deity of Jesus Christ, because only God ultimately determines the exact time of death and the release of the human spirit. Jesus Christ voluntarily, by acts of wicked men gave his life to save those who put their obedient faith in him. Christ could have called 10,000 angels, but he died alone, utterly alone for you and for me, even with the abandonment of his own Father.

In Matthew chapter 27 and verse 51 we find these words. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. According to Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, the curtain, that is the veil, was a massive and predominantly blue and ornately decorated veil. It separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple and, therefore, here was divinely, that is miraculously split as indicated not from the bottom up, like from a man, but from the top to the bottom. Why? What is the significance of this? It is the once and for all sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross, for the sin of mankind. This curtain signified that it was no longer needed. Now there is access to God the Father. We can come directly to God without the need for a priest or a sacrifice or ritual. The old covenant became obsolete and the new covenant is by the blood of Christ and now in force.

It also tells us and reveals to us that the earth shook and rocks split. Earthquakes are often accentual. They amplify God’s doings. For example, in Exodus chapter 19 and verse 18 it tells us that the whole mountain trembled violently, that is, when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. In another example in 1 Kings chapter 19 and verse 11 it tells us there that a powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered rocks and there was an earthquake when God spoke to Elijah the prophet. So here the Son of God fulfilled what he had often spoken of, for example, in Matthew chapter 20 and verse 19, that they would turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged and crucified. And so it was once and for all.

This also points to the fact that Satan’s kingdom was shaken. Sin was shattered as eternal bondage to those who put their obedient faith, their obedient, persevering faith in Christ Jesus and are set free from the power of sin which is the law according to 1 Corinthians 15:56. Christ won the victory over Satan and sin at the cross.

In Matthew chapter 27 and verse 54 it says the centurion and those with him who regarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened and they were terrified and exclaimed: Surely he was the Son of God.

Many ask and wonder: Well, does that mean that the centurion and those other Roman soldiers, these guards at the foot of the cross, were they saved then? Were they converted? Well, the short answer is: Only God really knows. However, conversion is not just mouthing the words: I believe that he is the Son of God. That is not conversion. Conversion must include a changed heart, a changed life, obedient faith, a life for and in Christ Jesus. We cannot just acknowledge a Savior. We must live under the mastery of a lord. That is, our life points back to genuine faith that we do genuinely believe that Jesus is our personal Savior and Lord.

In Romans chapter 10 and verse 10 it also says: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

But suppose that these hardened, idolatrous, pagan executors of Christ truly did believe and their lives were changed in Christ, similar to the heart change that is necessary in repentance and faith, just as it was in the case of one of the criminals that hung on the cross next to Christ where Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And, therefore, this criminal, this malefactor, this evil doer obviously was saved. But even after these had beaten and taunted and cruelly crucified Jesus Christ our Lord is that possible that these hardened Roman soldiers could have been saved, even the crucifiers of Christ?

Well, Jesus Christ himself said in the gospel of John chapter 12 and verse 32, “But I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.” And so potentially if these men truly did repent and put their faith in Christ Jesus as their Savior, as the Son of God, you and I need to understand and share with others that we cannot out sin the blood of Christ. We cannot out sin the Savior’s sacrifice, but we must have saving obedient faith in him and persevere in that faith.

And so even men such as these at Calvary, the executioners themselves at a place called skull could have been saved, possibly were saved. Only God knows. And this, of course, magnificently magnifies the tremendous grace of God which separates Christianity from any and every other faith. None of us deserves salvation. It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God. And so, listener, today or if you are saved you can share with others and ask: Have you received or have you rejected this grace, this gift, this Jesus?


 David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10