“The Powerful Voice of God” – Matthew 27:45,50-54
Good Friday – April 10, 2020
1. Opinions of Jesus’ identity and character
During the course of Jesus’ ministry and especially here at the end of His ministry – at His arrest,
trial, and crucifixion – various people and groups of people have spoken their opinion about
Jesus’ identity and about His character.
During our Lenten Wednesday services this year, we heard the Jewish religious leaders offer
their assessment: “He is a law breaker… He broke most of the Commandments.”
At Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas spoke really without words… it was with a
kiss / a greeting. He had made a prior arrangement with those same religious leaders: “The one I
kiss – He’s the one you want.” And then he came up and said simply, “Greetings, Rabbi.” What
was he really saying? Was it simply greed that motivated him – the 30 pieces of silver that he
received from the chief priests to identify Jesus and turn him over to them? Did he have skewed
ideas of who Jesus was or what the Messiah was supposed to be? Whatever it was, his greeting
closed the net on Jesus, and Jesus was taken away while the rest of the disciples ran away.
One other disciple spoke about Jesus. Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest, within
eyesight and earshot of Jesus when he was accused of being with Jesus, of being one of His
followers. And what did Peter say in response? “He’s a nobody. I didn’t hang around with him…
hey, I don’t even know the guy.” (Of all the people in the story, is this who we relate to most?
Do we also cover up the fact that we are one of Jesus’ followers? When the conversation turns to
religion, to Jesus, does our silence speak volumes? When the opportunity to serve comes up, as
Jesus modeled, do we turn away? Do we turn a deaf ear to Jesus’ invitation to hang around with
Him by having our Bible reading, devotion, and prayer time get overruled by sleep, by our
computer or phone, by a book or exercise or work? Is your middle name Peter? The denier?)
Other people had things to say about Jesus, too. When Jesus stood before the Jewish ruling
council, and the High Priest asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus admitted the
truth: “Yes, it is as you say.” At that the chief priest tore his clothes and concluded, “He is a
The Roman soldiers involved in Jesus’ trial dressed Him in a scarlet robe, and twisted a crown of
thorns onto His head, and in derision spat at Him and struck Him, mockingly calling Him “King
of the Jews.”
The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate tried to invoke pity on Jesus by having him whipped and
then presenting him to the Jews: “Behold the man.” “He is your king, you deal with him.” (Oh,
and Pilate acknowledged that supposed identity of Jesus by posting this inscription on the cross:
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”) Pilate also declared, “He is innocent. He is not
deserving of death.” But Pilate’s final opinion of Jesus was that He was insignificant and that His
death was neither here nor there, that nobody would really notice, that nobody would care, and
that would be the end of this little religious spat between Jesus and the religious leaders.
The crowds spoke, too. Although their shouts a few days earlier were “Hosanna! Blessed is the
coming King!” their opinion was swayed so that on Friday they joined in the catcalls of “Crucify
Him! Crucify Him!” And when Jesus was on the cross, they mocked Him, too: “Save yourself if
you are the Son of God.”
One of the robbers beside Jesus on the cross hurled insults on Him, sarcastically saying, “Aren’t
you the Christ? Save yourself, and us!”
So, all those people offered their opinion of who Jesus was in the 24 hours before His crucifixion
– a law-breaker, a nobody, a blasphemer, the supposed king, the imposter.
2. God the Father has not spoken
But up until this point, God the Father has not spoken. His opinion, His sentiment about the
whole situation was conspicuous by its absence, by His silence. Jesus had spoken to the Father
from the cross, three times: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?… Father, forgive
them… Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” But there has been no word spoken back…
nothing… only silence.
You could say that the darkness that came over the whole land from the sixth hour until the ninth
hour was the voice of God, but that word was really spoken on all of humanity. It was indicative
that all people were living in great darkness, and evil and sin.
When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God didn’t answer. He
HAD forsaken Jesus. He had turned his face away. That’s what Stuart Townend writes in his
song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” – based in part on Hebrews 2:9-10. The first verse
says: “How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away, as wounds which mar
the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.” When we consider that the Heavenly Father turned
His face away from His beloved Son, it’s like He is saying, “My Son is sin! And I don’t even
want to look at Him.”
3. God speaks in actions
It’s really only after the actual death of Jesus that we hear the powerful voice of God the Father
speak. You’ve heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” On Good Friday, God
speaks not in words but in powerful actions.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Who tore it? God.
The earth was shaken. By whom? God.
The rocks were split open. By whom? God.
The tombs were opened and the bodies of holy people were raised to life. By whom? God!!
In all these ways God was speaking. What was He saying?
a. The earthquake and the rocks
We might think that the earthquake and the split open rocks carried no significant message.
There are actually lots of mentions of earthquakes in the Bible, and although they don’t always
carry a message of God’s judgment, they often are associated with the display of God’s power. I
am especially reminded of the story of the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. After winning a
“whose God is the true God?” – contest against hundreds of prophets of Baal and Asherah, Elijah
had to escape because evil queen Jezebel hired some assassins to get rid of this pesky prophet.
Elijah fled to the desert south of Jerusalem, where he complained to God that he was the only
one left who was faithful to God. God told Elijah to stand on a mountain for He was going to
pass by to encourage Elijah by His very presence. A wind blew through and shattered rocks on
the mountain. An earthquake shook the mountain. A fire started. But God was not in the wind,
the earthquake or the fire. Finally, there was a still, small voice, a gentle whisper. And God was
present in that whisper to encourage and bless Elijah.
Although we understand that God had turned His face away from Jesus, He was not absent from
that event that took place on Calvary. He was whispering His presence. We might say that God’s
creation was saying something – His creation shuddering and shaking and splitting open at the
injustice that took place when sinless Jesus died for sinful humanity. The earth shook! OR we
might say that Jesus’ death shook God to the very core, seeing His sinless, beloved Son complete
His mission by dying for the sake of His sinful and yet beloved sons and daughters. God was
whispering His presence and whispering His love to us on that day Jesus died.
b. The tombs opened and holy people raised
The tombs that were opened and the bodies of holy people that were raised… that pointed back
in time a couple of weeks or so to the event of Lazarus being raised from the four-days-dead
tomb, while at the same time it pointed ahead to what would happen on Sunday – Jesus’ own
body being raised from the dead! And it pointed even farther ahead to the promise that in the
future other tombs will be opened and the bodies of more holy people will be raised. Yes, it
points to even our bodily resurrection. That’s what St. Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 15:20-
23 – “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen
asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a
man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ,
the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.”
Referring to Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection means “There’s more where that came
from!” The opened tombs on Good Friday and the raised bodies walking around were like a
preview of a coming attraction, a trailer of a coming movie, a foreshadowing of what would be
happening at the end of time. God was saying… death is not the end for my faith-full people! So,
hear God speak to you in that image of holy people raised to life. He says to you: “Life wins!
Love wins! My grace wins! Forgiveness wins! You are mine, and one day you, too, will rise
from death to live with me eternally!”
c. The temple curtain torn
There is one more action in which God speaks, and I have saved this one for last – the temple
curtain tearing in two from top to bottom. This happened, Matthew tells us, at the moment Jesus
breathed His last and gave up His spirit. And it is the most significant non-verbal message of
God on that day that Jesus died. The curtain in the temple was the inner curtain that separated the
Holy Place where God’s people could gather from the Most Holy Place where, once a year, on
the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the ark of
the covenant. No human being could reach to the top of the curtain that separated the main
gathering area from the holy of holies. No human being could tear that heavy fabric. Only God
could make that happen, and there was a specific reason why He did. Under the old system of
sacrifice, it was always and only the priest who would speak to God on behalf of the people, and
it was always and only the high priest who would bring that special Day of Atonement sacrifice.
In this action of the tearing of the curtain, God was speaking… and He was saying that the old
system of sacrifice, priesthood and temple worship had ended, and that a new system was
beginning, one in which Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself opened the way for every repentant sinner to
enter into God’s presence directly. We have full access to His presence. There is no longer a
forbidden “Holy Place.” We can come to God in confidence and in prayer. This is what the
writer to the Hebrews explains in chapter 10 – “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy
Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is,
his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a
sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” God invites you to draw near to Him through Jesus. God
invites you to have your guilty hearts and consciences sprinkled and cleansed and forgiven by
the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. God invites you to pray to Him through Jesus. God invites
you to hold unswervingly to the hope you have in Jesus. Jesus is our high priest direct access to
4. How should we respond to God speaking?
As we have heard God speaking through His Good Friday actions, we can ask: “How should we
I do need to say that there was one more voice that spoke on Good Friday… and one more
opinion of who Jesus was… the centurion. He exclaimed: “Surely He was the Son of God!” He
had witnessed all these events – from the scourging right through to the crucifixion and death.
We can’t be sure that this was a full Christian profession of faith… we don’t know if he became
a follower of Jesus after the resurrection… but his conclusion was simple – “No one had ever
died like this before! He was no ordinary man! He was the Son of God!”
No matter how heartfelt or lasting OR fleeting was the centurion’s profession, he points us to the
importance of making such a statement of our own belief. As we “hear” what God says in His
Good Friday actions – that overtop of the earthquake, God whispered His presence and His love
to us, that the raised holy people foreshadow our own resurrections, and that the torn curtain
gives us direct access to God through Jesus – as we “hear” those things, we want to genuinely
acknowledge and sincerely believe and publicly confess that Jesus is the Son of God, our
Redeemer, our Saviour, our Lord. As we “hear” those things we want to realize that, at the same
time as God turned His face away from Jesus, He turned His face toward us in forgiveness, love
and grace. As we “hear” those things, we want to follow Jesus with our entire lives, coming into
His presence daily – drawing near to Him, confessing our sins, receiving the cleansing of our
guilty hearts and consciences, lifting our voices to God in heartfelt prayer, and holding on to that
hope we have in Jesus.
That’s what the powerful – even though silent – voice of God says to us this Good Friday. Amen.