Three Hours of Darkness – Grace Appeared

I have read the Easter story since I was a child and I am still awe struck with the way it can never be too familiar. Matthew 27:45 says, Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. Having the knowledge that darkness fell, I have not really thought about the reason why darkness fell. I read the following in the Matthew Henry Commentary: How this was signified–by an extraordinary and miraculous eclipse of the sun, which continued for three hours, Matthew 27:45. There was darkness epi pasan ten gen–over all the earth so most interpreters understand it, though our translation confines it to that land. Some of the ancients appealed to the annals of the nation concerning this extraordinary eclipse at the death of Christ, as a thing well known, and which gave notice to those parts of the world of something great then in doing as the sun’s going back in Hezekiah’s time did. It is reported that Dionysius, at Heliopolis in Egypt, took notice of this darkness, and said, Aut Deus naturæ patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur–Either the God of nature is suffering, or the machine of the world is tumbling into ruin. 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. The indignities done to our Lord Jesus, made the heavens astonished, and horribly afraid, and even put them into disorder and confusion such wickedness as this the sun never saw before, and therefore withdrew, and would not see this. This surprising, amazing, darkness was designed to stop the mouths of those blasphemers, who were reviling Christ as he hung on the cross and it should seem that, for the present, it struck such a terror upon them, that though their hearts were not changed, yet they were silent, and stood doubting what this should mean, till after three hours the darkness scattered, and then (as appears by Matthew 27:47), like Pharaoh when the plague was over, they hardened their hearts. But that which was principally intended in this darkness, was, (1.) Christ’s present conflict with the powers of darkness. Now the prince of this world, and his forces, therulers of the darkness of this world, were to be cast out, to be spoiled and vanquished and to make his victory the more illustrious, he fights them on their own ground gives them all the advantage they could have against him by this darkness, lets them take the wind and sun, and yet baffles them, and so becomes more than a conqueror. (2.) His present want of heavenly comforts. This darkness signified that dark cloud which the human soul of our Lord Jesus was now under. God makes his sun to shine upon the just and upon the unjust but even the light of the sun was withheld from our Saviour, when he was made sin for us. A pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun but because now his soul was exceeding sorrowful, and the cup of divine displeasure was filled to him without mixture, even the light of the sun was suspended. When earth denied him a drop of cold water, heaven denied him a beam of light having to deliver us from utter darkness, he did himself, in the depth of his sufferings, walk in darkness, and had no light, Isaiah 50:10. 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, which he was now making his soul an offering for. Never were there three such hours since the day that God created man upon the earth, never such a dark and awful scene the crisis of that great affair of man’s redemption and salvation.

As I have been pondering this particular verse in Matthew’s telling of all that transpired on that day. I can’t help but ask one other thought provoking question.

What if it was so dark because grace was so thick?

Grace descended on earth with such a presence that silenced mankind. Grace overwhelms!  Centuries later and we sing lyrics such as “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

Marvelous grace or our loving Lord

grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s Mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace Grace God’s Grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Have you, like me, ever really taken it in that the grace God shed on us through His son is greater than all of our sin: individually and collectively? As I have thought about this over the last several days, I just had to ask about those three hours 2000 years ago. Did it take the thick darkness of grace to expose the broken lives sin destroys?

During my college years, I spent two summers working for a group of Orthopedic doctors. While I mostly worked in the file room, I did get the opportunity to learn how to work in the dark room.  This is where the x-ray film was developed before being handed over to the physician. Believe me, it was literally a dark room – absolutely no light.  So there I would sit with one lone radio for company and wait for film to be dropped and then when ready I would transfer it to be picked up for viewing.  Only the complete darkness of that Dark Room could expose what needed to be healed. So I sit writing my thoughts on this blog wondering the same thing.  Was the darkness that fell on the earth that day needed to expose what needed to be healed?  Was it grace laying on the world so heavy that when it lifted man’s heart was exposed?  When the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom, was that the power of marvelous grace inviting us to come boldly to the throne of God?

Jesus hung on the cross, shedding His blood for my sin and at the same time pouring out grace’s invitation, beckoning the world to trust Him through faith. When love so powerful comes from the One who created time and is not constrained by time takes the time to shed grace; it could come with a powerful earthquake, tearing of the Temple curtain and darkness.  When grace met sin in a collision of holiness and evil; grace came in with a fury. Satan could not win that day and he could not keep Christ in the grave.  Death could not hold Him! The grave could not keep Him! Grace had been shed and mercy had been poured out freely.

Let us not romanticize grace and think it always comes in softly.  Sometimes grace says “enough!” and you hear “It is Finished”.  Then the earth shakes.  Grace has a power that will not only overwhelm the heart of man,it takes over the atmosphere.  Never underestimate the power of that marvelous grace… “grace that is greater than all my sin and guilt”.