There were a series of
miracles that took place at Calvary when Jesus was
crucified. All of them were in direct connection
with His death.
Nature was in sympathy
with the crucifixion of the Son of God.
The miraculous darkness
that surrounded the cross illustrates the depth of
His suffering of soul as He felt Himself regarded as
sin though sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was
bearing the sin of the world. He was the sinless
substitute dying in the place of sinners.
In that moment when the
Father regarded Him as sin, He experienced the
anguish of the deepest suffering. The Son of Man did
not cease to be the Son of God.
In the Temple at
Jerusalem, darkness filled the Holy of Holies
symbolizing the dwelling place of Jehovah. On the
mercy seat God's mercy met man's sin and God judged
it there. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the
High Priest slipped behind the thick veil and
sprinkled blood on the mercy seat to make atonement
Matthew, Mark and Luke
tell us that a sudden, strange mysterious darkness
fell over the scene at Calvary. It was darkness at
noontime, a darkness in the presence of the sun
while the sun was brightly shinning. Under normal
conditions it is the light that is antagonistic to
darkness. We don't click on darkness to extinguish
the light, but light to extinguish the darkness.
However, the darkness at noonday at Calvary
smothered the sun at high noon! No wonder God caused
the earth to tremble.
The great darkness the
day Jesus died extended far beyond Jerusalem. It was
as if the sun could no longer look upon the terrible
effects of the depravity of sin.
Not an eclipse
This mysterious darkness
continued for three hours and could not have been
the result of an eclipse of the sun. The time of the
year was the Passover, which was always observed at
the time of the full moon when an eclipse of the sun
was impossible. The brightness of the sun would have
been most powerful at noon time. A strange
supernatural darkness settled down over the world
obscuring the sun so it would no longer be seen 12
noon until 3 p.m.
There are instances in
history when darkness sometimes precedes earthquakes
when a smoky haze obscures the sun and gives the
impression of the close of day. But what happened at
Calvary was not a simple phenomenon. Nothing in this
passage indicates a sand storm.
Matthew simply says the
sun failed without indicating the cause. "Now from
the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until
the ninth hour" (27:45). Mark and Luke write,
"darkness fell over the whole land" (Lk. 23:44; Mk.
15:33). It was a sudden and great darkness.
All at once, suddenly, unexpectedly the whole scene
at Calvary shut down and a death silence covered the
land, and the miraculous darkness appeared to have
vanished as quickly three hours later just before
There is independent
historical evidence of this miraculous event. The
second century Christian leader Tertullian responds
to an atheist saying, "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
How extensive was this
darkness? How much of the earth did it cover? Did it
cover the whole of the daylight half of the earth or
just the land of Judea? We are not told in this
passage. But it was extensive and compelling enough
to grab the attention of the people of Israel for
"All the land" can refer
to "all the earth" or to "the whole country" as land
of Israel. I think Matthew would have us think this
was an enormous event that cast darkness over the
entire creation. It was a cosmic event.
The darkness had a
concentration of force, like that of the three days'
darkness in Egypt, while at the same time there was
light in Goshen where the Israelite slaves lived.
Moses tells us the darkness extended over all the
land. "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Stretch out
your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness
over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be
felt'" (Exodus 10:21).
In Egypt there was a
"thick darkness" that lasted for three days (v. 22).
It was so dense "they did not see one another, nor
did anyone rise from his place for three days, but
all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings"
(v. 23). It was miraculous. The hand of God cut off
the light of the sun for three days. God did it.
The Egyptian's chief god
was RA representing the sun and Isis was their moon
goddess. They were supposed to control the light.
The god the Egyptians worshipped was obscure.
Egyptians had darkness which they could not light
up. Israel had a light which they could not put out!
How deep was the darkness
at Calvary? We are simply told only there was
"darkness." You are made to feel the sudden hush
over the scene. It was not twilight. This was
penetrating, thick frightening darkness.
The whole country was
covered with darkness. Matthew probably sees the
darkness as a fulfillment of Amos 8:9, "The time is
coming when I will make the sun go down at noon and
the earth grow dark in daytime" (TEV).
The only way to try to
explain this "darkness" over the land when Christ
died is to accept the fact that it was supernatural.
God did it and He simply did not tell us how He did
it. There was a visible suspension of the order of
nature. The Creator stepped into His creation and
caused "darkness" to suddenly cover the land. It was
a supernatural manifestation in nature. God did it!
Nature was in sympathy with its Maker during those
horrible three hours of suffering.
The darkness was
supernatural. The timing was perfect as it lead up
to the moment when the Son of God breathed His last
breath and gave up His spirit.
It takes far more faith
to say it didn't happen than to accept the
historical evidence that it did. Nothing in creation
could have produced the darkness of these
dimensions. The Creator intervened and caused a hush
over the land of Palestine.
It was a silent, sudden
somber darkness like a thick heavy curtain. The LORD
God got everyone's attention that afternoon.
All was silent at Calvary
during those three hours of thick darkness. The
deathly silence must have created a feeling of
trepidation, consternation and horror.
There are some things
that go beyond description. Some things are so holy
that they are beyond observation. During that
incredible silence, Jesus suffered extreme anguish
of spirit. It is as if God drew the curtain across
His Holy of Holies so no outsider could see or hear
within. The increasing wrath of God grew more and
more intense with every moment until the silence was
broken by the Son of God. It was the desolate
isolation and loneliness of God forsakenness.
No more blasphemy. No
more scuffing. No gambling. No cursing. No insults.
No taunts by the criminals and crowds.
It was just a
The suspense must have
grown as it reached a terrifying climax at the end
of the three hours of darkness. The professional
Roman executioner experienced what was happening and
"feared greatly" and the people smote their breasts
as they left the scene at the end of the darkness.
The depth of supernatural
darkness grew in intensity as the spiritual
suffering of Christ wore on. The desolation of
suffering reached its lowest point when Jesus was
"made to be sin" in stead of the sinner. The horror
of suffering the wrath of God against the sinner
reached its climax when Jesus cried out: "My God, My
God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
No wonder God hid His
Son's suffering from profane eyes of depraved
Our pardon, peace, and
forgiveness has been secured through the death of
Christ on the cross. God spoke at Calvary in that
awful silence. He was saying, "Behold the Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world."
God spoke in that
terrible silence saying, "The wages of sin is
In that terrible silent
darkness, God was laying on Jesus the iniquities of
us all. "Smitten of God" is what that silence was
saying. What could not be uttered in words God was
declaring in silence. In profound silence Jesus was
enduring the Father's wrath against our sin. God the
Father drew the thick veil of darkness around the
most profound impenetrable secret of the Holy of
Holies of God.
The spiritual suffering
of Jesus was so intense and terrible that God hid it
from the eyes of sinful people. God in that darkness
hid men's eyes from His holy sacrifice. The cries
uttered by Jesus at the completion of the sacrifice
declare the unfathomable woe, the desolation and
wrath of a holy God against sin. Such suffering is
The darkness symbolized
God forsakenness. Jesus cried the awful commentary
on that event when He shouted, "Eloi, Eloi, lama
sabachthani." These awful words of anguish have
echoed throughout eternity. They thunder down the
centuries of time in the awful stillness of the
This is a mystery beyond
our human ability to understand. "The wages of sin
is death." The wrath of God was exhausting itself
out on the Divine Suffering Substitute.
"My God, My God, why have
You forsaken Me?" These words penetrate far beyond
the mere physical pain of suffering.
Jesus was quoting Psalm
22 in His spiritual suffering.
God forsaken of God
Jesus felt the Father was
not present in the sense in which He had always been
before. Jesus felt "forsaken" by the Father. He felt
the desolation of the feeling of a temporarily
broken fellowship with His Father. As Luther said so
eloquently, "God forsaken of God! Who can understand
The Son of God was never
more pleasing to the Father than at this hour of
obedience in His voluntarily laying down His life
for the salvation of lost mankind.
In that intense terrible
darkness, we see the climax of the suffering of
Christ for our sins. God was laying on Him the
iniquity of us all. He drank the dregs of the bitter
cup of the wrath of God for us. He suffered grief,
sorrow and pain on our behalf.
The Bible tells us, "The
wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). "The soul
that sins will surely die" (Ezekiel 18:4). But God
goes on to say, "For I have no pleasure in the death
of anyone who dies," declares the Lord God.
"Therefore, repent and live" (v. 32). Peter wrote,
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some
count slowness, but is patient toward you, not
wishing for any to perish but for all to come to
repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). "For the wages of sin is
death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
In that critical moment
in time, the whole weight of the world's sin came
crashing down upon the innocent sufferer.
"He [God] made Him
[Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so
that we might become the righteousness of God in
Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ was "wounded
for our transgressions." He was "the Lamb of God who
takes away the sin of the world." "It was the
collective sin of a world of sinners." Christ gave
Himself a "ransom for many." The One who knew no
sin, God "made sin" for us. On the cross Christ
became a "curse for us" and so redeemed us from the
curse of the law. We are "redeemed by the precious
blood of Christ" shed on Calvary. He gave Himself "a
ransom for all."
Our divine substitute who
"bore our sins in His body on the tree" was
forsaken. That is why God pulled the drapes at
Calvary. God drew the veil over Calvary so no
profane eyes could see the suffering of the Divine
M. R. Vincent says, "On
Him, representatively, fell the collective
consequences of sin, in His enduring 'the
contradiction of sinners against Himself' (Hebrews
12:3)." God the Father made Jesus Christ, His own
Son, representative for all of our sins and bore the
punishment. Think of every sin you have ever
committed and pile them up in one huge mountain.
Jesus came down from heaven to represent that
mountain of sin and guilt and God poured out His
wrath on Him. He paid the price in full once and for
all. Jesus invites us to come to Him and to confess
our sins one by one and receive forgiveness.
No wonder God hid it from
depraved men's eyes! It was Christ in the Holy of
Holies on the Mercy Seat of God bearing your
punishment. It was my hell, your hell, all the hells
of all guilty sinners were burning their fires out
on Him. He paid the price for you and me
individually and personally.
Jesus had to pay the
price alone and tasted our spiritual death alone.
Spiritual death is broken communion. Jesus had to
taste this broken fellowship with the Father as a
punishment for our sins. That is what He was
experiencing in those desolate hours when darkness
lay upon the earth and upon His soul. Jesus
experienced the wrath of God on sin for our behalf.
Jesus experienced what a lost sinner feels without
having been saved.
The vicarious Substitute
for sinners died on our behalf; and the claims of
the law on the sinner that believes in Jesus were
B. H. Carroll said, "Just
before that darkness passed away, closing the ninth
hour, Christ died the spiritual death. Right on the
very edge of that deeper darkness came another
voice. His words were, 'I thirst.' This shows His
soul was under going the pangs of hell, just as the
rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, being in
torments and said, 'I pray the Father Abraham send
Lazarus that he might dip the tip of his finger in
water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this
flame.'" Jesus Christ was enduring the torment of
hell for a lost world!
"Because this punishment
is everlasting death, Jesus had on the cross to
experience absolute forsakenness of God, and the
pangs of hell itself. It was a time of utter
spiritual darkness that the Son of God had to pass
through, as the Substitute for the guilty world,"
notes Norman Geldenhuys (Luke, p. 611).
That deep penetrating
darkness speaks of the torment of hell. This is the
destiny of everyone who dies without Christ as his
personal Savior. If I refuse to allow Jesus Christ
to become my substitute for me, this is the agony
that I will have to pay through all eternity. The
agony that Jesus endured in the substitutionary
process is the agony that you and I will endure if
we reject Him. This is what awaits the doomed sinner
in everlasting condemnation if he rejects Christ.
God's attitude toward sin will force Him to turn His
back on the unrepentant sinner. Jesus Christ chose
to go to the place of the condemned sinner and die
in his place. "It is a fearful thing to fall into
the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). No
wonder the sun refused to shine that day. In that
darkness God the Father exhausted the wrath of God
on my Substitute.
Did Jesus Christ
die for you?
Where will you spend
The most important
question is, are you saved? Have you put your faith
in the Divine Sufferer who came and died as your
Substitute? Do you know Jesus Christ as your
personal Savior? God has done everything that needs
to be done to save your soul. Jesus Christ died to
pay your death penalty. What is your response to
that sacrifice for you? Will you now believe on Him
and ask Him to be your Savior?
There is nothing so
penetrating as the darkness of sin. It blinds
people's hearts to God's truths. Darkness speaks of
the depravity of sin. The religious leaders acted
under the cover of darkness the night before Christ
died and the power of darkness killed the Jewish
Messiah (Luke 22:53). The real hour of darkness of
which He spoke had now arrived. And in the darkness
of the noonday, God wrote in the darkened sky His
judgment on their sins and our sin and His love for
His Son and a lost world.
The timing of the
darkness is astounding. The Son of God was dying,
God appears and there is sudden darkness. There was
total silence. God was speaking in that silence!
That darkness at Calvary
speaks of the eternal destiny of everyone who
rejects the grace of God in Jesus Christ. All who
reject Jesus Christ shall perish. Darkness in the
Bible is often associated with judgment (Isa. 5:30;
13:10-11; 60:2; Joel 2:10, 30, 31; 3:14-15; Amos
5:18, 20; 8:9; Zeph. 1:14-18; Matt. 24:29, 30; Acts
2:20; 2 Pet. 2:17; Rev. 6:12-17). God was judging
sin at the cross. He was putting away sin. It is a
deep unfathomable mystery in the mind and heart of
God. We cannot understand how evil appears to a
thrice holy God (Hab. 1:13; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21).
God hates sin, and a holy God must judge all sin.
G. Campbell Morgan said
it well, "Sin is not a small act. Sin is something
which, once committed, cannot be undone. The broken
law means a marring of the ultimate purpose. . . .
Sin is never little. Oh, man, man! If you could but
see your trespasses, your little sin, in all its
magnified meaning, you would cry out, 'What must I
do to be saved?"
The darkness meant the
judgment of God against our sins. Jesus went to the
cross and bore that punishment so that we would
never have to bear it. Our Substitute suffered the
most intense agony, indescribable woe, terrible
isolation and God forsakenness so we would never
have to. Hell came to Calvary. The clearest picture
of hell you will ever get without going there
yourself is found at the Cross. Jesus descended into
the depths of hell and bore its horrors in our
The darkness says to the
believer in Jesus Christ that all darkness is gone.
Jesus is the Light of the world. The true light now
shines in our hearts. There will be no night, no
darkness in the city of light.
Salvation is not
universal. People are not saved automatically just
because God loved the world and sent His Son to die
for us. We must individually put our trust in Jesus
Christ to save us. Each person must appropriate
God's free gift by believing on Christ. Salvation is
not automatic because your parents were Christians.
Each individual must come to a decision whereby he
or she says, "I am a sinner. I have disobeyed God. I
have failed to bring glory to God with my life. If I
died today I would go to hell. I now believe that
Jesus Christ died for me on the cross and I ask Him
to save me right now." "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ and you shall be saved."
The apostle Paul wrote,
"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord,
and believe in your heart that God raised Him from
the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a
person believes, resulting in righteousness, and
with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation"
27:45 The Darkest Day in History
Series: Life of