The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary
June 15th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM
THE SEVEN MIGHTY MIRACLES OF CALVARY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-15-80 8:15 a.m.
That sounds just like you young people – shout it out, live it up! Give it to Jesus. Honor the Lord. We are going to have a great service tonight, the concluding and climatic hour of the finest youth camp we have ever had. It is a gladness, a joy, to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who share this hour with us on the radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and the message is entitled The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary.
There are four of these sermons in this series: last Sunday, The Seven Mighty Miracles of the Old Testament; the next time, The Seven Mightiest Miracles of All Time; the fourth and the last one, The Seven Mighty Miracles at the End of the World; and today, The Seven Mighty Miracles of Calvary. Some of them are from the heavens, some of them are from the earth, some of them are under the earth, but they are in a class of wonders by themselves – seven of them. And the first is in Luke 23, verse 44: "And it was about the sixth hour," that is, at high noon, "and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour," until 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. "And the sun was darkened. . ." [Luke 23:44-45].
This is the first miracle of Calvary. From high noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, the earth was plunged in absolute, unmitigated blackness. Like the darkness in the land of Egypt that lasted for three days, it was a concentrated force of blackness. The Bible calls it, "a darkness that could be felt" [Exodus 10:21]. This was a blackening out of all light just like that.
And it was a miracle of God. In no sense and in nowise was it an eclipse; an eclipse never lasts but a few minutes. In an eclipse, the moon is between the sun and the earth. This is the Passover season and the moon is at its full, and it’s on the other side of the earth from the sun. In an eclipse, there is a gradual darkening of the sun. This was suddenly, at high noon; and as suddenly, it disappeared at three in the afternoon, after three hours. This is a miracle of God, an interposition from heaven when God’s hand blotted out the sun.
It was entailed with an awesome silence. The things going on at the cross when Jesus died were unmitigated busyness. The soldiers were busy raising the three crosses. They were busy gambling at the foot of the cross for the garments of Jesus. The crowds passing up and down before Him shouted insults and taunts and wagged their heads. And the high priests were criticizing Pilate for the wording of his superscription [John 19:19-24]. But when that darkness came, the darkness itself was silent. There were no taunts and no insults flung in those three darkened hours. All that could be heard was the drops of blood falling from the wounds of our Lord. In Luke , verse 48, it says, "And they that were there smote their breasts." And Mathew 27:54 says, "They feared greatly."
What is the meaning of the darkening of the sun in those three hours from high noon until Jesus died at three in the afternoon? In some way, it was God’s hand covering the suffering of His son. In a mystery into which we cannot enter, God smote Him and afflicted Him, as Isaiah 53 says: "smitten of God and afflicted." And we somehow cannot enter in infinite understanding and mind, the deep, unfathomable, impenetrable mystery when God turned His face and the Son cried, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" [Mark 15:34]. And the sun went out, darkened, refused to shine. In that beautiful hymn you sang just a moment ago:
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the Mighty Maker, died,
For man, the creature’s sin.
["At the Cross"; Isaac Watts]
It’s a miracle into which we cannot enter. The suffering of God’s Son, and the Lord turning His face in heaven, and the sun, darkened, refusing to shine: the first mighty miracle of Calvary.
The second miracle of Calvary: turn to Matthew 27, verses 50 and 51. The second great miracle:
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice,
behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
This is the second mighty miracle of Calvary. That veil in the temple, the rabbis say in the Talmud that it was thicker than a hand-breadth. It was sixty feet long, and thirty feet wide. Josephus says, "It was so wrought that teams of horses could not pull it apart." Yet, at the instant of the voice of our Lord, it was rent by the hand of God; not from the bottom to the top, as though men could do it – which they couldn’t – but it was torn asunder from the top to the bottom by the hands of God. Nor was it a result of the mighty earthquake, for it would have been inexplicable that an earthquake would rend that mighty curtain and yet never touch or disturb the building itself. It was a miracle of God, and as such it has a mighty meaning.
The whole temple was to portray, as the tabernacle, God’s holiness and man shut out because of his sinfulness. There was a wall around the temple area shutting those out. In the court of the Gentiles, there was a middle wall, shutting the Gentiles out. In the court of Israel, there was a low wall, the court of the priest, shutting the people out. There beyond the altar and beyond the laver was the door into the temple, shutting the priests out. And on the inside of the Holy Place was this veil, shutting even the priests out, and beyond the veil, the high priest once a year with blood entered into the Holy of Holies [Exodus 26:31-33; Hebrews 9:6-8]. And it was that veil that was torn apart by God, where all could look and see!
God is no longer hidden away; nor is access to God prohibited and proscribed by partitions and veils. Any man anywhere now can walk into the presence of God for himself. A kitchen corner is as fine a sanctuary as the noblest cathedral. And you can talk to God face-to-face without intermediary, without priests, just to talk to God in the name of Jesus, coming in the blood of our Lord, coming for His sake, laying every petition before God in all of His wonder and glory and holiness. The veil has been torn asunder. Nothing shuts us out. We have free access to the Lord. As the author of Hebrews writes it, "Wherefore come boldly to the throne of grace" [Hebrews 4:16]. Walk up to the Lord and tell Him all your need, that you might find grace to help in the hour of supplication.
Could I just point out, briefly, one other thing in this marvelous meaning of that miracle of the rent veil? The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 10:19-20:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.
The veil is a type of the flesh of our Lord, that in its rending, in its tearing, we might have access into the very presence of God. This is the second mighty miracle of Calvary.
The third miracle of Calvary: "Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and," not instantaneously, "and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, torn asunder" [Matthew 27:51]. At the very instant of the voice, of the shout, of the cry of our Lord, "It is finished" [John 19:30], at that instance, the very earth shook, and the rocks were split asunder.
What is the meaning of that marvelous miracle? It is this: when the law was given on Mt. Sinai, it was attended by thunder and lightening and a great earthquake [Exodus 19:18]. The very mountains shook! And the curse of the earth came under the law, intensified. Sin was before the law, but the law intensified it – pointed it out, interjected it, underscored it. All of us were sinners from the day Adam fell, but when the law was given, sin was made blacker and darkened, and the whole earth shook under the response of God’s wrath and God’s curse upon sin. That’s Sinai. That’s the law [Romans 5, 6, 7]. But on Calvary, when the Lord shouted His sentence of victory, "It is finished," the cursed earth responded!
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul writes to us that this earth, in labor and in travail, is under the curse of God, waiting, abiding the day of the manifestation of the sons of God, at which time it will be delivered from its bondage of curse and corruption [Romans 8:19]. What Sinai emphasized in the curse, "He that breaks the law shall surely die" [Hebrews 10:28]. Calvary absorbed and the whole earth responded in that glorious liberation and deliverance we have in Christ. And that is a portent and a promise of the ultimate and final deliverance of this earth from its curse of sin. Someday there will be no more curse. There will be a new, regenerated heaven above us and a new, regenerated earth on which we shall stand. This is the sublime meaning of that third miracle of Calvary, when the very earth responded to the voice of the triumph, of the shout of Christ: "It is finished."
The fourth miracle: "And the graves were opened." It seems as though, in this fourth miracle, that that earthquake – the response of the earth to the shout of our Lord – it seems as though that that earthquake had intelligence. It was a living thing. It was nature, beyond nature itself. And that is so true. When the earth shook, when this solid planet responded to the deliverance in the shout of Christ, the earthquake had a selection. It opened the graves of the saints: this one, and that one, and that one, and that one. It was a selective earthquake, I repeat, as though it had intelligence, as though it were a living thing. It opened the graves of the saints [Matthew 27:51-53].
What is the meaning of that marvelous miracle? It was this. It is this. First of all: it is an open exhibition of the power of the cross. You see, the graves were opened at three o’clock on Friday afternoon. Then came the Sabbath, and they could not be shut; they could not be repaired on the Sabbath Day. So Friday and Saturday and Sunday those graves were opened for all to see, the very moment that Christ died! The very moment He entered among the dead, the graves of the saints were opened and stayed open for all to see, a public exhibition and presentation and affirmation of the power of the cross.
And one other thing: and it was a public exhibition of the power of Christ to open the grave and the gates and prison doors of Hades, the land of the dead. Christ, in His shout of victory, "It is finished," opened the graves of the saints, and He opened the prison doors of death and Hades itself. Isn’t that what He said to the apostle John when He stood before the sainted writer of Revelation in His glory? "I fell at His feet as dead," says John. "He put His right hand upon me and said, ‘Fear not. I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I, I have the keys of Death and of hell – Hades’" [Revelation 1:17]. That’s what that means.
And this marvelous fifth miracle: "And many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of those graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" [Matthew 27:52-53]. Actually, to me, there are two marvelous miracles here – the saints, the bodies. As time goes on, I’m going to emphasize that more and more. We don’t have a religion of ideas or just ephemeral intangibles. Brother, our religion is down on the earth. It touches human life and it concerns human bodies, and that is true here.
"And many bodies of the saints arose, came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and enephanisthesan." Enephanisthesan, translated here, "appeared unto many." The Greek word enephanisthesan means "to present," "to declare," and that form in it – enephaneso – that is a first aorist indicative, passive, third-person plural, which means the action is on the subject itself. So to translate it literally, it means that they made themselves known. They arose from the dead. And after His resurrection, they went into the city and made themselves known. They presented themselves as who they were.
Now the meaning of that marvelous miracle: first, first it is a demonstration of the omnipotence of God to take the body in its dissolution and to raise it from the dead! I tell these children when I speak to them about the meaning of conversion and baptism, that in baptism we are raised like the Lord was raised. That is, Christ is able to speak to the very dust of the ground. If He delays His coming, and we are buried in the heart of the earth, God is able to speak to that dust and raise it to Himself in glory. That is the meaning of this miracle. The omnipotence of God takes those bodies in dissolution and raises them up, and they go into the city, the holy city.
And this to me is the second part of that miracle – the renaissance of the Scripture passage. Nothing more is said. Who were they? How long had they been dead? Had they just died recently or had they been dead for generations? What did they say? How did they look? How were they clothed? Did they go into the house without opening a door? What did they say? And what was their purport? And what was the meaning of their visit? And how long did they stay? Nothing is said at all, just that they made themselves known, like Elijah and like Moses let themselves be known when the disciples saw them, though they had been dead for a thousand years [Mark 9:2-5]. Yet they made themselves known, enephanisthesan: they presented themselves as themselves.
Ah! And why doesn’t the Bible tell us more? Oh dear! When I hold a memorial service such as I did yesterday afternoon, there are ten thousand things I wish I could say, but I don’t know; the Bible doesn’t declare [it]. God hides it from our eyes. It’s like my preaching through the Revelation. It was so difficult for me in those middle chapters, and I thought, "When I come to the resurrection and the millennium and the heaven, ah! It’s going to be easy." It was ten times harder. There are a thousand mysteries about the resurrection, and about our bodies, and how it shall be in heaven. And God doesn’t tell us. And Moses in the law forbade under penalty of death our seeking for answers unto the dead. We don’t know. It’s just, "Many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and made themselves known" – presented themselves as themselves – "unto many," and we’re told nothing else.
You know what? This is an interpretation of a passage of Scripture that I think portrays the resurrection of the dead: 1 Corinthians 15, verse 23. Verse 22 says, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Now if you have a pencil, I wish you’d divide up this following verse. In the resurrection, we shall all be made alive, but every one of us "in his own order." That is a military term in the language – like an army passing by: first this battalion, then that one, then that one – but every one of us, "in his own order," in his own time.
All right: Christ, He is the first one. Then, second, the firstfruits: after Christ was raised from the dead, those saints were raised, and they went into the city and presented themselves as themselves: the firstfruits. Third, then they that are Christ’s at His coming: "When the Lord shall come, the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed" [1 Corinthians 15:51-54]. And then, in the King James’ Version, do you see that "cometh" is in italics? [1 Corinthians 15:24]. That is, it is not in the original. Then, the end ones: that is, the final resurrection of God’s saints at the end of the tribulation.
And that’s the order: first, Christ was raised from the dead; second, the firstfruits – and the earnest and promise of all of God’s saints resurrected – these that came out of the graves when the Lord was raised from the dead and appeared into the holy city; and then third, all of us who shall be translated or resurrected at His second coming. And then finally, the end ones: those who shall be raised from the dead at the end of the tribulation and entering the millennial kingdom.
What a message, and what a miracle, "and the bodies of the saints which slept arose," came out of the graves, "after His resurrection, and went into the city, and presented themselves as themselves" unto those who were visited by these resurrected saints. O dear Lord, what a day! What an hour! What a rejoicing someday we shall have in the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection.
Number six – miracle number six: in John , verse 34, verse 33 reads:
And when those soldiers came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear, nusso,
That’s the only time in the Bible that word is used, nusso. One of the soldiers took a spear and nusso: he "stabbed," he "thrust." That’s the exact translation of that word: he "thrust" that iron spear into the heart of our Lord. And now, it is John who looks upon this as a miracle:
And forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true:
and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
When John writes that, he writes it as though, "You won’t believe what I say, when I say that Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the heart, thrust that iron spear into His heart, and when he pulled it out, there flowed blood and water." To John, it was a miracle. He writes of it in 1 John 5, 5-6: "Who is he that overcometh the world? It is he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.
"This is He," the Lord Jesus – "that came by water and by blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood."
That has a miraculous meaning, blood and water: blood, the atonement for our souls, and water, which is a symbol and a sign of the regenerating cleansing of the Holy Spirit of God and the Word of the Lord. "Now, you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you" [John 15:3]. And He cleanses us by the washing of water by the Word.
And we are regenerated by the renewing of the Holy Spirit in our heart. And, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit. . . [John 3:5]. These things John always uses. They are signs and symbols of the power of Jesus, as He saves us in His blood, and as He cleanses us and regenerates us in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Isaac Watts – and, ah! you see this all through our hymn – Isaac Watts wrote, "My Savior’s pierced side poured out a double flood. By water we are purified and pardoned by the blood." And Augustus Toplady wrote it like this:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin a double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
[Rock of Ages, Augustus Toplady, 1776]
To John, it was a miracle – that fountain of water and blood that flowed out of the riven side of our Lord [John 19:34].
One other miracle – to me, it’s a miracle – one other miracle: miracle number seven. Paul writes, typical, in Galatians 6:14, "God forbid that I should boast,"kauchaomai, "glory," "boast." "God forbid that I should boast," that I should glory, "save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." To me, that is the seventh miracle of Calvary.
My brother and my sister, the cross was an instrument of execution invented by the Romans. All of the predecessors impaled their victims. They stabbed them through their abdomen and hanged them up. But it was the Roman that invented crucifixion: the nailing of a body to the cross and letting it writhe there in agony sometimes over three days. That was an invention of the Roman. It was the cruelest form of suffering inflicted by human hands. The Romans did that. They invented crucifixion. The cross was a sign of execution for the felon, for the murderer, for the seditionist.
And yet, when you see a church, high up there on its steeple there will be a cross. Sometimes, in the imagery of a stained glass or the embellishment of a sanctuary, you’ll find a cross. Sometimes, around a woman’s neck you’ll find a gold cross. Sometimes, a clergyman will wear a cross, and sometimes a layman will pin it in his lapel. How could such a thing ever come to pass? It is as though we took the electric chair, and put that electric chair high on the church or wore it around our necks. It was the same thing to them as the electric chair is to us: it was an instrument of execution.
But the miracle of God – out of all the uncounted thousands and thousands who were crucified, He alone – He alone is honored and glorified as our Savior, and out of all of the things that pertain to the love and grace of our Lord, there is nothing comparable to the pouring out of His life in our behalf – the crimson of His very soul shed for me. Lord, Lord, "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all" ["When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," Isaac Watts]. It is a miracle: the gospel of the cross, the gospel of execution, the gospel of blood, suffering – and yet, take away the cross, and the crown of thorns, and the blood, and the suffering, and the sobs and the tears, there’s no gospel. There’s nothing to preach. We are saved in the blood of Jesus Christ.
That’s why Paul would preach, "I determine not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:2]. And that passage, in the sixth chapter of Galatians: "God forbid that I should glory, should boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" [Galatians 6:14]. It’s a miracle, the seventh one, of Calvary.
And that is our appeal to you today: to give your heart and your life to the blessed Jesus. Bring your family and come into the circle and the circumference of the love and grace and fellowship of this dear, dear church. In a moment, we are going to stand and sing a hymn of appeal. And nobody leave for this moment. We’ll all be quiet before God and pray and wait. And you, in the balcony, there is time and to spare; down one of these stairways and to us here at the front, walking down one of these aisles: "Pastor, I have decided for God today, and here I am." On the first note of the first stanza, answer with your life. "Here I am, pastor, here I come," a couple of you, a family of you, or just that one somebody you. My fellow ministers will be with me here. Our deacons will be with me here. We will rejoice in your coming. It will be the greatest blessing of God upon the work of our hands and the answer of our prayers if you will answer with your life. Do it. Make the decision now. And in this moment when we stand, stand walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle. God bless you. Angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
MIGHTY MIRACLES OF CALVARY
23:44-45, Matthew 27:50-54
I. The darkness(Luke 23:44-45)
A. It was not an
eclipse (Exodus 10:21)
B. The awesome silence(John 19:19-24, Luke 23:48, Matthew 27:54)
covering of the suffering Savior(Isaiah 53:4,
II. The rending of the veil (Matthew 27:50-51)
A.It was torn from top
The temple portrayed God’s holiness and man shut out because of sinfulness(Exodus 26:31-33, Hebrews 9:6-8)
have free access to the Lord (Hebrews 4:16,
III. The earthquake(Matthew 27:51)
A. At the cry of our
Lord the earth shook, rocks split asunder (John
B. When the law was
given on Mt. Sinai the mountains shook(Exodus
is finished!" and the earth responded (Romans
8:19, Hebrews 10:28)
IV. The opened graves (Matthew 27:52)
earthquake seemed to be a living intelligent thing and opened selected graves
of the saints
open exhibition of the power of the cross
public exhibition of the power of Christ to open the grave and the doors of
Hades (Revelation 1:17)
V. Appearance of the saints (Matthew 27:52-53)
A. They made themselves
Demonstration of the omnipotence of God to take the body in its dissolution and
raise it from the dead
of resurrection(Mark 9:2-5)
The order of the resurrection (1 Corinthians
VI. Blood and water (John 19:33-35, 1 John 5:6, 8)
A. The spear thrust
into His heart brought forth blood and water
B. Symbolism of blood
and water (John 3:5, 15:3)
VII. The gospel of the cross
A. Instrument of
execution a glory (Galatians 6:14)
B. Take away the cross
and there is no gospel(1 Corinthians 2:2)