The Darkness of Calvary

Rowan Jennings, Abbotsford, Canada

Precious Seed

Without question, there is no person, absolutely no one, who is more precious to God than His beloved Son. Further, it could be said that there is no place so sacred to, and no event more cherished by, the heart of God, than the place, and that which happened, at Calvary. In the recording of the events of Calvary, it is clear that every emphasis by God is important, and nothing is superfluous. This being so it is remarkable that of all the wonders that occurred at that time, only the darkness is mentioned in triplicate: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Why? I believe that John understood the true significance of the Lord’s statement, ‘As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world’, John 9. 5.

At the time of the sufferings of our Lord there were disquieting and unexplainable phenomena in three realms. In the celestial sphere there was a supernatural darkness and the sun was darkened; in the mystical sphere the veil was rent in two, the tombs were opened and, after the Lord’s resurrection many of the dead arose; finally in the terrestrial sphere the rocks were rent. In association with these occurrences our Lord spoke seven times from the cross.

The chronology shown below gives the sequence of the phenomena and the corresponding cries from the cross.

In this darkness we move in intensely holy ground and, while with cautious awe we approach and contemplate this wonder, several observations can be made.

This darkness was so strange it would have caused astonishment

The Holy Spirit caused Luke alone to state, ‘There was a darkness over all the earth and the sun was darkened’. From this divinely ordered statement, two things are clear. The earth was not darkened by an eclipse of the sun, but rather there was such a complete darkness that even the sun’s light was blotted out. When this supernatural darkness occurred it pointed to two things even more astonishing. Firstly, that of God forsaking Christ and doing so in His hour of need; and secondly, God’s awesome silence. It was not natural for the covenanting Jehovah, who never left Israel abandoned, now to forsake His beloved Son: the One He called, ‘my Servant in whom I delight’, and ‘my well beloved Son’. God had spoken to Him, and about Him at His baptism and transfiguration, but not here. Not even an angel came to strengthen Him as in Gethsemane. Heaven was absolutely silent. These were wonders which cause deep astonishment.

This darkness is the manifestation that with God the impossible is possible

How comforting to know that when God is brought into any equation then nothing is impossible. God is the God of the impossible. It was impossible for man to calm the seas, raise the dead or give sight to the blind, but it was not impossible with God. The darkness envelopes a work that was impossible for a man but possible for God. Can any man redeem his brother? Yet, in the darkness, the Lord provided the way for the rebellious to be redeemed. It is an impossibility for any man to release himself, or another, from the punishment of his sin, but this God made possible. It is an impossibility for man to be righteously cleared from personal guiltiness by the chastisement of an innocent person but God did it when Christ died. It is impossible for any man to qualify himself to approach God, be acceptable with God, enjoy God, live in fellowship with God, and dwell eternally in unbroken fellowship with God, but God can make this possible. It is impossible for any individual to live godly, yet it is with God’s power men now can. A simple belief of the truth and acceptance of Christ who died, can eternally affect a human being’s personality, attitudes, and destiny, God has made all this possible. It is impossible for God to die, yet the man who died was God, it was impossible with man but possible with God. Yet all these impossibilities for man are possible for God because of that which the Lord Jesus suffered in the darkness.

This darkness is a shroud that covers

How sadistic and distorted man is. We see an accident while driving and we slow down to have a look. Man gaped in morbid curiosity on Christ during and after His beating, and when the beard was plucked off His face, and when the stripes were long on His back, and when He was crucified. Although God would allow men to see all this, He would not allow men to see His Son in the throes of such unspeakable agony that was His as He drank the cup full of the wrath of God. They were permitted to see so much and then no more. Calvary was so sacred, so profound, so uniquely for the divine, that it was not permissible for human eyes to gaze upon the sight. What happened there is a truth to be received by faith not by the words of eyewitnesses.

Lingering at the outer edge of that darkness we are made aware that it tells of infinities into which we cannot enter. It is here that I learn that God loved the world of lost sinners, and that the Son of God loved me. The measuring of these truths is far beyond my heart and mind. At Calvary I see a Man utterly devoted to God more than any other could be and yet separated from Him and in that darkness I learn the horror of the penalty of my sins, the allencompassing cost of its removal, and it is more than I can fathom.

This darkness is a sign that illustrates

A consideration of this darkness illustrates at least four truths:

  • The overwhelming deeper darkness that Christ was experiencing 
  • The darkness of those who will be under the judgement of God during the day of wrath 
  • The darkness of those who will be banished in the lake of fire for all eternity 
  • The present spiritual condition of those who are unsaved

But the remarks of this article only concern the sufferings of the Saviour. To those who observed this physical darkness it was but a momentary window into the overwhelming darkness that the Lord was experiencing. Psalm 88 verse 6 puts it so starkly, ‘Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps’. Lamentations 3 verse 2. ‘He hath led me, and brought me into darkness’. The Lord had known dark days in His earthly sojourn, this was darker and deeper than the time they sought to stone Him, darker and deeper than when He wept over Jerusalem, and even darker and deeper than Gethsemane. This was a darkness that went beyond the external - it was a darkness that penetrated into the depths of His soul. His fourth cry ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ evidences this, and we are humbled. None can ever enter into nor convey the depths of the utter loneliness He experienced.

This darkness is the supreme demonstration of divine love and ultimate compassion

When contemplating the words of 1 John 4 verse 14, ‘The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world’, or 1 John 4 verse 10, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’, we struggle to reconcile the foregoing with the glories of the truth of Galatians 2 verse 20, that it was, ‘the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me’.

Here we stand at the edge of a fathomless wonder peering up at heights that are inconceivable, and walk through the scope of its profoundness, where every concept of human intelligence fails to comprehend. Yet, at the same time, we thank God that this is but the beginning of insights into the wonder of Calvary’s darkness.