“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).
The darkness over the land while Jesus bore our sin was an indicator that the cross was a place of divine judgment.
The biblical phenomenon of light was not associated with Christ’s death. Instead, as today’s verse says, “Darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 P.M.].”
Scripture says little about that darkness. Ancient historical reports mention an unusual, worldwide darkness that seemed to coincide with the date of Christ’s death. Astronomical records indicate that the sun and moon were too far apart that day for a normal solar eclipse. Therefore, the darkness had to be caused by God’s intervention.
But you may still ask, “Why did God intervene like this when Jesus died?” Again, sources outside Scripture provide a reasonable clue. For many years the Jewish rabbis taught that a darkening of the sun meant judgment from God for an especially heinous sin. Many passages in Scripture make the link between darkness and God’s judgment. Jesus spoke several times of divine judgment in terms of “outer darkness,” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
In sending darkness over the whole earth for three hours, God presents us with an object lesson concerning His attitude on the day Jesus died. The darkness was God’s sign of judgment against mankind for the gross sin of rejecting and murdering His beloved Son. It is also a sign of God’s reaction to sin as a whole. Darkness is a graphic portrayal of the cross as the focal point of God’s wrath, a place of His immense judgment, where sin was poured out on His Son Jesus, our Savior. This twofold object lesson ought to be a constant, fresh reminder to us of how seriously God views sin and how vital it was that the Lord Jesus die on our behalf.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Thank God that He can use aspects of nature to illustrate spiritual truth for our finite minds.
- Pray that the Lord will never let you take for granted the awesome seriousness of the events at Calvary.
For Further Study
Read Exodus 10:12-29.
- How did the plague of darkness differ from the plague of locusts?
- What was Pharaoh’s ultimate response to these two plagues?
- How does this preview the onlookers’ reaction to seeing darkness at the cross?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.