When the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a aloud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-39 ESV)
In first-century Jewish reckoning, the sixth hour was noon and the ninth hour was 3 p.m. The Scriptures tell us that on that awful day when our Lord was crucified, at midday darkness covered the whole land and it became as midnight. Jesus had endured a criminal’s crucifixion—the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nine-inch nails driven through His feet and hands. Now He hung spread-eagled on a wooden cross, and our Lord entered into the most terrible aspect of His crucifixion, which can easily be missed because it is largely unfathomable to human understanding.
The darkness that the Scriptures describe reflects the removal of the Father’s fellowship from His precious Son. From all eternity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had existed in a perfect fellowship, love, and glory . . . until this day. It was one thing for Jesus to suffer at the hands of wicked men who were used of God to punish the sinless Savior in order to make atonement for sinners like you and me; but now, as darkness enveloped the land, the Holy Father unleashed His full fury and judgment for sin on Jesus Christ and turned His back on His beloved Son, who hung there bleeding, gasping for each tortured breath, dying to pay the penalty for all our sins—past, present, and future. The excruciating physical pain Jesus endured during His crucifixion, which is truly difficult for most of us to imagine, was little more than a mosquito bite compared to the horrific supernatural pain He endured—a mind-shattering anguish no Christian will ever have to experience: being forsaken by the Father.
The darkness that enveloped Jerusalem was not the result of some natural phenomenon, such as an eclipse, cloud cover, or dust storm, as unbelieving naturalists would have us believe. This darkness was a supernatural sign from God to the watching world. Midday became as midnight while God judged the One who knew no sin in the place of those who had known only sin ever since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden.
Luke’s Gospel reports that “The sun was darkened” (Luke 23:45). In the original Greek, we would read this statement as “The sun failing.” The One who spoke the world into existence and hung it on nothing sent this supernatural darkness so that we might understand the utter blackness of our sin and the dreadful damage that sin has caused.
Darkness in the Scriptures is often associated with judgment against wickedness. Who can forget the darkness God sent to cover the land of Egypt as judgment against Pharaoh, who had stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go (Exodus 10:22-23)? The prophets often spoke of God’s judgment against sin that would be demonstrated in the form of darkness. Darkness is also used as a description of hell: “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
Between the sixth and ninth hour God poured out His cup of wrath and judgment on His precious Son, who was paying a debt of sin He did not owe for those who owed it but had no ability to pay. Forsaken by His Father, Jesus hung on that cross and endured the unthinkable darkness of sin and hell. The light of love between Father and Son that had existed from all eternity was now extinguished by that blackness that covered the land. Jesus experienced that “outer darkness” that you and I will never have to experience; He willingly took our place as our Substitute . . . our Savior.
Today is Good Friday, a day to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus paid on the cross for our sins. Let us remember, not only the physical pain our Lord endured, as horrible as that was, but the supernatural pain of separation from His Father, which He endured so that we would never have to experience it.
Jesus experienced unimaginable darkness so that we could live in His glorious, eternal light.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!