************ Sermon on Luke 23:44-45 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 29, 2002
"Darkness Came Over the Whole Land"
Good Friday 2002
Do you remember what Jesus said to those who came to arrest Him? He said, "But this is your hour – when darkness reigns" (Lk 22:53b). He said this in the middle of the night, surrounded by the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus admonished the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders for doing at night what they did not dare to do during the day.
"But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." There was a time in the ministry of Christ when evil was restrained. It was held back from doing its most violent deeds. But now the power of evil has been released.
"But this is your hour – when darkness reigns." What was Jesus talking about? What did He have in mind?
We think of the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember His prayer of anguish: "Father ... take this cup from me ..." (Lk 22:42)? Remember the earnestness of His prayer: His sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk 22:44)? Remember how there was not for Him any prayer support, how the disciples kept falling asleep as He prayed (Lk 22:45)?
We think of Judas. Judas, a trusted friend and companion, betrayed Jesus. Not only that, but he betrayed Jesus with a kiss – an ancient form of greeting and friendship.
We think of Peter. He was scared, scared for his life, so he denied even knowing the Lord, let alone being one of His disciples (Lk 22:54-62). And Peter did this after saying he would never deny or forsake the Lord (Lk 22:33).
We think of the Sanhedrin. It was an illegal meeting of the assembly, there were trumped-up charges, witnesses lied, the death penalty did not fit the crime He was found guilty of.
We think of the soldiers who mocked Jesus as a prophet – hitting Him and spitting on Him..
We think of Herod and his soldiers who mocked Jesus as a king – giving Him a crown of thorns, putting a royal robe on His back, bowing before Him in jest.
We think of a guilty man – Barabbas – being set free while an innocent man – Jesus – was led off to be crucified.
We think of the crucifixion. The pain. The agony. The thirst. The taunting of the crowds and the soldiers and even the thief on the cross.
"But this is your hour – when darkness reigns."
I A Supernatural Darkness
A In this light consider the darkness that Luke tells us about in our Scripture reading for today:
(Lk 23:44-45) It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, (45) for the sun stopped shining.Things looked black. Things looked dark. But upon the cross, during those three hours of darkness, things looked even darker, even blacker, even bleaker than they did before. You see, the Prince of Glory, the Son of Righteousness, the Light of the World, was suffering and dying (cf Luke 1:78-79).
"Darkness came over the whole land." How could this be? It was the middle of the day – around noon. It couldn't have been an eclipse for it was the time of the Passover which was always held during a full moon, when no eclipse is possible. Not only that, but the longest solar eclipse on record lasted seven minutes and forty seconds – not three whole hours. So what is going on here? What is happening?
We turn to the book of Genesis and we read there that in the beginning "darkness was over the surface of the deep" (Gen 1:2). You know what happens next:
(Gen 1:3-5) And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. By God's decree, ever since that first day of creation, light and darkness each had their separate place. But not on Good Friday. On Good Friday the darkness left its appointed place. It invaded the light. The darkness which God had separated from the light and joined to the dawn and dusk, was dislocated and moved into the midday. The very fabric of reality was being stretched to the breaking point. Things appeared to be coming apart.
B "Darkness came over the whole land." I want you to notice that Luke takes a universal perspective. The suffering and death of Christ doesn't impact just a small little corner of Palestine; rather, the suffering and death of Christ impacts the Roman Empire.
If you remember, Luke took the same approach with the birth of Christ. At that time, Luke tied in the birth of Christ with the decree from Caesar Augustus "that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world" (Lk 2:1).
Luke's point is that there was more at stake in the suffering and death of Christ than the reaction of Pilate, Herod, Peter, Judas, the Sanhedrin, the servants, and the soldiers. The birth of Christ and the death of Christ impact the whole known world and even all of the universe. No other death has done that. Yes, people will forever remember where they were and what they were doing, when they heard about the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Those over the age of 50 remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot. These were tragic events; many lives were forever changed because of what happened. But, we cannot say that the impact was universal, for all time, and for all people.
C "Darkness came over the whole land." It should not escape our notice that darkness implies the judgment of God. Recall, for instance, the ninth plague God sent to the Egyptians.
(Ex 10:21-23) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt--darkness that can be felt." (22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. (23) No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.We see here that in Egypt there was the darkness of God's judgment at the time of the first celebration of the Passover. And now, at the Passover of Jesus' death there is darkness again.
Numerous times throughout Scripture we see that darkness is a symbol of divine wrath:
(Jer 33:19-21) The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: (20) "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, (21) then my covenant with David my servant--and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me--can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.
(Zep 1:15) That day [the day of the Lord] will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness,
(Joel 2:2) a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come.
(Joel 2:31) The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
(Amos 8:9-10) "In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. (10) I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
Recall too the words of Jesus about the outer darkness that is reserved for those on whom the judgment of God will rest. It is a horrible place, a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
Darkness at midday, then, is a warning of impending judgment. The scribes and pharisees, Pilate and Herod, the Roman soldiers, the Jewish people, are all being warned that their punishment was now beginning.
D "Darkness came over the whole land." We also cannot help but notice that even Jesus is in the midst of darkness. In other words, even Jesus has the judgment of God resting upon Him. However, the Centurion (Lk 23:47), Pilate (Lk 23:4,13,22), Herod (Lk 23:15), the people beating their breasts (Lk 23:48), and all of Scripture testify that Jesus is righteous. That raises a question: what was Jesus, the righteous One, doing in God's awful darkness? How does a Righteous One get under the judgment of God?
E "Darkness came over the whole land." Darkness points not only to judgment but also to separation, isolation, aloneness. When that supernatural darkness descended, Jesus was separated, isolated, and alone.
In a final assault on Jesus, our text shows Him cut off in the darkness. He Who came to join all men to Himself was utterly alone. Even as the nails drove apart the joints in Jesus' body and the cross tore at His shoulders, so the darkness cut Him off from all Whom He loves: His disciples, His family, His friends, even His Father in heaven.
II The Mastery of God
"Darkness came over the whole land." We don't know exactly what caused those 3 awful hours of darkness. But we do know that from beginning to end God, and Christ, were in control. They were masters of the situation.
As you listen to the Good Friday story, do you hear what did not happen? It becomes clear from Scripture that Jesus did not go down in defeat. Yes, He died. But Scripture does not portray His death as the last failing breath of a beaten man. If ever there was a death with dignity, here we see it. Luke, the physician, describes Jesus as laying down His life. It was not taken from Him. He want through the pangs and torments of hell, and was still alive.
We also see that Jesus did not abandon His trust in the heavenly Father. Having been left in the darkness of God's judgment, He still could look up to heaven and say, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46).
Does that surprise you? When we go through our dark hours, are we not inclined to doubt the love and care of our heavenly Father? How could Jesus still want to place Himself in the Father's hands? Look what the Father had just put Him through!
It is also clear from Scripture that the darkness did not win. It held sway for 3 hours, and then it went back to its place. Once again God said,
(Gen 1:3-4) "Let there be light," and there was light ... (4) and he separated the light from the darkness.
We know, then, that things were not out of control. Jesus was not defeated, He did not abandon His hope and faith in God, the darkness did not hold sway.
"Darkness came over the whole land." One more thing needs to be said: Jesus is our Savior. And as Savior, Jesus bore the darkness. In fact, Jesus bore what you and I cannot bear. He bore the pain, the agony, and the torments of hell and hell's darkness. We cannot. If you and I were to go down into the darkness that Jesus entered, we would never emerge. We would go down in defeat.
But that does not happen to us. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we deserve to suffer the darkness of God's wrath. But somehow, in someway, if we believe, we are joined to Christ in His suffering. So His suffering becomes our suffering and His victory becomes our victory. This is our comfort, our only comfort in life and in death: that we are joined to Christ; that in Him and through Him and with Him we have gone through the darkness of the cross.
Do you believe this? Is Christ your Savior? Have you gone with Him through the darkness of the cross?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page