Perspectives on the Passion of Christ: Part 1 – The Darkness
Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston
“Now when the sixth hour had come,
there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour…”
In the Gospel of Mark, ‘darkness’ is mentioned only one time. It occurs during the crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary.
We read that at the sixth hour, what we would call the noon-hour, when the sun should be shining at its zenith, a strange “darkness was over the whole land.” This darkness lasted three hours, up to the very moment of our Lord’s death.
In stark contrast with His death during those daylight hours of Good Friday, the birth of Jesus some thirty-three years earlier occurred during the darkened hours of night. Saint Luke reports that heaven’s glorious light invaded the night sky as angels sang;
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The Apostle John identified Jesus as “…the light that shines in the darkness…” and then asserted that the darkness has not overcome it…” (John 1:5).
Jesus confessed this same truth when He proclaimed;
“I am the light of the world.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness,
but have the light of life.”
This important contrast between light and darkness can also be observed throughout the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, darkness is associated with the night-time, blindness, human ignorance and moral evil. Darkness also accompanied the divine judgments of God.
Darkness is never used to describe something good.
The ninth plague visited upon Egypt is described as “a darkness that covered the whole land” and was so intense that it could be ‘felt’ (Exodus 10:21).
This is ironic because the ruler of Egypt, the Pharaoh, claimed to be the divine son of Re, the Egyptian sun-god! Pharaoh errantly believed that he was a god appointed to bring light into the world. God’s judgment upon false beliefs always reveals the inadequacy of those beliefs.
Darkness also occurred during the tenth plague against Egypt, what we now call the Passover.
And this is the point of today’s meditation on the Passion of Christ.
The Passover was a judgment on the culture of Egypt. Egypt was a ‘type’ of the world with all of its cruelty, oppression and wickedness.
The darkness that covered the land of Israel at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion points us backwards to that awful moment in Egyptian history when the destroying angel of the Lord passed over the land and brought death to the firstborn of both man and beast;
“And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of
Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the
captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.”
According to the Scriptures, only those who had obeyed the command of Moses to place the blood of a spotless lamb on the door posts and lintels of their homes were spared. The firstborn who remained inside the home, behind the doors covered by the blood, would not see death!
Is this not a picture of Calvary? Do we not see our Savior’s redemption in this story of the Passover?
John the Baptist preached that Jesus was the “Lamb of God” who would take away “the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus’ death on the Cross of Calvary was God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. Our sins were placed upon our Savior who suffered the full wrath of God during those horrific hours of darkness.
By faith, those who have taken the blood of God’s Lamb and applied it to the door posts of their hearts, are forever protected from the death that divine judgment demands. We stand behind the blood of Jesus Christ with our confession. Of this incredible salvation, Saint Peter writes;
“…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold,
from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in
these last times… for you!” (1 Peter 1:18-20)
While a terrible darkness covered the land at the Noon-hour of our Savior’s death, a wondrous light now erupts eternally because of His Resurrection! Life has overcome death! Grace has answered judgment! His Light has overcome our darkness!!
This Easter season, why not light a candle in commemoration of God’s love for you, your family and the entire world? Let’s unite our hearts with prayer, the reading of Scriptures, and the singing of hymns with thanksgiving to the Lord!
In doing so, His light will shine in such a way that the darkness disappears!