THE THREE HOURS' DARKNESS
Luke 23:26-44 records the last six hours of Christ's life on earth. The visit of God the Son to the earth ended in the noon-day of His life. He died as a young man and was not allowed a normal lifetime. The apostles held that generation of Israelites primarily responsible for His calamitous death. Preaching to a large gathering of Jews in Jerusalem, the apostle Peter said, “The God of our fathers glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses”(Acts 3:13-15). In this message we shall be concerned primarily with the last three hours of the Lord's life. Luke in chapter 23:44 makes a very interesting and significant statement about the final hours of His life. He said, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” Mark tells us that He was crucified at the third hour of the day. According to Jewish time, Jesus was crucified at nine o'clock Friday morning. The first three hours on the cross would bring the time to twelve noon. About the sixth hour or twelve o'clock noon a supernatural darkness came over the land and lasted until the ninth hour or three o'clock in the afternoon. Luke states that the sun's light failed and at the moment Christ died, that heavy veil in the temple that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was ripped apart from the bottom to the top. This darkness was not caused by an eclipse, nor was it a natural darkness. The only way to account for it was a miracle performed by God the Father or possibly by Christ Himself. I would like for us all to think on the three hours darkness. Those three hours of darkness was God answer to Israel, God's answer to Pontius Pilate, God's answer to the religious leaders of Israel, God's answer to all the people who participated in the scoffing of the cross, and God's answer to an unbelieving world.
First I refer you to a prophecy in the book of Amos which some feel was fulfilled by the sun refusing to shine when the Prince of life was killed. Amos 8:9 says, “And it shall come to pass in that day says the Lord God, that I will make the sun go down at noon , and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” It's a question whether this prophecy should be understood literally or figuratively. Some of the early Christians in the second and third centuries believed it was literally fulfilled by the three hours of darkness at the cross. It is an undisputed fact that the only time in recorded history that the sun went down at noon and God darkened the earth in broad daylight
was at the crucifixion of Christ. However, some commentators think this prophecy is to be understood figuratively of some great calamity that was to happen to Israel for their disobedience to God. There were many calamities in Jewish history. If the darkness did not literally fulfill this prophecy, it most certainly fulfilled the prophecy, figuratively speaking. If it was speaking of some calamity to come on Israel, the greatest calamity in Jewish history occurred at the cross. No calamity could be compared to what befell Israel at the crucifixion. When Israel killed Christ, they killed their own nation. Like the Gentiles they became spiritually dead, and since the death of Christ they have been without hope and God in the world. When they ended the life of their Messiah, they ended the Jewish religion as a valid religion; for Jesus nailed the Jewish religion to the cross. In a real sense the Jewish people themselves nailed their religion to the cross. It died when He died. When they rejected God's Son as their Messiah and King, God rejected them as His chosen nation. What a calamity! Whether literally or figuratively, Amos 8:9 can most fittingly be applied to the three hours darkness. One thing is certain the sun literally refused to shine at noon time at the crucifixion, and at the same event Israel suffered the greatest calamity of their history. As long as they continue to reject Christ, they will be a nation without a religion.
Secondly, the three hours darkness identifies the day of Christ's crucifixion as the most important day in human history, a day that will live in infamy, a day that will never be forgotten either in this world or in the world to come. A phenomenon happened on this day that had never happened on any other day since the planets started revolving around the sun, and they started their movements when God created the heavens and earth in the beginning. No one claims a solar eclipse caused this darkness, for a solar eclipse can last no longer than seven or eight minutes. Every school child knows that day and night is caused by the earth rotating into the rays of the sun, and rotating out of the rays of the sun. The sun only lights one half of the earth at a time. It is dark on one side and light on the other. And since time began, each and every day has had about 12 hours of day light and 12 hours of darkness, but there has been one and only one exception to this scientific fact. The one day in history that the sun went down at noon and refused to shine, and the earth was darkened in broad daylight was that day when Jesus was crucified. We know the exact day He was crucified. That day was on the Friday before the Jewish Passover Day in the year 1 A.D. God honored this day, honored Christ, and distinguished it from all other days by overruling the laws of nature on that day. God supernaturally closed the eye of day at high noon, but someone
says, “Where about the law of day and night; what happened to it? I will tell you what happened to it; God suspended it as a tribute to the Savior of the world. Morever God dwells in heaven and He does as He wishes. We can only conclude that God wanted it to be a reminder to the world that the greatest event of the ages took place on that day.. God put His mark on that day.
Thirdly, I would suggest that God performed this mighty miracle to strike fear into the hearts of the enemies of Christ, to make them look up and consider heir ways. He wanted them to know they had made the greatest mistake in their lives. This darkness showed in a most convincing way whose side God was on in this shameful event. What a wake-up call that mid-day midnight should have been to the sons of men!. It is true that they knew not that the Divine Son of God was among them; nor that He was working out human redemption. Nevertheless, the most wonderful hour in all history seemed likely to pass by unheeded, when suddenly night came on and chased away the day. It was a wake-up call that God was witness to this great event. All must have been asking one another, “What means this darkness? What is happening?” Business stood still; farmers stopped working, and the day seemed to end at noon. It was the middle of the day when men are the busiest, but on that day they made a pause. Not only on Calvary, but on every hill and in every valley the darkness settled down. None could move unless they groped their way like the blind. The master of the house called for light at noon, and servants must have trembled as they obeyed such an unusual summons. At twelve o'clock noon the lights were twinkling in Jerusalem. The Holy city was a city by night, only men were not in their beds. Luke says there was darkness over all the earth from twelve noon till three o'clock. Many think the word earth should be translated land and means the darkness fell only the land of Palestine. I think God turned out the light on the world. It is easier to believe that than to believe the sun was darkened and in some way it only darkened Palestine. I doubt not that shuddering came on the masses of people.
Fourthly, I would suggest that God darkened the earth in broad daylight because the last dying moments of Christ's life was too sacred for human eyes to see. Normally, we don't want a crowd around a loved one who is struggling for breath and about to die. This is a private moment in every person's life. The presence of loved ones and dearest friends is fitting, but around Christ that day was an irreverent crowd of revelers, skeptics, scoffers and unbelievers who couldn't wait for Him to draw His last breath. They had stripped Him nearly naked and gambled for the very clothes that were on His back. That darkness was a sacred concealment of the wounded body of Jesus, wounded even for all those around Him who hated Him and wanted Him dead. Thus it was most fitting that God should cover Him, hide Him away from brutal eyes that they might not see all that He suffered when He was made sin for us. Suffice it to say that the last three hours of the Lord's sufferings was far too sacred for human eyes to see. None of us who believe in Him will ever know just how sacred this scene was. None of us know the full meaning of the cross We know some things. We know His death was an example of self-sacrifice. It was a wondrous obedience to God's will. We know He tasted death for every member of the human race. We can see that and much more. We know His sufferings should have been suffered by the entire human race, as a punishment for their sins. But this is not all that is in the cross. There is much more to the Redeemer's death. We know not the full impact it had on the Father, what impact it had on the angelic world, what bearing it will have on the inhabitants of earth when they finally arrive at the House-- that is, the Father's House of many mansions. God only knows the love of God. Christ alone knows all that He accomplished when He cried with a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commit My spirit.” His last words were “Father I place My Spirit in your hands.” This is another evidence, among many , that we continue to live after we die.
Finally, we may do well to consider the probable impact the three hours darkness had on the different groups around the cross One of the most active and antagonistic groups around the cross were the religious leaders of the Jews. They scoffed, blasphemed, insulted and made fun of Him, but when this strange darkness covered the entire area, one would suppose they were smitten with great fear, bewilderment and raised serious questionings. One would suppose beneath their confident and defiant attitude there must have been some secret misgivings as to the course they were taking. The crucified One is screened from view. The scoffs and shouting are silenced, and I am sure there was a terrible silence. Surely they said what can this mean? God was speaking in His own chosen way and rebuking them for their guilty deed. I wonder if some were not thinking, “Is it, then, the blood of our Messiah we have been shedding? If it didn't fill them with fear, it should have. I wonder what affect this darkness had on the general multitude. How must they have been filled with awe, if not agitated by great fear. Darkness at high noon is enough to make anyone afraid. I wonder if some did not say, “Have we crucified our King? Will His blood be upon us? Is God trying to tell us something?" Well, He was, whether they realized it or not. Surely, this phenomenon raised questions in their minds. Then there were the Roman soldiers who gambled for His clothes at the foot of the cross. They were trained to face peril and to be calm in the
most dangerous situations. You would think they would be the least moved by this strange happening. Scripture records only one statement that came from the crowd around the cross. As strange as it sounds, it came from one of the Roman soldiers, and it came from the Roman Centurion who was in charge of he crucifixion. What affect did the strange happening have on him? The word of God says, “He feared exceedingly and said, Truly this man was the Son of God”(Mark 15:39). What he meant was, “This man must have been who He claimed to be.” If this was the impression made on the executioner, it may well have been the impression made on many others. We have no record of what others may have said but the Roman centurion gave the only logical conclusion right- thinking people could arrive at. As to its affect on the disciples who we standing by, some near and some at a distance, it must have come as a relief. At least this welcome darkness hid them, for they were too near the cross for security yet too far away from the Master to be of service to Him. If the Roman soldier could see the meaning of darkness, we would think the disciples also saw the meaning. Most likely they saw the hand of God in this darkness.
In addition to the darkness, there was an earthquake which split the rocks and opened up many graves around Jerusalem. Many bodies of the saints came back to life. The opening of the graves occurred at the moment Jesus died, but their resurrection and visible appearance in Jerusalem occurred after the resurrection of Jesus. These people probably had recently died, and their return to their loved ones in Jerusalem would be evidence that a great miracle had taken place. Also the moment Jesus died the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This veil divided the Most Holy Place, where God resided, from the Holy Place where the priests presided. When the veil was split it meant that no one needs any longer to be afraid to approach God. The death of Christ made all welcome to come to God and receive His blessings. Under the law of Moses none could enter into God's presence but the High Priest, and that but once a year. The death of Christ gave the entire human race free access to God.. That was symbolized by the veil being torn and making a free entrance into the Most Holy Place. The sin that darkened Christ and made Him die in the dark, darkens the whole world. The sin that darkened Christ and made Him hang on a cross in the dark is darkening all who are not Christians. They will continue to live in the dark and will die in the dark unless they come to Him who only is the light of the world and can give light to them..