The darkness of the crucifixion
I am curious (and speculative)…. Why do Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that when Jesus hung on the cross “darkness came over the whole land” for three hours?
Could it be that creation itself reacted in pain or sorrow to the agony of its Creator?
Scripture speaks at times of creation delighting in its Creator. For example, Psalm 19:1 reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” And Isaiah 55:12 proclaims, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Yet Romans 8:19-22 speaks of creation groaning in travail while waiting for God to restore all that is wrong in the world. Could it be that at some level, the universe is more than just a collection of inanimate commodities? Could it be that “darkness came over the whole land” while Jesus hung upon the cross because all of creation was reacting in pain and sorrow to the agony of its Creator?
Or could the darkness have been a message from God about the agony He was in as His “beloved Son” hung upon the cross?
In his book, The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning shares a letter pertaining to grief which he received from Betty Fusco: “One night a young mother who had recently lost her seven-year-old son came to our prayer meeting. Her pain was great. Her hurt and anger were great…. Why, God? Can’t you feel our pain? Do you really know how much we hurt?
When Joseph died, what did Mary and Jesus do? Was not their hurt so great that they covered their faces with ashes, cried out in loud voices with weeping and wailing, rent their clothes, and hired mourners to follow the body in the traditional Hebrew fashion of mourning the dead?
“And was it in this same Hebrew fashion that on Good Friday, the Father covered his face with ashes—the darkness of midday…?
“His earth screamed and groaned in the agony of an earthquake upheaval—the earth trembled and shook—rocks split and mountains fell—he cried out in a loud voice….
“He rent his clothing; the curtain of the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, the place no one entered, the traditional Hebrew dwelling place of God was torn from top to bottom.
“He sent mourners to follow the body. ‘Tombs opened and many holy men rose from the dead. And after Jesus’ resurrection they came forth from the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to a number of people.”
Could it be that the darkness was God’s way of letting us know of the grief and agony He Himself was enduring while His “beloved Son” was dying?
Or could it be that the darkness was a message from God that judgment against all the sin of the world was in progress
Darkness is often used in Scripture as a symbol of judgment. 1 Samuel 2:9 announces, “He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.” And as the prophet Amos speaks of judgment, he foretells, “‘In that day,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
As Jesus hung upon the cross judgment against all of the sin of the world was laid upon Him. The judgment against sin consisted of separation from God (thus Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”) and death (thus “with a loud cry Jesus breathed His last”).
But because Jesus was willing to endure the darkness of judgment for us, our lot in life is totally reversed. Brennan Manning puts it this way: “Through His passion and death Jesus carried away the essential sickness of the human heart and broke forever the deadly grip of hypocrisy on our souls. He has robbed our loneliness of its fatal power by traveling Himself to the far reaches of loneliness (“My God, my God, why have You deserted Me?”). He has understood our ignorance, weakness, and foolishness and granted pardon to us all (“Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing”). He has made His pierced heart a safe place for every defeated cynic, hopeless sinner, and self-loathing derelict across the bands of time. God reconciled all things, everything on earth, when He made peace by His death on the cross (Colossians 1:20).” (Abba’s Child, p. 155)