Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Miracles of Calvary: The Darkness

While a student at The Criswell College in Dallas, I had a New Testament and church history professor we would call Danny. It didn't seem right to refer to one of our favorite professors by his first name, but he wouldn't allow us to call him "Dr. Akin" because he had not yet finished his doctoral dissertation on Bernard of Clairvaux. And if anyone ever referred to the Middle Ages as "The Dark Ages," Danny would quickly inform us of the myriads of wonderful, yet overlooked Christians who stood for Christ during those centuries.

One day, as we were studying the crucifixion of Christ, we happened across Matthew 27:50-53, which describes some very unusual events occurring at the moment Jesus died. Danny said to us, "If anyone can produce a paper telling me what all that was about, I'll give him an 'A' for the class." Although I ended up with an 'A' anyway, I wish I had happened across William Nicholson's
excellent little book called The Six Miracles of Calvary. Originally published in 1927, it gives as good of an interpretation as I've ever read about these strange miracles.




30725: The Six Miracles of Calvary: Unveiling the Story of EasterThe Six Miracles of Calvary: Unveiling the Story of Easter

Edited by Dan Schaeffer / Discovery House Publishers

With all due respect to William Nicholson, I think he missed one. Beginning today, my next seven posts will be dedicated to observing, interpreting, and applying the miracles of Calvary.

Miracles are not events in and of themselves. Miracles are signs that point to something greater. Behind each miracle stands an eternal truth.

The Miracle of Darkness

Matthew describes what happened about the day Jesus was crucified: "Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour" (Matt. 27:45, NASB). Jesus was on the cross for six hours before He died—from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. So for the last three hours on the cross, there was darkness over the land.

Some people who don’t believe in the miraculous have said that this was just a natural solar eclipse. If Jesus died during an eclipse, consider the following:

  • The chances that Jesus would die during a total eclipse are astronomically low. Total solar eclipses occur on average once every year and a half. That such an eclipse would occur at Jerusalem on that day is so remote that it could be said to be miraculous.
  • The longest duration for a total solar eclipse is less than eight minutes. A three-hour total solar eclipse would again be a miracle.
  • Jesus died on a Passover. Passover always occurs during a full moon, when the sun and the moon are in different parts of the sky.
I love it when skeptics try to explain away the miracles of the Bibles by presenting alternative theories that require the miraculous.

The darkness during Jesus' crucifixion was not the result of a natural phenomenon. It was caused by the will and direct action of God. The darkness--at that exact time and that prolonged--was something that only God could cause.

The Hebrew Bible prophesied that the darkness would occur. In Amos 8:9, the Lord says, "And it will come about in that day...that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight."

The Creator of light (cf. Gen 1:3) and the One who is Light (1 John 1:5) made it dark on the earth to draw attention to Himself. The darkness was the background of the cross, showing God's displeasure with and judgment of sin.

God the Father present at the cross, demonstrating by the darkness that He was judging His Son for our sins. As Nicholson notes, "The three hours of deathly darkness [Jesus] suffered on the cross at Calvary perfectly illustrated the heaviness of His Father’s hand upon Him" (p. 23).

What does it mean that the sky grew dark for three hours that Friday? That our sins are paid for, and that is the best miracle of all.

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