Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
(Matthew 27:45-50 ESV)
In today’s passage we read that Jesus cried out again with a loud voice while hanging on the cross. This was the second time He had done that, as recorded by Matthew.
As we learned yesterday, speaking at all while on the cross was rare. Even after He had been beaten several times, had been scourged, had nails driven through His flesh and had been hanging in excruciating pain on the cross for hours Jesus had the strength to speak with a loud voice.
This tells us that He wasn’t close to dying at this point. Yet He did.
Crucifixion victims died slowly. Very slowly. Crucifixion was designed to prolong death as long as possible and it would be the norm for a victim to live for a few days before dying. But not Jesus. He was crucified at 9:00 AM [Mark 15:25] and He died only six hours later [Mark 15:34].
In fact, Jesus died so soon that Pilate was surprised when he got the report of Jesus’ death and asked for confirmation [Mark 15:44-45]. The fact that Jesus had the strength to cry out in a loud voice just before dying tells us He did not die from asphyxiation, the common cause of death from crucifixion.
Rather, Jesus yielded up His spirit. In the Greek the words “yielded up” is απηιεμι (pronounced: af-ee’-ay-mee) which means “to let go of”. Jesus’ life was not taken from Him. He voluntarily gave it up.
This Greek word is not used of suicide. Jesus did not commit suicide. He gave up His life of His own volition [Luke 23:46; John 10:18] because His work on this earth was done [John 19:30]. He had experienced the penalty for sin on our behalf.
As a result, Jesus’ death discharged the debt which every human being owes God, if they will believe [John 3:16]. Jesus death was more than a self-sacrifice. Jesus’ death was the atonement of man’s sin. It allowed God to be perfectly holy while at the same time being perfectly merciful.
Every human being ever born has deserved to die. We forfeit our lives when we choose to sin. Jesus, on the other hand, never sinned and therefore did not deserve to die. Yet He willingly forfeited His own life so that the penalty of our sins could be paid in full.
We’ll see and study the proof that those sins have been paid for tomorrow.
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