Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. – Matthew 27:45-56.
At the brightest part of the day, the sixth hour (midday), darkness covers the whole land until the ninth hour (three) when Jesus calls out, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Some misunderstand this as a call for Elijah, and others offer Him sour wine to drink on a sponge attached to a reed. Jesus, still in control, cries out again in a loud voice, (which we know was, ‘It is finished!’) and then yields up His spirit, knowing that His work on the cross has been accomplished and completed.
Matthew is so amazed by what follows that he precedes it with ‘Then, behold!’ God sends amazing signs to indicate that His eternal, incarnate Son has died, and that the way is open to Him through that death for sinners to approach Him. The veil of the temple (dividing the Most Holy Place from the holy place) is torn from the top to the bottom, rocks are split in an earthquake, graves are opened, and there is an exceptional appearance of resurrected bodies of saints for a limited period. These signs are to convince people of the person and authority of Jesus, and are effective in so doing, for even the centurion who guards Him, on seeing these things, says, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ Many Galilean women, supporting Jesus, look from afar, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour” (v.45) — This refers to Roman time (i.e., noon to 3 p.m.).
“darkness” — It was dark for three hours.
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (v.46) — Jesus combines Hebrew and Aramaic words from Psalm 22:1. Matthew and Mark (Mark 15:34) use slightly different words. Matthew translates them for his readers, who spoke only Aramaic. From Matt. 27:47 it is obvious Jesus’ words were misunderstood by the crowd gathered to watch the crucifixion.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” — Jesus always addressed God as Father. These are the first words of Psalm 22 and by quoting them, Jesus wants to bring to His hearers’ minds the complete Psalm and the fact that He is truly the Messiah fulfilling this prophesy! Jesus is experiencing what it feels like to be separated from God. However, the Psalm expresses faith in YHWH’s faithfulness and the fact that He never abandoned His Son (see Psalm 22:24; John 16:32).
“This man is calling for Elijah” (v.47) — Elijah was to be the precursor of the Messiah (cf. Mal. 4:5). It is probable that Jesus’ Aramaic “Eloi” (cf. Mark 15:34) or possibly “Eliya” sounded like the name of the prophet.
“sour wine” (v.48) — This was the cheap wine that the soldiers drank. Offering this wine was not an act of compassion on the part of the soldiers, but a way to prolong the agony of the crucifixion. Jesus took some because His mouth was so dry that He could not speak (cf. Psalm 22:15). This may have fulfilled Psalm 69:21.
“Jesus cried out again with a loud voice” (v.50) — Compare John 19:30; Psalm 22:15; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5.
“the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (v.51) — This was the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, called the inner veil (cf. Exodus 26:31-35). By this act, God indicated that the way was now open for all to approach His mercy seat! It was torn from the top, which symbolized God’s act of removing barriers to His presence and making Himself accessible to all people.
“the tombs were opened” (v.52) — This was caused by the earthquake (cf. Matt. 27:54). Exactly when the people came back to life is uncertain. This resuscitation seems linked to Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Matt. 27:53). But the text seems to place the event at Jesus’ death. There is ambiguity here as to who, when, where and why. This information is unique to Matthew.
“saints who had fallen asleep” — The faithful dead were resurrected for a limited period.
“Truly this was the Son of God!” (v.52) — There is no article with “son.” This soldier was surely impressed by all that happened. He asserts Jesus was “a son of God.” However, in the parallel in Luke 23:47 he is proclaiming Jesus as “righteous” or “innocent.” The irony is that this Roman soldier saw what the Jewish leaders did not (cf. Matt. 27:19; John 1:11).
This is literally “this man was a son of God.” The image of God in mankind has been restored! Intimate fellowship is again possible. However the absence of the article does not automatically mean it is not definite (cf. Matt. 4:3,6; 14:33; 27:43; and Luke 4:3,9). This was a hardened Roman soldier. He had seen many men die (cf. Matt. 27:54). This may be “the focal passage” of Mark because this Gospel was specifically written to Romans. Mark’s Gospel has many Latin words and very few OT quotes. Also Jewish customs and Aramaic phrases are translated and explained. Here is a Roman centurion professing faith in a crucified Jewish insurrectionist!
It is possibly purposeful that passersby, chief priests, and even fellow prisoners mock Jesus, but a Roman centurion responds in affirmation and awe!
“many women” (v.55) — Mark 15:40 has a parallel list. These women were traveling companions of Jesus and the Twelve. They may have even supported Jesus and the Disciples financially as well as cooking for them and meeting the needs of other women who Jesus and the Apostles ministered to.
His fearful disciples had fled! But these women did not abandon Jesus while He was dying a cruel death on the cross. So also, God did not forsake His Son while He was on the cross. He proved it three days and three nights later when He raised Him from the dead. What a mighty God we have! Let us walk in Christ’s resurrection power and make known His life to a dying world.