During the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, there are references in the gospels about darkness, both nighttime and an evil blackness. Historical documents also mention the three hours of unnatural darkness while Christ was on the cross, one even written by Pontius Pilate.
The elements that came together and brought about the crucifixion of Jesus included folk with dark evil souls. Judas, one of Jesus’ closest companions, showed his true color. When Jesus and the disciples gathered for the last supper, the Master said, “One of you is going to betray me.” Startled by his announcement, the disciples wanted to know which one of them would do so. Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer.
“Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot. . . . As soon as Judas took the bread Satan entered into him” (John 13:26, 27). Judas then left the upper room and the Apostle John closes the scene by writing, “And it was night.”
In Gethsemane, Judas assisted in identifying Jesus to the unruly crowd, and the Son of God was arrested under the cover of darkness. That night Jesus said to his captors, “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).
The next day throughout a bright morning, Jesus hung on a cross, but then a solemn darkness settled over the earth at noon. Crucified about nine in the morning, Jesus was on the cross for six hours, and during the final three hours, an abnormal “darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining” (Luke 23:44).
Through correspondence, independent witnesses later corroborated that the sun didn’t illuminate the earth for three hours. Tertullian wrote to the Roman senator Proculus: “The light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze . . . you yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives!”
Another account of the withdrawal of sunlight is in a report Pontius Pilate sent to Tiberius, emperor of Rome. “There was a darkness over the whole earth, the sun having been completely hidden, and the heaven appearing dark, so that the stars appeared.”
Pilate further wrote, “I suppose your reverence is not ignorant of, because in all the world they lighted lamps from the sixth hour until evening.” He also wrote “the moon, being like blood, did not shine the whole night, and yet she happened to be at the full.” The unusual darkness must have been unnerving, frightening. Did God clothe the cross in darkness because he couldn’t bear the world gawking any longer upon the suffering perfect Son?
On that long ago Sunday at dawn, when devoted women went to Jesus’ tomb an angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (28:1, 5, 6).
Centuries before Jesus came to earth, Isaiah prophesied: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The refreshment of a clean start is the promise made at the empty tomb of Jesus.
From the cradle to the cross, read Jesus’ story. His total goodness has a way of shining into dark secrets and dispelling shadows. God draped darkness over the evil deeds of the cross, but Sunday dawned and Jesus rose from the dead, proving his power and giving us hope.
Light always wins. Light always overcomes darkness.
Hunger for Humility (14) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).