|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:44-49 We have here the death of Christ magnified by the wonders that attended it, and his death explained by the words with which he breathed out his soul. He was willing to offer himself. Let us seek to glorify God by true repentance and conversion; by protesting against those who crucify the Saviour; by a sober, righteous, and godly life; and by employing our talents in the service of Him who died for us and rose again.
Verse 44. - The time of the Crucifixion. And it was about the sixth hour. We have before given (see note on Luke 22:47) the approximate hours of the several acts of the last night and day. This verse gives us the time of the duration of the "darkness" - from the sixth to the ninth hour; that is in our reckoning, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. With this date the other two synoptists agree (comp. Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33). Our Lord had then been on the cross three hours (see Mark 15:25, where it is stated that he was crucified in the third hour, i.e. 9 a.m.). But while the three synoptists are in perfect harmony, we are met with a grave difficulty in St. John's account, for in John 19:14: of his Gospel we read how the final condemnation of our Lord by Pilate took place about the sixth hour. At first sight, to attempt here to harmonize St. John with the three synoptists would seem a hopeless task, as St. John apparently gives the hour of the final condemnation by Pilate, which the three give as the hour when the darkness began, i.e. when the Sufferer had already hung on the cross for three hours. Various explanations have been suggested; among these the most satisfying and probable is the supposition that, while the three synop-tists followed the usual Jewish mode of reckoning time, St. John, writing some half a century later in quite another country, possibly twenty years after Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed, and the Jewish polity had disappeared, adopted another mode of reckoning the hours, thus following, probably, a practice of the province in which he was living, and for which he was especially writing. Dr. Westcott, in an additional note on John 19:14, examines the four occasions on which St. John mentions a definite hour of the day; and comes to the conclusion that the fourth evangelist generally reckoned his hours from midnight. The Romans reckoned their civil days from midnight, and there are also traces of reckoning the hours kern midnight in Asia Minor. "About the sixth hour" would then be about six a.m. Before touching upon the strange darkness which at the sixth hour seems to have hung over the land like a black pall, we note that somewhere in the first three hours, possibly after the words spoken to the dying penitent, must be placed the incident of the entrusting the virgin-mother to St. John (John 19:25, etc.). There is no doubt that on the surface of this, his third word from the cross, lay a loving desire to spare his mother the sight of his last awful suffering. Hence his command to John to watch over from henceforth the mother of his Lord. We may assume, then, that, in obedience to his Master's word, John led Mary away before the sixth hour. So Bengel, who comments here, "Great is the faith of Mary to be present at the cross; great was her submission to go away before his death." And there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. St. Matthew gives us additional particulars respecting this phenomenon. He says that besides this darkness there was also an earthquake, and that several graves were opened, and the dead during those hours of solemn gloom appeared to many in the holy city. Early Christian writers of high authority, such as Tertullian ('Apol.,' ch. 21) and Origen ('Contra Cels.,' 2:33), appeal to this strange phenomenon as if attested by heathen writers. It was evidently no slight or imaginary portent, but one that was well known in the early Christian years. The narrative does not oblige us to think of anything more than an indescribable and oppressive darkness, which like a vast black pall hung over earth and sea. The effect on the scoffing multitude was quickly perceptible. We hear of no more cries of mocking and derision; only just at the end of the three dark hours is the silence broken by the mysterious and awful cry of the Sinless One related by SS. Matthew and Mark, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Godet's comment is remarkable: "The darkness, the rending of the veil of the temple, the earthquake, and the opening of several graves, are explained by the profound connection existing on the one side between Christ and humanity, on the other between humanity and nature. Christ is the Soul of humanity, as humanity is the soul of the external world." The darkness, he suggests, was perhaps connected with the earthquake with which it was accompanied, or it may have resulted from an atmospherical or cosmical cause. The phenomenon need not necessarily have extended over all the earth: it probably was confined to Palestine and the adjacent countries.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it was about the sixth hour,.... Or twelve o'clock at noon; and so the Ethiopic version, when it was noon; See Gill on Matthew 27:45.
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