“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” Matthew 27:45
There is a life giving force to the light. After coming through the deeps of winter, we embrace the illumination that accompanies spring. I know for my family Daylight Savings is on the par of a national holiday.
I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a renewing affect of light. Perhaps this was why light was the first gift of creation. The first recorded words of God were “Let there be light.” This light is appreciated so much that it comes to signify that which is good and joyous. The climax of this comes in the Savior’s designation of himself. He said, “I am the Light of the World.”
But in this passage we see that light was taken from our Lord as he hung on the cross. Jesus was stripped of that first and great blessing of creation. We might say that the Light of the World was not allowed to enjoy the light of the world.
We might not think much of these words, but we should not overstep them. These words show us something of Jesus’ sufferings. Though we cannot see anything through the darkness, when we hear these words we must understand that we are peering into the pit of hell.
This should have been the brightest hours of the day. The 6th to the 9th hours was a roman way of talking about Noon. to 3 p.m. But it seems like midnight. Is this a freak occurrence? Is it an super eclipse of the sun?
No. Science cannot explain how the sun, moon and stars were all deleted for a space of 3 hours. It can only be explained one way: The rays of the sun forsook him. God had turned his back on Christ. Therefore he is excommunicated from the presence of light. All of God’s favor is removed.
All of us know something of punishment. We certainly know that there are different forms of punishment. The form with which we are most familiar is the use of brute force. Parents spank their children. Criminals receive whippings or floggings. As we have seen in other places tonight, Jesus certainly received his fair share of brute force as he was beaten, whipped and crucified..
But the use of blows and scourges are not the only way to punish. Some of the worst punishments are ones that do not involve contact. By that I mean the elimination (or removal) of blessings. Sometimes children can endure a spanking pretty easily. But if you tell him he cannot go a much anticipated party he might break. If you forbid him from going out to a game you can bypass his skin and bones and touch a part of his soul.
As he underwent the wrath of God, Jesus suffered more than simple afflictions upon his body. He was stripped of all good things. Even this most basic good: the one that all men enjoy to some degree. God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. But at this point, the Sin Bearer could not be permitted to have even the most basic joy. A blanket must be cast over the sun.
He must experience the cruelty of the great Day of the Lord. This is what the Prophets foretold. Isaiah said, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, for the stars of heaven and the constellations shall not give their light: The sun shall be darkened in its going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
Again Isaiah said regarding the day of the Lord, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.” Jesus himself had even spoken of this terror. He said that the evil doers would be cast into the outer darkness. Now, as the darkness descends upon him, we understand (in a chilling way) that he is descending into hell.
Don’t forget too the effects of the darkness on one’s mental capacity. Why is it that we love Daylight Savings? It is because it brightens our spirits as well as our neighborhood. Some of you know that doctors prescribe more anti-depressants during the months that the sun seems to slumber. Up in Alaska darkness covers the land for days on end. During these times the government holds events (carnivals, races, etc) to try to lift people’s spirits. Our brother Lyle tells me that lots of people end up committing suicide or drinking to cope with the despair that accompanies.
Think about that. Think about the mental agonies that accompanied his physical pain. Klass Schildner has made the comment, “No man saw what terrors distorted [Christ’s] face or how the affliction of hell entered his body… He allowed no one to look into hell.”
The furry of hell takes on new dimensions, doesn’t it? You might not see flames, but you certainly feel them. That’s because God’s wrath burns deeper than skin in the darkness.
Could there be a darker message? Certainly not. But as we try to look at what we cannot see, we do see the glimmer of good news. What? Good news? Where do we see that? If we see anything it is the horror of hell, isn’t it?
That is not the only thing we see. We do see one more thing. We see that Christ is fulfilling his office of Mediator. He is saving his people from their sins.
At our other meeting place—at Armstrong—I find a good illustration of this. Each night when I go there to prepare for evening service, it is pitch black in that room. I open the door, but the light switches are on the other side of the room. Someone has to walk across the darkness to allow others to experience the light of the room.
Is that not what Christ did? In those three hours He made the trek through eternal darkness. By doing so he saves us from the darkness and despair of God’s wrath. Christ allows the light of heaven to radiate around those of us who are his people. We have opportunity to enjoy the inexpressible light of God’s presence because he took upon himself the dark curse of hell on our behalf.
Though we cannot see anything, we see something miraculous. Even though the cross is hidden by a wall of black velvet, we see something beautiful: We see the Son of God bringing light and life to his people.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.