What the Cross Accomplished – March 31, 2024 (Easter 2024)

Matthew 27:45-54

45 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 spunge, 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.

At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago, God sent His only begotten Son into the World to take on human flesh in the virgin birth, become a man, live a perfect sinless life, die on a cross for the sin of the world, and rise again from the dead on the third day. While the resurrection validates and confirms who Jesus was and everything that He did as the Son of God and Savior of mankind, it is at the cross that God accomplished His plan of salvation for lost sinners. What does the cross mean? What did Jesus actually accomplish on the cross? In Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, found in Matthew 27, there are three things we can see that the cross accomplished.

First, the cross accomplished atonement for sin. Jesus was crucified around 9 AM. Around Noon (“the sixth hour”) darkness covered the entire land. This darkness lasted until 3 PM (“the ninth hour”). The darkness signifies what took place on the cross. As Jesus cries out “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” in fulfillment of Psalm 22:1 from the cross, we find that it was not only the physical agony that Jesus suffered on the cross. Jesus actually took the wrath of God for our sin. The sin of the world was placed on Him and He was punished for us in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why the night before He had sweated great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). In perfect obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus laid down His life (John 10:17-18). When He cried “It is finished!” (Greek tetelestai), it signified that His work in paying the price for our sin was completed. You and I have all sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but Jesus came and paid the price for our sin and died in our place (Romans 6:23) so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus suffered the punishment of hell in our place on the cross so that we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:9-11). This was the only way that God could be a righteous God and forgive sinners (Romans 3:25-26).

Next, the cross secured salvation. When Jesus died, Matthew records that the veil in the temple tore from top to bottom. The veil was a large thick curtain in the temple structure that separated the inner sanctuary, called the Holy of Holies, from the rest of the temple. This was the place where God dwelled and only one person, once per year was allowed to enter that room. The high priest of Israel would take a bull to sacrifice for his sins and then a goat to offer for the sins of the people of Israel. There was a second goat, called the scapegoat that lots were cast for to determine which goat would be offered. The scapegoat would later be turned loose outside the camp after the priest laid his hands on its head, signifying the transfer of the sins of the people and God taking them away. The other goat was offered to make atonement for the people’s sins. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil was torn to signify that that separation between God and people was done away. Anyone has direct access to God through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22). The only way to God is through Jesus and what He has done on the cross (John 14:6). Salvation has been accomplished. A person must simply place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be saved from their sin.

Lastly, the cross demonstrates that death is defeated. Jesus did not remain dead. He rose on the third day. Matthew records that sometime after His resurrection, some Old Testament saints bodily arose from the dead and walked around Jerusalem, appearing to many. While this is an enigmatic passage that is difficult to understand and explain, it signifies that when Jesus died and rose again, He overcame sin and death for all who believe. For believers to die today means that they go immediately into His presence (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23). Ultimately, one day Jesus will raise us up bodily to spend eternity with Him in a new heavens and earth (1 Corinthians 15:35-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Roman centurion who oversaw the whole ordeal of Jesus’s crucifixion sees in the earthquake, the darkness, etc., that there was something extraordinary about this man Jesus. He had overseen countless crucifixions and this one was unique. Jesus truly is “the Son of God.”

For many, Easter is just another holiday to take time off work or spend time with family. To some, it is a holiday about rabbits and eggs, celebrating the springtime of the year. However, Easter is about the reality that approximately two thousand years ago, God sent His Son into the world to die for our sin and rise again victorious over sin and death. The only way to celebrate Easter is by knowing the One who came and paid the price for your sin and my sin. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). For that, we deserve death, not just physical death, but eternal death and separation from God and His goodness in a Lake of Fire (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15).  The good news of the gospel is that God did not just leave us to ourselves, but because of His love, He sent His Son to pay the price for our sin by dying in our place (Romans 5:8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The good news of the gospel is that anyone who will believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior and place their faith and trust in Him can be saved today (Romans 10:9-10). Easter is about life. It is about the life of the Son of God laid down for us and the eternal life He offers us by faith in Him (John 3:16).