Reading Time: 5 minutesThe Darkness at the Cross
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour — Mat 27:45
When Jesus Was Born there Was Light, When He Died There Was Darkness. I have come to call it “the shadow of The Almighty.” (Psalms 91:1). We live “under the shadow.”
It is worth noting that when our Lord was born there was a supernatural light across the sky. It was a fitting prelude to the life of Him who was sent to be the light of men. The shepherds, sitting by their flocks, were surprised by the shining of the heavens. The night became as day about them when the Holy Child was born. All which was God’s prophetic symbol of the illumination of the heart of man through the unspeakable gift of the Lord Jesus.
The strange thing is that when our Saviour died there was no illumination such as that. If the cradle was a scene of light, the cross was a spectacle of darkness. Thick darkness. At the hour of noon, when in ordinary course the sun would have shone in spectacular brilliancy, there stretched a veil of darkness on the land. What are the voices that reach us from that darkness? For the darknesses of heaven are always eloquent. Let us meditate on that “thick darkness,” and what may have been going on in it’s midst.
One thinks first how the darkness at the cross speaks to us of the sympathy of God. If someone whom we dearly loved were mangled in some crowded thoroughfare, the agony of it would be vastly deepened for us by the cruel feature of publicity. EMS personnel would cover the body in a shroud. To have someone dear to us in torture in the center of a gaping crowd must be one of the most awful of experiences. Instinctively we would try to draw a curtain around the sufferings of those we love. We cannot bear to think that loveless eyes should gaze upon their agonies and torments. (Mat 27:28, 36).
That is why, when a dear one is in pain, we close the door and give them privacy; that is why, in the hospital room, the curtain is hung around the bed.
God’s curtain was the darkness. He had such pity as any father would have. He could not bear that cruel mocking eyes should feast themselves on the tortures, and the final breaths of His dear Son. And in His infinite Fatherly compassion, from the sixth hour to the ninth, He drew the veil around that dying bed. And out of that darkness came the unfeigned declaration:
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. (Mat 27:54)
The Ministry of the Shadow: (Psalms 91:1)
We should meditate on how the darkness at the cross reveals to us the ministry of shadow. Did you ever notice what the darkness did for the people who were gathered there? Before that noonday how fearful was the scene! There was malignant and insulting mockery. The passersby, and the soldiers reviled the Crucified Lord; likewise the priests and scribes and elders mocked Him. We see a rabble, merciless and cruel, stirred to the point of frenzy by their leaders—and then at the sixth hour came the darkness.
People have said that in the sun’s eclipse there falls a great silence on the world. Hushed is the song of birds, hushed, too, the howling of the beasts. And one has only to read the story of the cross to see how, when the darkness fell, there died away that howling of the beasts. Reviling ceased; mockery was silenced; there was not another syllable of railing. One gathers that the attitude of insolence was changed into an attitude of awe. God was in the thick cloud. (Psalms 18:11-12).
That mysterious overshadowing gloom chilled the blasphemy of ribald lips and struck a terror into every heart present. Uproar became quietness. Insolence passed into terrified wonder. A strange and searching sense of mystery fell on the most frenzied people that were there. And who can doubt that God, who loves the world, and willeth not that any man should perish, (John 3:16-17), was moving in that ministry of gloom? (2 Sam 22:12).
There are things we learn in darkness that we never learn when the sun is in the sky. Sometimes people only see their cruelty, when the other is in the valley of the shadow. It is not when the heaven is radiant that we detect how evil we have been. It is often when the darkness deepens. The darkness at Calvary was gracious. It was the goodness of God leading to repentance. (Rom 2:4). God’s goodness, present in the “thick darkness,” awed everyone. It woke their conscience. It led them swiftly to revalue Jesus. I believe that many who on a later day believed in Jesus and rejoiced in Him would date the beginning of their gracious change from the awful darkness at the cross, The Source of Light for a dying world.
“…the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” (Psalms 139:12)
The Darkness Speaks of the Mystery of Atonement
The darkness at the cross speaks to us of the mystery of atonement. Here is something no human eye can penetrate. So long as the sun was shining every movement of the Lord was visible. Did He lift up His eyes to heaven? They observed it. Did He look round on the crowd? They marked that also. And then the darkness fell, and He was hidden from them, and now let them strain their eyes, however eagerly, they knew not what was transacting in the shadow. They could not follow nor fathom what was forward. There was something they were powerless to penetrate. No husband could go home that Friday evening and say to his wife, “Wife, I saw it all. “
And the strange thing is that to this hour no saint or scholar, studying diligently the atonement, would ever dare to say “I see it all.” No theory exhausts the cross. No intellect fathoms the atonement. No human thought can grasp the height and depth of the greatest of all mysteries. And that shrouding from our finite mind of the infinite meanings of atonement is one of the suggestions of the darkness: that there is truly, Light In Every Cloud.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)”Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Jesus IS still the “light of the world.” Nothing will ever change that! Ever.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isa 9:2)”And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isa 42:16)
Truly, every Christian today lives “under the shadow of The Almighty:
“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” (Mat 4:16).
What so enlightened and convinced the people who stood around the cross that they could not refrain from confessing their faith in Jesus? It was the sermon that was given in every action of Christ and especially in His silence, and in the darkness, under cruel abuse. At His trial one seemed to vie with the other in making His humiliation as degrading as possible. But His silence was eloquence. In that lacerated, bruised, broken body hanging on the cross, the centurion, and the others standing with him recognized the form of the Son of God. (see Mat 27:54).
Do you see Jesus in your clouds?