Have you ever used this word? It usually describes pain, very bad pain.
The word literally means “out of crucifying.”
This is not too surprising when we realize that crucifixion was one of the most excruciatingly painful ways to die. Gradual torture to the point of death was the goal. People could live for days after being nailed to a cross.
Crucifixion was also intended to stigmatize its victim in a way to warn others about the outcome of criminal behavior.
Jesus had been on the cross from approximately 9:00 A.M. until 3:00 PM, a total of six hours. His final three hours on the cross went from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM) and from “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).
At noon of daytime, an unnatural darkness covered the land.
At about 1:00 PM, Jesus cried out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Later, He said, “It is finished.” Scripture says, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50).
This historical reference to three hours of darkness is another example of the authenticity of the gospel account. It is a detail you wouldn’t include if you were trying to make up a story. It could have easily been denied if it didn’t happen.
Why three hours of darkness?
Is this a sign of divine judgment? Is it a response of creation itself as the Creator suffers?
We do know of Jesus that, “in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth” and “all things have been created through him and for him.” Further we know that, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” And, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20).
Charles Spurgeon offered deep reflection on these hours of darkness.
“What a call must that mid-day midnight have been to the careless sons of men!” The grandest hour in all history seemed likely to pass by unheeded, when, suddenly, night hastened from her chambers and usurped the day!
Everyone asked his companion, “What does this darkness mean?”
Business stood still. The plow stayed in mid-furrow and the axe paused uplifted. It was the middle of the day, when men are busiest, but they made a general pause. Not only on Calvary, but on every hill and in every valley, the gloom settled down.
There was a halt in the caravan of life! None could move unless they groped their way like the blind. The master of the house called for a light at noon and his servant tremblingly obeyed the unusual summons.
Other lights were twinkling and Jerusalem was as a city by night, only men were not in their beds! How startled were mankind!
Around the great deathbed of our Lord an appropriate quiet was secured. I doubt not that a shuddering awe came over the masses of the people and the thoughtful foresaw terrible things. Those who had stood about the Cross and had dared to insult the majesty of Jesus, were paralyzed with fear.
to all men awake and at their employment, it was the advertisement of a great and solemn event. It was strange beyond all experience and all men marveled—for when the light should have been brightest—all things were obscured for the space of three hours!
There must be great teaching in this darkness, for when we come so near the Cross, which is the center of history, every event is full of meaning. Light will come out of this darkness! I love to feel the solemnity of the three hours of death-shade and to sit down in it and meditate with no companion but the august Sufferer, around whom that darkness lowered.
The darkness never came to an end till the Lord Jesus broke the silence. All had been still and the darkness had grown terrible. At last He spoke and flashed morning upon the scene! By the time He had uttered the cry, men had begun to see.
No light will ever come to dark hearts unless Jesus shall speak and the light will not be clear until we hear the voice of His sorrows on our behalf as He cries, “Why have you forsaken Me?” His voice of grief must be the end of our grief! His cry out of the darkness must cheer away our gloom and bring the heavenly morning to our minds!
As he brought this message to a close, Spurgeon said,
“If you are under a cloud, feel for your Lord, if haply you may find Him. Stand still in your black sorrow and say, “O Lord, the preacher tells me that Your Cross once stood in such darkness as this—O Jesus hear me!” He will respond to you—the Lord will look out of the pillar of cloud and shed a light upon you.
“I know their sorrows,” He says. He is no stranger to heart-break. Christ also once suffered for sin. Trust Him and He will cause His light to shine upon you! Lean upon Him and He will bring you up out of the gloomy wilderness into the land of rest.
God help you to do so!”
The way has been opened for us
- “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God,…” (I Peter 3:18).
- “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
- “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
- “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'” (John 8:12).
- “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).