HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.–Matthew 27:45
When Jesus Was Born there Was Light When He Died There Was Darkness
It is notable that when our Lord was born there was a supernatural light across the sky. It was a fitting prelude to the life of Him who was sent to be the light of men. The shepherds, sitting by their flocks, were surprised by the shining of the heavens. The night became as day about them when the Holy Child was born. All which was God’s prophetic symbol of the illumination of the heart of man through the unspeakable gift of the Lord Jesus. The strange thing is that when our Saviour died there was no illumination such as that. If the cradle was a scene of light, the cross was a spectacle of darkness. At the hour of noon, when in the ordinary course the sun would have shone in oriental brilliancy, there stretched a veil of darkness on the land. What are the voices that reach us from that darkness? For the darknesses of heaven are always eloquent. Let us meditate on that.
One thinks first how the darkness at the cross speaks to us of the sympathy of God. If someone whom we dearly loved were mangled in some crowded thoroughfare, the agony of it would be vastly deepened for us by the cruel feature of publicity. To have someone dear to us in torture in the centre of a gaping crowd must be one of the most awful of experiences. Instinctively we draw a curtain around the sufferings of those we love. We cannot bear to think that loveless eyes should gaze upon their agonies and torments. That is why, when a dear one is in pain, we “steik the door,” as Sir Walter Scott put it; that is why, in the ward of the infirmary, the curtain is hung around the bed. God’s curtain was the darkness. He had such pity as a father hath. He could not bear that cruel mocking eyes should feast themselves on the tortures of His Son. And in His infinite Fatherly compassion, from the sixth hour to the ninth, He drew the veil around that dying bed.
The Ministry of the Shadow
One thinks again how the darkness at the cross reveals to us the ministry of shadow. Did you ever notice what the darkness did for the men and women who were gathered there? Before that noonday how fearful was the scene! There was a malignant and insulting mockery. The passersby reviled the Crucified; likewise, the priests and scribes and elders mocked Him. We see a rabble, merciless and cruel, stirred to the point of frenzy by their leaders–and then at the sixth hour came the darkness. Men tell us that in the sun’s eclipse there falls a great silence in the world. Hushed is the song of birds, hushed, too, the howling of the beasts. And one has only to read the story of the cross to see how, when the darkness fell, there died away that howling of the beasts. Reviling ceased; mockery was silenced; there was not another syllable of the railing. One gathers that the attitude of insolence was changed into an attitude of awe. That mysterious overshadowing gloom chilled the blasphemy of ribald lips and struck a terror into every heart. Uproar became quietness. Insolence passed into an awful wonder. A strange and searching sense of mystery fell on the most frenzied spirit there. And who can doubt that God, who loves the world, and willeth not that any man should perish, was moving in that ministry of gloom? There are things we learn in the darkness that we never learn when the sun is in the sky. Sometimes men only see their cruelty, when the other is in the valley of the shadow. It is not when the heaven is radiant that men detect how evil they have been. It is often when the darkness deepens. The darkness at Calvary was gracious. It was the goodness of God leading to repentance. It awed men. It woke their conscience. It led them swiftly to revalue Jesus. I believe that many who on a later day believed in Jesus and rejoiced in Him would date the beginning of their gracious change from the awful darkness at the cross.
The Darkness Speaks of the Mystery of Atonement
Lastly, the darkness at the cross speaks to us of the mystery of atonement. Here is something no human eye can penetrate. So long as the sun was shining every movement of the Lord was visible. Did He lift up His eyes to heaven? They observed it. Did He look round on the crowd? They marked that also. And then the darkness fell, and He was hidden from them, and now let them strain their eyes, however eagerly, they knew not what was transacting in the shadow. They could not follow nor fathom what was forward. There was something they were powerless to penetrate. No husband could go home that Friday evening and say to his wife, “Wife, I saw it all. “And the strange thing is that to this hour no saint or scholar, brooding on the atonement, would ever dare to say “I see it all.” No theory exhausts the cross. No intellect fathoms the atonement. No human thought can grasp the height and depth of the greatest of all mysteries. And that shrouding from our finite mind of the infinite meanings of atonement is one of the suggestions of the darkness.