The goal of the scourging was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse and death. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive the cross. The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.
A Roman citizen could not be crucified except by direct order of Caesar; it was reserved for the worst criminals and lowest classes. No wonder that the Roman statesman Cicero said of crucifixion: “It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen; to scourge him is an act of wickedness; to execute him is almost murder: What shall I say of crucifying him? An act so abominable it is impossible to find any word adequately to express.” The Roman historian Tacitus called crucifixion “A torture fit only for slaves” – fit only for them because they were seen as sub-human. And divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: This is Jesus the King of the Jews.
Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left: In His crucifixion, Jesus stood right in the center of sinful humanity. With the mockery of the criminals, the rejection of Jesus by His people is complete. Even criminals rejected Him. The Jews placed him between these two, perhaps to intimate that he was the worst felon of the three. Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour: From the Roman reckoning of time, this was approximately from 12:00 noon until 3:00 in the afternoon. This unusual darkness lasted for some three hours, much longer than any natural eclipse. This was not the entire time Jesus was on the cross, but the later part of that time. According to Mark 15:25 and 15:34, we can surmise that Jesus hung on the cross for about 6 hours approximately between 9:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon. This darkness was especially remarkable because it happened during a full moon during which time Passover was always held and during a full moon it is impossible that there be a natural eclipse of the sun.
My God, My God Cried is a strong verb indicating powerful emotion or appeal to God. This is, remarkably, the only time in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus addressed God without calling him Father. Jesus had known great pain and suffering both physical and emotional during His life. Yet He had never known separation from His Father. At this moment, He experienced what He had not yet ever experienced. There was a significant sense in which Jesus rightly felt forsaken by the Father at this moment.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 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!” And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
- The veil of the temple was torn in two: The veil was what separated the holy place from the most holy place in the temple. It was a vivid demonstration of the separation between God and man. Notably, the veil was torn from top to bottom, and it was God who did the tearing. As if shocked at the sacrilegious murder of her Lord, the temple rent her garments, like one stricken with horror at some stupendous crime.Acts 6:7 says that in the days of the early church, a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Perhaps this torn veil demonstrated to them the greatness of the work of Jesus. It is also probably how the torn veil became common knowledge.
- The earth quaked, and the rocks were split: Nature itself was shaken by the death of the Son of God. Men’s hearts did not respond to the agonizing cries of the dying Redeemer, but the rocks responded: the rocks were rent. He did not die for rocks; yet rocks were more tender than the hearts of men, for whom he shed his blood. We aren’t to suppose that the earthquake that happened and split rocks during the crucifixion also opened graves of some of the righteous dead; who waited in those open graves for three days until coming out of the graves after His resurrection. It is better to understand that Matthew intended us to see that the earthquake happened on the day Jesus was crucified. Then, on the day He was revealed as resurrected, the radiating power of new life was so great that it resuscitated some of the righteous dead. Coming out of the graves after His resurrection: This is one of the strangest passages in the Gospel of Matthew. We don’t know about this event from any other source, and Matthew doesn’t tell us very much. So we really don’t know what this was all about, but apparently these resuscitated saints died once again, because they were raised from the dead in the sense that Lazarus was – not to resurrection life, but to die again.
- They were raised, “Not to converse again, as heretofore, with men, but to accompany Christ, that raised them, into heaven; and to be as so many ocular demonstrations of Christ’s quickening power. These first miracles wrought in connection with the death of Christ were typical of spiritual wonders that will be continued till he comes again – rocky hearts are rent, graves of sin are opened, those who have been dead in trespasses and sins, and buried in sepulchers of lust and evil, are quickened, and come out from among the dead, and go unto the holy city, the New Jerusalem.
- Truly this was the Son of God! The scene at the crucifixion of Jesus was so striking that even a hardened Roman centurion confessed that this was the Son of God. This man had supervised the death of perhaps hundreds of other men by crucifixion, but he knew there was something absolutely unique about Jesus. This was the Son of God: The only thing wrong is his verb tense; Jesus is the Son of God. The Roman centurion seemed to assume that He was no longer the Son of God.
There are those that think that these soldiers, our Savior’s executioners, were truly converted by the miracles they had seen, according to what Christ had prayed for them, Luke 23:34. And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar: Jesus not only made an impact upon rough and hardened men like the Roman centurion, but He also made an impact on women, even women like Mary Magdalene (the formerly demon-possessed woman who followed Jesus from Galilee, according to Luke 8:2).