Summary: What was happening on the cross when darkness is said to have covered the face of the earth?
As we read this passage, two questions come to our minds:
1. Why did darkness cover the whole land (v. 45)?
We are told there was a thick darkness over the whole land for three hours, from "the sixth hour until the ninth hour," or from noon till three o’clock in the afternoon. In other words, at the time of day when the sun should be at its height and shining its brightest, the land was dark.
Some suggest this darkness resulted from an eclipse of the sun, or, as some films have portrayed it, from a great rain storm and the cloud cover that accompanied it. The fact remains, however, that though natural means may have brought about this darkness, it was brought about for a supernatural purpose. The supernatural nature of this darkness is revealed by the fact that this was prophesied in Scripture.
"‘It will come about in that day,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘That I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.’" - Amos 8:9 (NASB)
Still, we want to know what caused this darkness to fall on the earth? But also, we would like to know . . .
2. What made Jesus cry out as He did (v. 46)?
We are told that associated with the darkness covering the land for three hours, that Jesus cried out. Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out at the end of this three hour period of darkness. There are two things we would like to understand about our Lord’s cry from the cross.
A. We want to understand the motivation behind our Lord’s cry.
We find it significant that the Bible tells us that Jesus "cried out in a loud voice. " In other words, He screamed.
We find this significant because despite all the suffering our Savior had experienced up to this point, He had maintained His composure. Not once had He cried out in anguish, despite the fact that He had been betrayed and forsaken by those closest to Him; despite the fact that He had been unjustly tried, convicted, and publicly humiliated; and despite the fact that He had been scourged, beaten, forced to carry a heavy cross to His place of execution, and nailed to that cross as He was crucified.
Despite all the emotional and physical suffering He had endured, the Bible tells us that, "They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence." - 1 Peter 2:23 (The Message).
Again, this is in keeping with Old Testament prophecy, where we are told, "He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth." - Isaiah 53:7 (NLT).
Yet, once the three hour period of darkness had passed, for the very first time through-out this entire ordeal, Jesus did cry out. We would like to understand the motivation behind our Lord’s cry.
B. We want to understand the meaning behind our Lord’s cry.
Verses 47-49 tell us that those who stood nearby did not understand the meaning of our Lord’s cry. They misunderstood Him to be calling for the prophet Elijah for help. In reality, what Jesus did was quote Scripture. Specifically, He quoted from Psalm 22:1.
But why did Jesus quote from this Psalm as three hours of darkness ended? We would really like to know the meaning behind our Lord’s cry.
Well, in answering these questions, we need to understand why Jesus came and what Jesus did.
1. Why Jesus came -
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," - Mark 10:45 (NIV)
Jesus came to give His life as a payment (a ransom) for our sin.
The Bible tells us that when God created man, he did so with an eternal purpose in mind. God intended for man to enjoy constant communion with Him, so that he might be led to live in such a way as to bring consistent glory to his creator. As the head of the earthy sphere of God’s creation, man would thus lead all the earth to bring glory to its creator.
But God also created man with the ability to choose. He did not intend for man to obey Him by coercion, but by choice. So God created man with the ability to choose and provided man with the opportunity to choose. What man chose, was to go his own way, rather than God’s way. By the way, going one’s own way rather than God’s way is what the Bible calls "sin."