Three Hours of Darkness

Mark 15:25, 29-34

It was the third hour, and they crucified him.

And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

H. A. IRONSIDE (1876-1951): Our blessed Saviour hung upon that cruel cross for six long hours, and these six hours are divided into two parts. From the third to the sixth hour, that is, from nine o’clock in the morning to high noon, the sun was shining down on the scene, and in spite of all His intense physical suffering our Lord enjoyed unbroken communion with the Father. But from the sixth to the ninth hour, that is, to three o’clock in the afternoon, darkness was over all the land.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): This darkness some think was universal; not only over all the land of Judea, but over the whole earth―and so the [Greek] text may be rendered. Tiberius, say they, was sensible of it at Rome.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It is reported that Dionysius, at Heliopolis in Egypt, took notice of this darkness, and said, “Either the God of nature is suffering, or the machine of the world is tumbling into ruin.”

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The Ethiopic version renders it, “the whole world was dark;” at least it reached to the whole Roman empire, or the greatest part of it.

CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): How far the darkness extended, whether over the whole earth, as some think, or over the land of Judea only, as our translators thought, we do not take upon us to determine―but, whether more or less, it could not proceed from a natural cause. It could not be an eclipse, because the moon at that time was at the full: and even if it had been an eclipse, it could not have been total for more than a quarter of an hour; whereas this continued for the space of three hours.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It lasted longer than an ordinary eclipse and it came in a different manner. According to Luke 23:44,45, 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…As for ourselves at this time, we have not so much to do with the physical causes or with the appearance, itself, as with the spiritual meaning of this darkness. There is light in this darkness, if not to the natural, yet to the spiritual eye, if we have Grace to discern it―there must be great teaching in this darkness, for when we come so near the Cross, which is the center of history, every event is full of meaning.

ALEXANDER MacLAREN (1826-1910): What was the significance?

MATTHEW HENRY: An extraordinary light gave intelligence of the birth of Christ, Matthew 2:2, and therefore it was proper that an extraordinary darkness should notify His death, for He is the “Light of the world.

C. H. SPURGEON: We suppose that this darkness came on suddenly and, if so, it must have been most striking. Just in the midst of their ribald mirth, while they were staring at the naked body of their Victim and insulting Him with their jests and jeers, wagging their heads, and thrusting out their tongues—just at that very moment total darkness came on!

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): I rather think that, as stupidity had shut the eyes of that people against the light, the darkness was intended to arouse them to consider the astonishing design of God in the death of Christ…It was a terrific spectacle which was exhibited to them, that they might tremble at the judgment of God. And, indeed, it was an astonishing display of the wrath of God that He did not spare even His only begotten Son, and was not appeased in any other way than by that price of expiation.

H. A. IRONSIDE: In those first three hours Christ was suffering at the hands of man: He endured without a murmur all the shame and ignominy that man could heap upon Him. But during the last three hours of darkness He was suffering at the hand of God―the God who made His soul an offering for sin. There He drank the bitter cup of judgment that our sins had filled―God “hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21…In the first three hours He addressed God as “Father”―“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34. But in these last three hours He did not use the term “Father” until the darkness had passed. He addressed Him as God—for it was God as Judge who was there dealing with His holy Son on our behalf as Christ took the sinner’s place.

JOHN CALVIN: In order that Christ might satisfy for us, it was necessary that He should be placed as a guilty person at the judgment-seat of God. Now nothing is more dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge.

MATTHEW HENRY: During the three hours that this darkness continued, we do not find that He said one word, but passed this time in a silent retirement into His own soul, which was now in agony, wrestling with the powers of darkness, and taking in the impressions of His Father’s displeasure, not against Himself, but the sin of man.

C. H. SPURGEON: The thick midnight darkness of that awful midday, is a fitting emblem of the tenfold midnight of his soul…He bore the equivalent of Hell—no, not that, only—but He bore that which stood instead of 10,000 Hells, so far as the vindication of the Law is concerned!

H. A. IRONSIDE: What took place in those awful hours only God and His beloved Son will ever know. It was then the soul of Jesus was made an offering for sin. It was as the darkness was passing away that He cried in anguish, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Here, too, is the significance of the three hours darkness which lay over the land as a pall of death―God is light and the darkness is the natural sign of His turning away. The Redeemer was left alone with the sinner’s sin.

C. H. SPURGEON: Just at the moment when He gave His last triumphant shout, “It is finished,” the sun gleamed forth again and the earth laughed once more in the sunlight—for the great trial of Christ, the great struggle for man’s salvation—was then all over! Such a phenomenon must have been most striking.


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