Grace Baptist Church Decatur, IL


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Deleted Scenes from “The Passion”

Matthew 27:45-54



Read the crucifixion story and you’ll find many incredible aspects which fell to the cutting room floor in film production of The Passion, not the least of which is the explanation of why Jesus did it and what to do next…how to be saved as a result!  The supernatural miracles which took place got little or no attention.

Many people in your life are searching like that Ethiopian Eunuch that Philip talked to in Acts, and just need someone to guide them…look for those opportunities!

Scripture records a number of supernatural phenomena that occurred while Jesus hung on the cross. Those events were God’s own supernatural commentary on the cross. They gave proof that the execution taking place that day was an event of cosmic importance.

The routes to the city that day were jammed with pilgrims coming and going as they prepared to celebrate Passover. Few if any of them realized what a monumental event was occurring at Calvary. God’s Lamb was dying on that very Passover to provide forgiveness for all the sins of all the redeemed of all time. But relatively few were taking notice.

But then suddenly all nature seemed to stop and pay attention.


The first of the miraculous signs that accompanied Jesus’ death was the darkening of the sky. Matthew writes in

Matthew 27:45

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.    

The sixth hour would have been noon. At the precise moment when the noon sun should have been brightest in the sky, darkness fell over all the land, and remained for three hours.  This was probably not a total blackness, but rather a severe darkening of the normaldaylight intensity of the sun. “Over all the land” is an expression that might refer to the land of Israel, or it could refer to the whole world. I’m inclined to think that the sun itself was dimmed, so that the darkness would have been universal, and not limited to the local area surrounding Jerusalem.  As a matter of fact, according to some of the Church Fathers, the supernatural darkness that accompanied the crucifixion was noticed throughout the world at the time. Tertullian mentioned this event in his Apologeticum—“At the moment of Christ’s death, the light departed from the sun, and the land was darkened at noonday, which wonder is related in your own annals and is preserved in your archives to this day.”

The darkness could not have been caused by a solar eclipse, because Passover always fell on a full moon, and a solar eclipse (caused when the moon gets between earth and sun, blocking the sun’s light) would be out of the question during the full moon. But God is certainly able to dim the sun’s light, and has many times in order to make a statement:

During Moses’ time, darkness had fallen in Egypt because a plague of locusts was so thick that the flying insects had blocked the sun (Exodus 10:14-15). In Joshua’s time the opposite had occurred, and the sun stood still over Israel for a whole 24-hour period (Joshua 10:12-14). In Hezekiah’s day, the shadows turned backward ten degrees, as the earth’s rotation seemed to reverse for about 40 minutes (2 Kings 20:9-11).

The darkening of the sun is commonly mentioned in Scripture as an apocalyptic sign of the end times (Isaiah 50:3; Joel 2:31; Revelation 9:2). (Amos 8:9). Throughout Scripture, darkness is connected with judgment, and supernatural darkness of this type signifies cataclysmic doom (cf. Isaiah 5:30; Joel 2:2; Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:14-15). So the darkening of the sun at noon like this was certain to evoke widespread fear that catastrophic judgment was about to fall.  Some have suggested the dimming of the sun signified God’s displeasure with those who put Christ to death. This darkness may well have signified the Father’s judgment against the sin Christ bore in His person on our behalf.

In any case, the darkness is certainly an appropriate reminder that the cross was a place of judgment. In those awful hours of darkness, Christ was bearing the judgment meant for His people. He was standing in their place as the wrath of God was being poured upon Him for their transgressions. The culmination of the darkness is Christ’s outcry to the Father: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?’” (v. 46).

Shortly afterward, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice” saying “Tetelestai!” Then commending His spirit to God, He “gave up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50).

THE VEIL TORN [hard to see]

At the very moment of Christ’s death, a series of remarkable miracles occurred. Matthew writes, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain [torn in two] from top to bottom” (v. 51).

The veil was a heavy curtain that blocked the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, symbolizing the sacred presence of God. The Historian Josephus described the veil as an ornately decorated curtain, made of blue woven fabric.  Only one person ever traversed the veil, and that was the High Priest. He ventured into the Holy of Holies just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when he was permitted to

enter only to bring the blood of a sacrifice. The veil was of vital symbolic importance, signifying “that the way into the Holy of Holies was not yet made manifest” (Hebrews 9:8).  In other words, it was a constant reminder that sin renders humanity unfit for the presence of God.

Hebrews 9:11-12

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; [12] Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

The tearing of the curtain at the moment of Jesus’ death dramatically symbolized that His sacrifice was a sufficient atonement for sins forever, and the way into the Holy of Holies was now open.

The entire Levitical system of rituals, animal sacrifices, even the priesthood itself were done away in the moment of His death. The redeemed now had free and direct access to the throne of grace without the need for priest or ritual (cf. Hebrews 4:16).

The tearing of the curtain from top to bottom signified that it was God Himself who removed the barrier. He was in effect saying, “My Son has removed this veil and eliminated the need for it, through a single, perfect, once-for-all sacrifice that cleanses the redeemed from their sins forever. The way into my Holy presence is now open to every believer and the access is free and unobstructed.”

At the moment the tearing of the veil occurred, the Temple was packed with worshipers who were there for the killing of their Passover lambs. By God’s design, it was in the very hour that those thousands of lambs were being slain that the true Passover Lamb died. He was the real Lamb whom all the others merely symbolized.

The Temple itself would be completely destroyed when Titus sacked Jerusalem. But the true end of the Old Testament sacrificial system occurred not with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, but here at the moment of Jesus’ death, when God sovereignly declared Christ’s death a sufficient sacrifice for sins forever, by supernaturally splitting the Temple veil from top to bottom.


Another miracle also occurred at the exact moment of Christ’s death. “And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). An earthquake powerful enough to split rocks would be a significant temblor. (The crowd in the temple probably assumed the earthquake was the cause of the tearing of the veil.) Such a powerful quake would be a frightening experience for everyone in the region of Judea. Although earthquakes were a fairly common phenomenon, an earthquake with enough force to split rocks would have instantly brought the entire city of Jerusalem to a halt for several minutes.

Earthquakes in Scripture are often used, like darkness, to signify a graphic display of divine judgment. In particular, earthquakes signify God’s wrath. When Moses met with God at Sinai to receive the tablets of the law, “the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Exodus 19:18). David wrote, “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry” (Psalm 18:7). “The earth shook; the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel” (Psalm 68:8). The prophet Nahum wrote,

Nahum 1:3-5

The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked…the mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

The book of Revelation indicates that the final judgment of the earth will commence with a

global earthquake more powerful than any ever experienced before (Hebrews 12:26-27;

Revelation 6:14-15).

So it is clear that a supernatural earthquake like this one could only signify the wrath of God. At the cross, the wrath of God against sin was poured out on God’s own Son. The accompanying earthquake, coming at the culminating moment of Christ’s atoning work, was a kind of divine punctuation mark, perhaps signifying God’s anger at the fact that sin had cost His Son so much.


At that very same moment when Christ died, yet another miracle occurred:

Matthew 27:52-53

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.

Many of the tombs in and around Jerusalem to this day are hollow stone sepulchres, resting at ground level or just above. The earthquake was evidently powerful enough to split sepulchres like these. That was not the miracle; that might have occurred in any earthquake. The great miracle is that those who emerged from the broken sepulchres were raised from the dead.

Although “many . . . saints who had fallen asleep” were raised, not all were. These were select representatives of the multitude of saints buried in and around Jerusalem.

Notice, in fact, that those who rose from the dead did not appear in Jerusalem until after Jesus’ resurrection. Where these resurrected saints were in the days after they were loosed from the grave and before they appeared in Jerusalem is not specified. But the fact that they waited until after Christ’s resurrection to appear to anyone reminds us that He is the firstfruits of those risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).

These risen saints most likely came forth from the dead in glorified bodies already fit for heaven (rather than being restored to life in unglorified mortal bodies, as Lazarus had been). They “appeared to many” (v. 53). Again, how many is not specified, but there were enough eyewitnesses to verify the miracle! 

Their appearance proved that Christ had conquered death, not merely for Himself, but for all the saints. One day “all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth” (John 5:28-29).


But perhaps the most dramatic miracle that occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death was

the conversion of the centurion charged with overseeing the crucifixion. As Christ’s atoning

work was brought to completion, its dramatic saving power was already at work in the lives

of those who were physically closest to Him.

Matthew 27:54

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.

A Roman centurion was the commander of a hundred-man division (or a “century”) the basic building-block of a Roman legion. The centurions were usually career officers, hardened men of war. Because this particular officer was with those guarding Jesus, it appears he is the very one who had been given charge of overseeing and carrying out the crucifixion of Christ and probably the crucifixions of the two thieves as well. He and his men were close eyewitnesses to everything that had happened since Jesus was taken to the Praetorium. They had personally kept Him under guard from that point on. (It is even possible that the centurion and some of the men with him were also the same soldiers who arrested Jesus the night before. If so, they had been eyewitnesses from the very beginning of the entire ordeal.)

They had seen how Jesus held His silence while His enemies hurled accusations at Him. These same soldiers had strapped him to a post for the scourging, and watched while He suffered even that horrific beating with quiet grace and majesty. They themselves had mercilessly taunted Him, dressing Him in a faded soldier’s tunic, pretending it was a royal robe. They had battered His head with a reed they gave Him as a pretend scepter. These very same soldiers had also woven a crown of cruel thorns and mashed it into the skin of His scalp. They had spat on Him and taunted Him and mistreated Him in every conceivable fashion, and they had seen Him endure all those tortures without cursing or threatening any of His tormentors.

In all likelihood, the soldiers heard with their own ears when Pilate repeatedly declared Jesus’ innocence. They knew very well that He was guilty of no crime that made Him a threat to Rome’s interests. They must have been utterly amazed from the very beginning about how different He was from the typical criminal who was crucified. At first, they probably were inclined to write Him off as a madman. But by now they could see that He was not insane. He fit no category they had ever seen in the hundreds of crucifixions they had probably superintended.

Until now, the uniqueness of Christ had made no apparent impact whatsoever on these soldiers. They were hardened men, and Jesus’ passivity made no difference in the way they treated Him. His obvious innocence had not gained any sympathy from them. They had showed him no mercy. They were professional soldiers, trained to follow orders. And so they had dutifully nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross. They had set the cross upright and dropped it into the hole dug for it. They had cast lots for Jesus’ garments. And then they had sat down to watch Him die.

But Christ’s death was unlike any crucifixion they had ever witnessed. They heard Him pray for His killers. They saw the noble way He suffered. They heard when He cried out to His Father. They experienced three full hours of supernatural darkness. And when that darkness was followed by an earthquake at the very moment of Christ’s death, the soldiers could no longer ignore the fact that Christ was indeed the Son of God.

Mark suggests that there was something about the way Jesus cried out that struck the

centurion as supernatural, perhaps the powerful volume of His cry, coming from someone in

so weakened a condition. Mark writes,

Mark 15:39

And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Matthew indicates that it was also the earthquake, coming at the exact moment of Jesus’ final outcry, that finally convinced the centurion and his soldiers that Jesus was the Son of God:

Matthew 27:54

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. Notice that Matthew indicates all the soldiers had the same reaction. When the earthquake occurred they “feared greatly”.

This kind of fear was a typical reaction of people who suddenly realized the truth about who

Jesus is (cf. Mark 4:41; 5:33).  [disciples when Jesus said peace be still during storm, and at mt. of transfiguration]

They were stricken with terror. It wasn’t merely the earthquake that they were afraid of. Rather they were terrified by the sudden realization that Jesus was innocent, and not merely innocent, but He was also precisely whom He claimed to be. They had killed the Son of God. He had heard Jesus claim to be God, and having seen these things, he rendered his own verdict on the matter: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The words were evidently a true expression of faith. Luke says,


Luke 23:47

Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. So the centurion and his soldiers with him were the very first converts to Christ after His crucifixion, coming to faith at precisely the moment He expired.

Christ was dead, but death had not conquered Him. On the first day of the week, He would burst forth triumphantly from the grave and show Himself alive to hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). He thus not only atoned for sin, but He demonstrated His Mastery over death in the process.

Every believer’s deepest yearning should be this:

Philip. 3:10

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…

Do you know Him?