The Shelter of the Darkness
Luke 23:44
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.…

The darkness which fell upon Jerusalem at midday and enshrouded the scene of the Crucifixion was a phenomenon for which it is impossible to account physically, and which it is not easy to explain morally. It is a matter for reverent conjecture, for thoughtful and devout inference, for sacred and solemn imagination. We are on sure ground when we say that it came from the Divine Father, and came on behalf of his beloved Son. We do not venture much when we suggest that it came in response to that Son's appeal in this dark "day of his flesh" (Hebrews 5:7). We may do well to consider what was the probable impression it made on those who were concerned in that sad and sacred scene.

I. ON THE LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE. Surely they were smitten with consternation. One would suppose that, as these men witnessed the wonderful works of Christ, some doubts as to the rightness of their antagonism to him must have darted into their minds, and that beneath their confident and defiant attitude of enmity there must have lain some secret misgivings as to the course they were taking. Probably they were not without their fears that something would happen at the last to disappoint them. But as the day wore on, and Jesus actually hung upon the cross, and his strength was certainly going, and the people quietly acquiesced if they did not possibly "assist," all seemed to be satisfactory, to be indeed triumphant. When, lo! a strange, unaccountable darkness, an impenetrable obscurity! The sun refuses to shine at midday. No man sees his fellow, or sees him only in the faintest light. The Crucified One is screened from view. The scoffs and shouts are silenced, and there is a terrible stillness and solemnity. What can that mean? God is speaking in his own chosen way, and is rebuking their guilty deed. There is a quaking at the proud Pharisee's heart, a trembling in the soul of the scribe; there are no more taunts from their bitter lips; an unspeakable terror invades even their closed hearts which no casuistry can bar. Is it, then, the blood of their Messiah that they have been shedding?

II. ON THE MULTITUDE. How must they have been subdued with awe, if not agitated with wild alarm! How overwhelming to their less cultured minds must so astounding an event have been! "Whither," we hear them say, "have our rulers led us? Surely there is something sacred and Divine in this Galilaean Prophet! Heaven is pronouncing in his favor. Have we crucified our King? Will his blood be upon us?" and the daughters of Jerusalem already begin to weep for themselves and for their children, as they think that some great calamity impends.

III. ON THE ROMAN SOLDIER. Trained to face peril and to be calm even in the presence of overshadowing death, he probably remained quiet and firm, the least moved of all the throng. Nothing could be done, and he would lean on his spear, waiting the centurion's command when light should break; though exceedingly astonished and awe-struck, he would stand to his post with unmoved purpose and well-mastered fear.

IV. ON THE DISCIPLES. To them it must have come as a relief, if not a promise. Believing in their Lord, wondering with great amazement at his capture and crucifixion, they would feel that any miraculous interposition was not unlikely, was quite probable. It raised their hopes a few degrees above despair; possibly many degrees. If God interposed thus far, he might restore everything. At the least, this welcome darkness screened themselves, who were too near the cross for security, though too far from their Master for service; perhaps it quieted their fear while it comforted their conscience.

V. ON THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF. TO him we may be well assured that it was a most welcome succor.

1. It was a verdict from heaven attesting his innocency. It brought confusion to his enemies and confirmation to himself It was "a sign from heaven" distinctly in his favor. The sun refused to shine on so guilty a crime as that then perpetrated; the darkness that wrapped them round was God's attestation of the darkness of the deed then being enacted.

2. It effectually shut the mouth of ribaldry and reproach. "it stopped each wagging head, it silenced each gibing tongue." We cannot tell how painful and how piercing to his sensitive spirit those cruel mockings were; nor can we, therefore, tell how much of a relief was the stillness that came with the darkness.

3. It screened him from shame. "Men would leave the Crucified exposed in shame and nakedness to die, but an unseen hand was stretched forth to draw the drapery of darkness round him and hide him from vulgar gaze."

4. It gave him a desired privacy for sorrow and for prayer. Sorrow and prayer always seek solitude; they desire to be alone with God. We do not like any others, except it be one that is most beloved, to witness the deeper griefs, or the sadder and sterner wrestlings of our soul. We seek the shade of some Gethsemane for such sacred experiences as these. What awful sorrow now rested upon Christ, now agitated his soul to its very depths, we may never understand. But we know that the burden he bore for us was at its very heaviest, that the sorrow he endured for us was at its extremest point just at this time, for it culminated in that terrible cry of desolation (Matthew 27:45, 46) which we do not try to fathom, which silences all speech and subdues every spirit. Such sacred sorrow, accompanied, as it certainly was, with the most close communion and fervent prayer, was not for the curiosity of that heartless crowd. It needed the most perfect privacy. And so the Divine Father, in this supreme hour of his Son's great work and of the redemption of mankind, "made darkness, and it was night;" shut the Savior round with the merciful folds of thick darkness, that he might be alone with that Father in whose sole presence the great sacrifice was to be completed. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

WEB: It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.

The Saviour's Last Hours
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