From the Cradle to the Cross (1)

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2013 in Scripture, Sermons

Matthew 27:45-46 –  Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Millions of people have celebrated the birth of the Savior over the past few days. Of course, many celebrate One whom they do not know. Their celebration is secular, worldly, man-centered. But even among those who know Christ and celebrate in a right way there are those who miss the main reason for the season. In an effort to keep Christ in Christmas (and we need to), they leave Christ in the manger unawares . The world needs to know the reason Christ came – God saves sinners! His way of reconciling men to Himself is a way – the way – that no man would have considered. And it cost the Father His one and only Son, whom He sent that whosoever believes in Him would never perish but have life eternal with Him. Our message is one that points to Calvary – from the cradle to the Cross.

The more we are able to grasp what it means that Christ was forsaken the greater will be our joy in the forgiveness we receive in Him and see Him more and more and more as the only satisfaction for our sins. We lived in darkness — He endured the darkness. We were separated from God because of sin – He who knew know sin became sin, and for a few hours in human history, separated from the Father. This boggles our Trinitarian minds, and yet fuels our faith. Darkness – dereliction. Today we consider the darkness – His and ours.

1.  The Cast of Darkness (v. 45)

Jesus’ crucifixion began at the third hour, around 9 o’clock in the morning (15:25).  Jesus has now been on the cross for three long hours, hours filled with agony emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It was now high noon, midday on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and something very unusual began to take place.  Intense and unforgettable darkness covered the entire land for three hours.   The contrast with the birth of Messiah and His death could not be more clear – in the cradle at midnight there was great light.  At Calvary at high noon there was complete and total darkness!

Questions are often asked concerning this darkness: What caused it?  How extensive was it?  What was the purpose for  this darkness?  The first two questions are important and there has been much debate as to the cause and extent of the darkness.  I will leave you to do your own study on these subjects and just mention in passing that I believe that God caused it.  As for the means, while Luke specifies as it is translated in some versions that it was an eclipse (Lk. 23:45), most would agree that it was not an eclipse in the astronomical way that we are familiar with but that the sun was “obscured” (NAS), “darkened” (KJV), or “failed” (ESV).  Most would attribute the darkness to a supernatural act of God that covered the entire land and leave it at that, and I would agree.

Of more importance is the third question, “What was the purpose or meaning of the darkness?”  Darkness is a sign of separation, sin, chaos, death, and judgment.  In the Creation account of Genesis 1:2-4 we read, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep… And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”  God called the light good but made no designation concerning the darkness, but separated it from light.  From that day forward, darkness would be associated with evil and wickedness, separated from that which is good and right according to God.

Consequently, darkness is also associated with judgment.  In the ninth plague of the Exodus, darkness covered the land for three days prior to the final plague when the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.  However, the Lord passed over the homes of those who obeyed God and applied the blood of a sacrificial lamb to the doorposts (Ex. 11-12).  This was the first Passover, which occurred at midnight in the land of Egypt, and those who were spared God’s awful judgment were delivered from the bondage of Egypt.  Do you see the picture?  Just as darkness covered the land prior to the first Passover, so darkness covered the land before the last Passover.  Only this time it was God’s own firstborn Son who was to die.  This time the Lamb provided was the spotless Lamb without blemish, the very Son of God.  It was His blood that covered two posts – the Cross!  The only way for the penalty for sins, the judgment of death and eternal separation from God in darkness, to be passed over was provided as His blood was shed at Calvary!

Those present on that day should have immediately recognized what was happening because the prophet Amos had told of it long before.

Amo 8:7  The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Amo 8:8  Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

Amo 8:9  “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.

Some see this prophecy as referring to the great Day of Judgment at the end of the age when the Lord returns.  However, the Jew in Jesus’ day could not but look at what was happening right before their eyes as fulfillment of this prophecy of Amos.  His reference to the Nile, i.e. Egypt, and the darkness that occurred there and what was now happening before them was unmistakable.  However, rather than see it as judgment for their sin and fleeing to Christ alone as the Passover Lamb, they ended as they began because they were darkness, not comprehending the Light (Jn. 1:5).

So man’s greatest need is to be delivered from this darkness.  In Acts 26:15-18, Paul shared his testimony of what happened on the road to Damascus.

Acts 26:15-18 – 15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

Elsewhere Paul reminded the Ephesians that all men apart from Christ are of darkness (Ephesian 5:18); Peter proclaimed that the believer has been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) and Paul testified that this salvation was to be “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).  That is the gospel in its simplicity. And we can have all of this because Christ became darkness for us, He who knew no sin became sin, He bore the curse for sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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