After being found guilty by the Jewish leaders of claiming to be the Christ at the break of day on Thursday of Passion week, Jesus then faced three more trials before Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again. Although the conclusion of each of these was that He was not guilty of the charges brought against Him, in the end He was still condemned to death out of political expedience in order to appease those upon whom Pilate depended to maintain the Pax Romana over the subjugated Jewish nation. Such is the difference between true justice found in God, and its counterpart found in our fallen world that has been corrupted by sin. And so during “the third hour” (Mar 15:25), which according to first century reckoning was between 9 AM and noon, but not long before noon (Joh 19:14), Jesus was led to Golgotha, “the Skull”, and there crucified between two criminals. Not content with having won their desire against Jesus from Pilate, and in spite of having more noble things to which to attend on that Preparation day for their Passover, the religious leaders and their supporters followed Him to the cross to get in their last licks by mocking and berating Him. For in spite of their outward religious appearance of being those nearest to God, so great was their hatred for God’s true Messiah that they were front and center at His execution to witness and ensure the extinguishing of His light that shown upon their darkness, and as Satan’s instruments to tempt Him to the bitter end.
But as Jesus’ lifeblood was ebbing from His clay vessel, there was already evidence that a much greater light was about to break forth, for the Spirit of His life, which was light (Joh 1:4-5), was being poured out along with His blood. As John the Baptist had foretold, Jesus would baptize not only with the Holy Spirit, but with fire, so that the wind of His Spirit would consume those like chaff whom He would separate out of His kingdom; see Mat 3:11-12; cf. Act 2:1-4. Such were the religious leaders and their followers, and one of the two criminals crucified next to Him whose hearts were hardened all the more against the truth by Jesus’ Spirit. But that same Spirit was at the same time gathering into His barn others whom none would have guessed, changing their hearts from stone to flesh. Such were the soldiers, and the other criminal, and many of the bystanders who Luke says came out to see the spectacle but returned beating their breasts (Luk 23:48). On the day of Pentecost fifty days later that Spirit would come pouring out like rivers of living water, but even now as it trickled from Him as He died it was already portending the fulfillment of John’s words.
As if to confirm the religious leaders’ success in extinguishing the light of their hope, what does Matthew now record as having happened? See Mat 27:45; cf. Luk 23:44-45. What was the great significance of this darkness to them? See Luk 22:53, Joh 3:19; cf. Exo 10:21-22, Deut 28:28-29, Job 5:13-14, Psa 82:5, Isa 59:8-10, Jer 15:9, Eze 32:7, Joe 2:31, 3:15, Amo 8:9, Mic 3:6, Zep 1:15. What was the significance of this darkness to Jesus? See again Luk 22:53, as well as Eph 6:12, and Mic 7:8. See also Mat 5:45 and consider how the light of the sun that God shines upon the just and the unjust was hidden from Jesus as He was made a curse and sin offering for us; Gal 3:13, 2Co 5:21. What was the significance of the darkness to those who would be born again of His Spirit that was poured out from the cross as He died? Cf. Psa 18:28, 107:10-14, 112:4, Isa 9:2, 42:6-7,16, 50:10, 60:2. Should we be surprised that the darkness then came to an end and the light burst forth again after Jesus had died? See Jdg 7:16-20, 2Co 4:6-11; cf. Psa 19:4-5. In what way did Jesus’ death on the cross that showed us the way to life through death make darkness into light for us? How does this help us to better understand the great and central truth of Christianity that the darkness of death, which was once man’s greatest enemy, has now been swallowed up in victory? Cf. 1Co 15:54-55.
Whereas Matthew and Mark simply state that darkness fell (happened, or occurred), what does Luke record in addition as the cause of the darkness? See Luk 23:45, and note that the NAS being obscured means literally to cease or to fail, and translates the Greek word ἐκλείπω from which we get our word eclipse. What would have made such an eclipse of the sun at that time so extraordinary? Note that the Passover occurred on the 14th day of the month, and being a lunar calendar, this was always a full moon. However, an ordinary eclipse can never occur during the full moon since the moon is not between the sun and earth at that time, but on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. It is likely for this reason that a different word meaning darkened came to be found in later manuscripts that the translators of the KJV used. However, there is evidence to suggest that there was more to the darkness that is described in the gospels than just a local storm or cloudy day, and that Luke used the usual word for an eclipse to describe it. For in all of the accounts it says that the darkness fell over all of or the whole land, where land may also and most commonly refers to the whole earth. Matthew Henry also says, “It is reported that Dionysius, at Heliopolis in Egypt, took notice of this darkness, and said, Either the God of nature is suffering, or the machine of the world is tumbling into ruin.” McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia also describe the writer Phlegon as an excellent compiler of the Olympiads, who, in his thirteenth book, says that “In the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad there was a great and extraordinary eclipse of the sun, distinguished among all that had happened before. At the sixth hour the day was turned into dark night, so that the stars in the heavens were seen, and there was an earthquake in Bithynia which overthrew many houses in the city of Nice”. Considering the extraordinary light that appeared at Jesus’ birth and miraculously guided the Magi to where He was in Bethlehem (Mat 2:2,7,9-10), should we be surprised if there was also an extraordinary darkness that similarly bordered on the miraculous that marked His death?
The Atonement of Christ's Blood: Understanding How the Blood of Christ Saves and Reconciles us to God
- What is the relationship between Jesus’ sacrifice and our redemption, forgiveness and receiving an inheritance per the terms of the covenant / will that was effected by His death?
- From what, and to what, are we saved? Is it Jesus’ death alone that saves us? What part does His resurrection have in our salvation?
- Does the justice of God demand the satisfaction of blood before He will forgive, similar to what pagans throughout history have believed?
- What was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices?
- Does blood alone atone for sin?
- How does Christ’s death render powerless the devil?
- To whom was Christ’s life given as a ransom? From what are we ransomed?
- Why did Jesus not only die, but suffer and die? If all that was necessary was His shed blood, why didn’t God sovereignly ordain a more merciful death for His own dear Son?
- What is the relationship between a will or testament, and a covenant? What was willed to Jesus as an inheritance from His Father, and what was willed to us through the new testament in His blood?