THE WORLD IN DARKNESS FOR THREE HOURS


We are approaching the season of the year when the people of this world embrace Christianity, whether they are true believers in Jesus Christ or not. They will observe Easter and the days and events connected with it as a reminder of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. To many of them, this is just ritual, much of which is not based on actual scripture but on manís traditions alone. We need to look to the Old Testament for the reason Jesus died on the cross. The Old Testament foretold the coming of Israelís Messiah but the religious leaders failed to recognize Him and crucified Him.

The Old Testament is the account of a nation, Israel. The New Testament is the account of a Man. That nation was founded and nurtured by God and brought That Man into the world. Jesus said, in "John 6:38-39, ďI have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." His Father's will was for His sinless Son to die on the cross for the sins of that nation and the sins of the whole world.

Markís gospel tells us this about the scene at the cross. Mark 15:33-34: "And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

That is a heart rending statement, made by the innocent Son of God hanging on a Roman cross.

After the Last Supper, Jesus and eleven of His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemene to pray. He was suffering terrible mental anguish in anticipation of the sin load He would take on the cross and this is recorded in Matthew 26:39: "And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

Our Lord's attitude toward this terrible event was total obedience to His Father's will so He prayed that if there was no other way to redeem fallen man, He was willing to do the Fatherís will and die on the cross for all of manís sins.

Some time before this there was a meeting on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John were present and witnessed Jesus' glory. Moses and Elijah appeared and they and Jesus discussed His coming decease and how it would be accomplished in Jerusalem.

Luke 9:28-35: "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29: And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering. 30: And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31:Who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32: But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him. 33: And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34: While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear ye Him."

Jesus was ready to face the moment that all eternity was waiting for and it would be a violent end to His perfect, sinless life. The darkness of manís heart had sentenced Him to death. He must have been thinking how terrible that was, but He was still aware of the greater commitment He had made to do the Fatherís will.

He would drink the bitter cup of Godís wrath very shortly and yet He was completely and without question in submission to God His Father.

There are some things I want to look at from that scripture we just read. Moses had finally arrived in the promised land and he and Elijah, in their discussion of how Christ would die, seemed to understand that Christ would sacrifice His blood on the cross for the sins of the nation and that would include their sins.

It also mentions that the disciples were sleeping but they must have heard much of the Lordís conversation because Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 1:16-18, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17: For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18: And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount."

Isaiah prophesied the reason for the Messiahís death on the cross over 700 years before when he wrote these words: "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6.

As believers, we accept these words in our heart with real appreciation of the Lord, but there are some things here we can't fully understand. We can't comprehend that the God of love took our sins and charged them against His beloved Son. All of eternity is going to be filled with the wonder of this truth, Christ paid for our sins as our Substitute before God.

While He was on the cross they taunted Him with this: Matthew 27:42: "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him." If He came down from the cross, He couldnít die for their sins. They would have to die for their own sins and would spend eternity in hell.

Luke 23:35. "And the people stood beholding Him." He hung naked on the cross in broad daylight for three hours as a spectacle to the world while the soldiers fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 22:18: "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." Luke confirms this in Luke 23:34. "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."

God ordered the sun to withhold its light. "There was darkness over all the land." Our Lord spent the next three hours in darkness on the cross and that darkness was both physical and spiritual during the very heart of His suffering.

It seems that God put a shroud of mourning around His Son while He was dying on the cross so no one, not God nor man, could look on Jesus when He became sin for all mankind.

The sun powers all the lights of the universe and God made all the lights in the universe go out. This wasn't an eclipse of the sun because even an eclipse doesn't bring total darkness for more than a few minutes. This was something the people of the world had never seen and it focused the attention of all the world to the fact that the Son of God was being crucified.

The darkness was both a warning and a reason for hope for fallen mankind. The whole universe was in utter darkness while the death of the Son of God, who was taking the punishment for all the sins of the world, was taking place on earth.

The world had never seen total darkness at any time since God created man. Before Adam and Eve were created, "the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep," but then God created the sun and there was light from then until this moment. Egypt was in total darkness for three days in one of the ten plagues but the Children of Israel in the land of Goshen had light. The darkness of the cross was over all the land when the sun ordinarily shines the brightest. This was something very much out of the ordinary and far beyond the course of nature.

This would be a frightening thing for men anywhere, but what were the men around the cross who made fun of the Son of God thinking now in total darkness?

The darkness lasted until 3 P.M. That was the hour for the evening sacrifice in the Temple. When the light re-appeared and the priest prepared the sacrificial lamb, what were his thoughts when he saw that the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom? Under the Law, God promised sudden death to any but the high priest who even looked into the holy of holies behind the veil and now the holy of holies was open for all to see.

If the priest was one who believed the Old Testament prophecy he may have thought the Messiah had truly come and now they had crucified Him. If he was a non-believing priest he might say that God was up to His old tricks of trying to scare them into obedience with another miracle.

This darkness was an expression of God's wrath. Jesus was made ďa curse for us,Ē and now, during that darkness on the cross, He was suffering the full wrath of God for us.

God tells us that ďthe wages of sin is death.Ē The Son of God had no sin of His own and since He had none of His own He wasn't subject to death, yet here He was being put to death in our place where He endured the wrath of God in it's fullest.

It was as if Jesus said, ďI take full responsibility for all your sins and accept the punishment that goes with it.Ē Thatís why we go to Jesus for salvation. He paid the price God demanded for our sins.

We could look at the darkness another way. God caused this darkness as an expression of the powers of hell. In Luke 22:53, Jesus said to those who took Him to be judged, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness."

From this point of view, the world was shrouded in Satan's darkness in his attempt to hide the meaning of the cross and it's redemption for mankind.

God had given man an opportunity to express his feelings and now man was showing all his hatred for God by crucifying His Son.

There's another analogy here. The darkness could be seen as the love and mercy of God in blanketing the world to cover and hide manís shameful sin against Godís only Son.

The cross may seem a cruel thing to us but it manifests the love of God for us, for "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "He loved us, and gave Himself for us."

I believe God's love and mercy put a black shroud over the world so that we would never know the full extent of our own wickedness. If we really realized the extent of our wickedness we would hide from God in a state of absolute hopelessness and despair.

Our first ancestors must have felt something of this. They tried unsuccessfully to hide from God in the Garden of Eden because of their sin.

Jesus was alone during the darkness. All His disciples except John were gone for fear that they, too, might be crucified. After three hours of darkness on the cross, Jesus gave that awful cry: ďMy God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?Ē

When you think of how Christ was equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, this seems like the fellowship of the Trinity was breaking apart. His experience there in the darkness on Calvary is simply deeper than human understanding can go.

In God's all powerful way, the Lord Jesus, as the Son of Man, was still given strength from the Father and the Holy Spirit to endure the cross, but He was left totally without any comfort from them.

You may disagree with me on this, but I don't believe Jesus went to hell as to a place, but no one can deny that the wrath He endured was the full suffering of hell. Godís wrath is hell, and hell is God's wrath.

During this time our Lord knew all the sufferings of hell for all men, but at the same time, like the burning bush that Moses witnessed, He wasn't consumed by it.

Those words, ďMy God, My God,Ē show that even when the Savior was denied and forsaken all comfort from the face of God, He still claimed God as His God and Father. Jesus held no doubts that what He was doing was the righteous thing that would please His Father.

Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. I'm sure you know that story. Even though he was forced to do this and it was a good work, carrying Christís cross, and according to man's views he might even have expected a reward from God for that, but if he did get saved, it wouldn't have come through any works he did.

By way of contrast, the thief nailed on the cross who was saved did nothing and could do nothing but believe. Here are his words: Luke 23:42-45: "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43: And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. 44: And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45: And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."

The thief asked Jesus for forgiveness and was given that forgiveness there on the cross. He didnít ask God for forgiveness, he went straight to the very One who was dying on a cross beside him, the One Who would die for his sins and the One who could forgive him.

Isaiah 45:3 speaks of the treasures of darkness that God promised to His people, ďI will give thee the treasures of darkness,Ē and I think of the treasures that came out of the darkness when our Lord suffered on the cross for us!

Here are some of the treasures that came from the cross and those three hours Jesus spent in total darkness there.

1. If you will believe He died for your sins, He promises you an eternal home in Heaven.
2. He promises to share all the joys and trials you might experience here on earth.
3. When you die, He promises to take you to be with Him in heaven for eternity.

Looking back over the message here we see that Jesus Christ died in the darkness on the cross for your sins and mine. He came to earth to do the Father's will. God's will was to provide a way for sinful man to be declared innocent of his sin and Jesus did just that.

God has always demanded a blood sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice for mankindís sin could come only through the sacrifice of Christís sinless blood in the sinners stead.

Anyone who will confess their need of a Savior and will believe that Christ died for their sins will be saved eternally.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!" Acts 16:31.

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