“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 loud 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)
MID-DAY becomes MID-NIGHT!
In Jesus’ day, they counted the hours of the day from the time of sunrise. The sixth hour would be noon or mid-day, and the ninth hour would be 3 p.m. The Scriptures tell us that at mid-day it became as midnight, as darkness covered the whole land. Having endured the beatings, the crown of thorns, and the nine-inch nails driven through his feet and hands, hanging spread-eagle on the cross, Jesus now entered into the most horrific aspect of his unfathomable crucifixion, which can easily be missed.
The darkness mentioned here in the Scriptures reflects the separation of the Father’s fellowship from his precious Son. From all eternity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed in a perfect relationship of fellowship, love, and glory… until now!
It was one thing to suffer at the hands of men who were used by God to punish the sinless Savior for the salvation of sinners like us; but now the Holy Father unleashed his unimaginable wrath and judgment on Jesus, who was hanging on the cross, bleeding and dying, to pay the penalty for our sins—all our sins. Because God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), he turned his back on Jesus, who had become sin on our behalf. He did this so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The physical pain Jesus endured during his crucifixion—we get our English word excruciating from the French word for crucify—is truly difficult to imagine. Compared to being forsaken by the Father, that shuddering, gasping agony is reduced to the level of a mosquito bite. He suffered that so no Christian will ever have to experience the same abandonment.
This terrifying darkness at the sixth hour was not the result of some natural phenomena, such as an eclipse or dust storm. It was intended to be a supernatural sign from God to the watching world. Mid-day became midnight at the time when the sun would normally be at its brightest. This happened when God judged one who had never known sin.
Luke says, “the sun was darkened” (Luke 23:45), which can be interpreted as “the sun was failing.” God sent this supernatural darkness so that we might understand the blackness of our sin and the damage it causes.
Darkness in the Scriptures is often associated with judgment against sin and wickedness. The prophets often warned people about God’s judgment being demonstrated in the form of darkness. Who can forget the darkness God sent to cover the land of Egypt as judgment against Pharaoh when he refused to let the Israelites go (Exodus 10:22-23)? Darkness is also used to describe hell: “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
For three solid hours, God poured out his cup of wrath and judgment on Jesus, who was paying a debt of sin he did not owe for those who owed it but could not pay. He hung on that cruel cross, forsaken by his Father, and he endured the unthinkable darkness of sin and hell. The light of eternal love between the Father and the Son had been utterly extinguished. On that day, Jesus took our place and experienced the “outer darkness” that we will never have to experience. J. C. Ryle profoundly wrote:
“It was meet and right that the attention of all around Jerusalem should be arrested in a marked way, when the great sacrifice for sin was being offered and the Son of God was dying. There were signs and wonders wrought in the sight of all Israel, when the law was given on Sinai. There were signs and wonders in like manner when the atoning blood of Christ was shed on Calvary. There was a sign for an unbelieving world. The darkness at mid-day was a miracle which would compel men to think.”
We celebrate Easter this month. As we reflect on the unimaginable price Jesus paid, let us not merely remember the physical pain our Lord endured, but the searing supernatural pain of separation from his Father that he experienced so that we would never have to.
Truly, Jesus is the light of the world. Is he your light? By God’s grace may it be so and may your mid-days never be as midnight!
This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Tommy Boland is the Senior Pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. Worship services are held on Saturdays at 6pm and Sundays at 10:30am., at 841 S.E 2nd Ct., Deerfield Beach. Check us out at: thecrosscc.org. For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.