The Three Hours' Darkness
Luke 23:44-45
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

What a call must that mid-day midnight have been to the careless sons of men! They knew not that the Son of God was among them; nor that He was working out human redemption. The grandest hour in all history seemed likely to pass by unheeded, when, suddenly, night hastened from her chambers and usurped the day. Every one asked his fellow, "What means this darkness?" Business stood still: the plough 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. Around the great death-bed 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.

I. First, let us view this darkness as A MIRACLE WHICH AMAZES US.

1. It may seem a trite observation that this darkness was altogether out of the natural course of things. Since the world began was it not heard that at high noon there should be darkness over all the land. It was out of the order of nature altogether. Some deny miracles; and if they also deny God, I will not at this time deal with them. He may make certain rules for His actions, and it may be His wisdom to keep to them; but surely He must reserve to Himself the liberty to depart from His own laws, or else He has in a measure laid aside his personal Godhead, deified law, and set it up above Himself.

2. Further, this miracle was not only out of the order of nature, but it is one which would have been pronounced impossible. It is not possible that there should be an eclipse of the sun at the time of the full moon. The moon at the time when she is in her full is not in a position in which she could possibly cast her shadow upon the earth. The Passover was at the time of the full moon, and therefore it was not possible that the sun should then undergo an eclipse. This darkening of the sun was not strictly an astronomical eclipse; the darkness was doubtless produced in some other way: yet to those who were present it did seem to be a total eclipse of the sun — a thing impossible.

3. Concerning this miracle, I have also further to remark that this darkening of the sun surpassed all ordinary and natural eclipses. It lasted longer than an ordinary eclipse, and it came in a different manner. According to Luke, the darkness all over the land came first, and the sun was darkened afterwards: the darkness did not begin with the sun, but mastered the sun. It was unique and supernatural.

4. Again, this darkness appears to have been most natural and fitting. Like the earthquake and the rending of the veil of the temple, it seems a proper attendant of the Lord's passion.

II. Secondly, I desire you to regard this darkness as A VEIL WHICH CONCEALS.

1. What I see in that veil is, first of all, that it was a concealment for those guilty enemies. Did you ever think of that? It is as if God Himself said, "I cannot bear it. I will not see this infamy! Descend, O veil!" Down fell the heavy shades.

2. But further, that darkness was a sacred concealment for the blessed Person of our Divine Lord. So to speak, the angels found for their King a pavilion of thick clouds, in the which His Majesty might be sheltered in its hour of misery. It was too much for wicked eyes to gaze so rudely on that immaculate Person.

3. This darkness also warns us, even us who are most reverent. This darkness tells us all that the Passion is a great mystery, into which we cannot pry. God veiled the cross in darkness, and in darkness much of its deeper meaning lies; not because God would not reveal it, but because we have not capacity enough to discern it all.

4. Once again, this veil of darkness also pictures to me the way in which the powers of darkness will always endeavour to conceal the cross of Christ. We fight with darkness when we try to preach the cross.

III. Now we pass on to speak of this darkness as A SYMBOL WHICH INSTRUCTS. The yell falls down and conceals; but at the same time, as an emblem, it reveals.

1. The darkness is the symbol of the wrath of God which fell on those who slew His only begotten Son. God was angry, and His frown removed the light of day.

2. The symbol also tells us what our Lord Jesus Christ endured. The darkness outside of Him was the figure of the darkness that was within Him. In Gethsemane a thick darkness fell upon our Lord's Spirit. His day was the light of His Father's face: that face was hidden and a terrible night gathered around Him.

3. Again, I think I see in that darkness also what it was that Jesus was battling with; for we must never forget that the cross was a battle-field to Him, wherein He triumphed gloriously. He was fighting then with darkness; with the powers of darkness of which Satan is the head; with the darkness of human ignorance, depravity and falsehood.

IV. I come to my fourth point, and my closing words will deal with THE SYMPATHY WHICH PROPHESIES. Do you see the sympathy of mature with her Lord — the sympathy of the sun in the heavens with the Sun of Righteousness? It was not possible for Him by whom all things were made to be in darkness, and for nature to remain in the light.

1. The first sympathetic fact I see is this: all lights are dim when Christ shines not.

2. Next, see the dependence of all creation upon Christ, as evidenced by its darkness when He withdraws. It was not meet that He who made all worlds should die, and yet all worlds should go on just as they had done. If He suffers eclipse, they must suffer eclipse too; if the Sun of Righteousness be made to set in blood, the natural sun must keep touch with Him. There is no light for any man except in Christ; and till you believe in Him thick darkness shall blind you, and you shall stumble in it and perish.

3. Another practical lesson is this: If we are in the dark at this time, if our spirits are sunk in gloom, let us not despair, for the Lord Christ Himself was there.

(C. H. Spurgeon)

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 Shelter of the Darkness
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