Then in verse 45 Matthew paints a vivid portrait, a supernatural eclipse, which is recorded by secular as well as sacred authors.  A strange veil of darkness suddenly descended over the face of the earth, blotting out the sun for three long hours.  It must be that the taunts and derision of Christ’s enemies ceased, for we can well imagine the consternation that would fill our breasts if such a frightening, unexpected event were to occur.  God drew a veil, as it were, over the dreadful scene, that neither heaven nor earth may witness the utmost agony of His Son.  By this profound darkness, He would let the world know that this was no ordinary event, but a matter of world-shaking, epochal consequence.  The world would never be the same after this darkness as before.  The darkness symbolized that God, in His bright heaven, for a time was cut off from His Son on the sinful earth.  Christ the Son suffered unspeakable anguish, in the soul more than the body, while He hung suspended on the cross during those dreadful hours, separated from His Father, accounted an unclean thing, enduring the curse of the broken law on behalf of a multitude that no man can number.  Blood dripped from His stricken body, and the very horror of hell itself entered into His soul, while He contended as a mighty warrior for the salvation of His people.  Now would be fulfilled that prophecy of the angel to Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sins.”  But what a cost!  What an immense, unthinkable cost, our fancies can never imagine.  The bitter, all-consuming suffering that overwhelmed the Lord Jesus during those three black hours can never begin to be fathomed by us.  Indeed, He suffered so immensely that we might never know such suffering.  The chastisements we receive from the Father are far different than this, for He now suffered God’s penal judgment against the lawbreakers.  Now the waters entered into His soul, engulfing Him in a storm of wrath and anger against our hateful sins.  Heaven must be separated from earth by darkness while these hours lasted, a veil of separation being erected between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy.

At the end of that period of three hours, the suffering Lamb of God broke His long silence, uttering a cry of such bitter anguish as can never be paralleled in all the history of humanity.  Finally, the opening lines of Psalm 22 were given their perfect fulfillment, when Christ cried as though out of the depths of hell, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  These are words which I scarcely feel competent to repeat from the pulpit, for what human voice can repeat them with the pathos they deserve?  There is mystery, there is astonishment, there is salvation in those words.  The great mystery is that the Son of God, eternally beloved of the Father, His glorious eternal Companion, would be forsaken by His Father.  There is astonishment in those who reverently consider this scene, and marvel that the glorious Christ, that Lamb without blemish and without spot, should ever be forsaken for them.  We know that to be forsaken of God is the penalty of sin.  This is what we deserve, and this is that the lost souls in hell will endure for ceaseless eons.  But Christ, the Son of God, Who was with God from eternity and is in fact God by His very nature, was forsaken by His heavenly Father, in order that His people might never be forsaken.  This was the great epitome of the suffering of Jesus, that He should be forsaken by His gracious Father, with Whom He had enjoyed perfect union and communion in all time.  But there is salvation in these words, for unless the great Substitute endured the full wrath of God against sin, which includes the hiding of His gracious presence, then sin could not be considered as pardoned, because the price would not be paid.  But now that Christ assumed the full burden and punishment of our guilt upon His divine shoulders, no charge can be laid to our account.  Now we can boldly confront our fiercest enemies and demand, “Who is he that condemneth?”  The same God Who spared not the old world from the flood, Who in righteous wrath spared not the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, also spared not His own Son from the crushing punishment that sin entails, because only by inflicting such a severe judgment upon His well beloved could the Father secure the salvation of that host He had chosen to salvation.  There is an ocean of woe and agony in this cry of Christ, which fills our hearts with horror, but we also experience a holy joy upon the repetition of these words, because in them we see the price of our salvation being fully paid, to the last jot and tittle.

Some of those who stood by, either through a lingual mistake or through wicked mockery, said He was calling for help from Elijah.  One of them, undoubtedly only to add to His torment, ran and fetched a sponge, soaked it with vinegar, and held the sponge out on a reed up to the lips of the suffering Saviour.  Others merely watched the astounding scene, saying they should wait to see whether Elijah would come to save Him.  This was probably said in derision, though it is possible that their minds were so profoundly affected by the three hours’ darkness and Christ’s bitter cry, that they would not have been surprised to see the ancient prophet suddenly appear.  Be that as it may, we know at least that, although the man himself was surely ignorant of it, his act was another fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.  In Psalm 69:21, a psalm which deals entirely with the suffering of the Messiah, David wrote that he was given gall to drink, and in his thirst they gave him vinegar.  So far as we know, nothing of the like ever happened to David.  But in the gospels we see it happen to David’s greater Son, as He suffered for the sins of His people.

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