Have you ever experienced a dark time in your life? A moment when it seemed like everything good was unraveling. It could have been a major health crisis when you were diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease.
It might have been receiving word that you lost your job, and you didn’t know how you were going to make ends meet. It could have been a season of intense sadness or depression, and you wondered if it would ever end. Some of you may be walking in a dark time right now, possibly over something that no one knows about.
But even though all of us have been through dark times, nothing compares to the darkness that Jesus experienced on the cross — the darkest time in human history. It was dark not only because the sky was literally blackened, but because Jesus’ innocent life was covered with the darkness of sin and judgment as He became our atoning sacrifice. We find the story of this dark day in John 19:17-30.
According to the gospels, Jesus suffered for six hours on the cross before He died. The first three hours were filled with excruciating physical pain, but during this time He also led a convicted thief to eternal life (19:18; Luke 23:39-43), He asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him (19:23; Luke 23:34), and He called upon John to care for His mother Mary (19:27).
However, while these first three hours were extremely painful and humiliating, it’s the final three hours of Jesus’ life that really made our salvation complete.
John doesn’t give us all of the details that the synoptic writers include, but Matthew explains that “from the sixth hour there was darkness all over the land until the ninth hour” (27:45). It’s important to note that the “sixth hour” was noon, when the sun was directly overhead, the brightest part of the day. But strangely, while the sun was right above, “darkness came over the land.”
The language used here indicates a sudden blackness, which was nothing short of the supernatural work of God. Why did the sky become dark? Throughout Scripture, darkness was used as a symbol for God’s judgment toward sin (e.g., Joel 2:31; Matthew 8:12). Therefore, in this moment, Jesus was experiencing the judgment of God, as if He were personally guilty for the sins of the world.
This explains why Jesus stopped calling out to God as “Father” (“Abba”), and instead used the name “El,” which is a reference to God as Judge (Matthew 27:34).
During these three hours, Jesus experienced the realities of hell in the place of sinners — He was in gloomy darkness, He was weeping and gnashing his teeth in pain, and He no longer sensed the presence of the Father, as He was abandoned while paying the penalty for our sins.
In those three hours, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin, enabling those who unite with Him through faith to be forgiven.
But then it was finally over. Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Christ had made full atonement for our sins. His mission was complete. The head of the serpent had been crushed. Sinners could be forgiven and restored back into a relationship with God. Jesus died but would soon be raised, proving it was sufficient. Soli Deo Gloria! B&R