Imagine being an eyewitness to Calvary. You are viewing the crucifixion. Suddenly at 12:00 PM darkness descends and lasts for three full hours until 3:00 PM. This is recorded in Matthew 27:45, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” There is no coincidence that this is the time of the Passover Lamb’s sacrificial killing by the Jews . Many skeptics of this event claim that it was probably just an eclipse but how can an eclipse last for three hours!? And the Passover was always held during the times of a full moon. A solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon because that is when the moon and the sun are both up at the same time and the moon can then block out the sun. Even Pontius Pilate wrote about this strange event to Augustus Caesar:
Now when he was crucified, there was darkness over all the world, and the sun was obscured for half a day, and the stars appeared, but no luster was seen in them; and the moon lost its brightness, as though tinged with blood; and the world of the departed was swallowed up; so that the very sanctuary of the temple, as they call it, did not appear to the Jews themselves as their fall, but they perceived a chasm in the earth, and the rolling successive thunders .
Why did this three hour period of darkness occur? Why do all the gospel writers except John record this event? What is the significance of this descending darkness? The Bible is clear that darkness is associated with God’s judgment and with the presence of evil. There are literally dozens and dozens of Scriptures that reveal this fact. We will only include a few to show that darkness and the presence of evil and the judgment of God are almost always mutually inclusive.
First John 1:5-7 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Exodus 10:21 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”
John 11:10 “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
Eph 5:8 “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
John 3:19-21 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Rev 8:12 “The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.”
Isaiah 13:10 “For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.”
Col 1:13 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
Eph 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Matt 8:12 “While the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
First John 2:9-11 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Rev 16:10 “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish.”
Isaiah 50:10 “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”
I believe that the reason the darkness descended at Calvary was that the Father had to look away from Jesus because He became sin for us and God is too holy to even look at sin. This is why right after the darkness came in Matthew 27:45 that in verse 46 that “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When Jesus became sin for us, becoming the propitiation (the satisfaction) for our sins and the wrath of God being placed upon Him, it was the first time in all eternity that Jesus and the Father had been separated. I thank “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Now, when the Father looks at those who have put their trust in Christ, He sees them as having Jesus’ righteousness. Until a person does this, they will remain in darkness.
One thing about darkness is that darkness can not overcome light but light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5). You can go to the store and buy a flashlight to use against the darkness but there are no flash darks where you can shine darkness into light and make it dark. Such is the nature of God. God is light and the works of darkness are exposed by the light (Acts 17:11). Jesus is the Light of the World and He came to expose the works of darkness. He overcame the darkness because He is the Light of the World and in Him is no darkness. The Light came into the world and the darkness could not overcome it…on the contrary, the light overcame the darkness (John 1:4). He is still helping those in darkness overcome it and bringing them into the light. As it is written in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
2. Translated and published in The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden, 1926, published by Collins World. All references are from the thirty fifth printing, 1977. “Letters of Herod and Pilate” runs from pages 269-281 with the report to Augustus starting on page 273 and to Tiberius on page 274.
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.