On this day in history, tropical cyclone Olivia crossed over Barrow Island off the western coast of Australia, producing the world’s strongest non-tornadic wind gusts at 254 miles-per-hour. Olivia, a category 4 storm, made landfall on Varanus Island the same day. Her winds broke the previous record of 231 mph set on Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 1934.
In the days of Christ, the ultra-religious Pharisees often searched the skies for apocalyptic signs. When they demanded a “sign from heaven,” they were likely pushing Jesus to interpret something in the clouds. But the Lord would not play their game. The Pharisees were not sincere; they simply wanted to entrap Jesus as they had tried to do before. Jesus replied that no sign would be given to his generation but the “sign of Jonah” – the emergence of a prophet after being swallowed by death for three days (Matthew 12:38-41).
On the Friday of Christ’s execution, the Pharisees and all of Jerusalem witnessed frightening signs. Thick darkness settled on the land for three hours. An earthquake broke up mausoleums all over the city, giving up their dead. The temple veil, a huge curtain that hid the Ark of the Covenant, was mysteriously torn in half.
But the most significant sign of all was lifted up before their very eyes—the God-man on the cross, battered and bleeding for their sins and the sins of the world. His enemies gloated, but those who followed him would remember his words that the Son of Man had to be betrayed, handed over to the chief priests and condemned to death. Ultimately God would triumph, transforming the cross from an instrument of execution into a sign of salvation.
And a greater sign would come on the third day.