It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (Luke 23:44)
Three of the four synoptic gospels tell us that when Jesus was dying on the cross, a darkness came upon the land. If you were a reporter, attempting to corroborate this one aspect of Jesus’s death, you’d have no problem. Everyone – young and old, male and female, rich or poor, believer and unbeliever, would tell you the same thing. It got dark. For three hours, starting at noon and ending at three o’clock, the sun stopped shining, and there wasn’t a single person who did not share that experience. No, it was not an eclipse. It was an act of God. Maybe his disciples called to mind Jesus’s words the night before when he told those who came to arrest him, “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53)
This was not the first time that the world experienced a supernatural darkness. Darkness, in both the Old and New Testament, is a symbol of God’s judgment. For example, darkness was one of the plagues in Egypt. Exodus 10:21-23 says:
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.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.
Darkness also occurs in the prophets as God’s judgment in the end time. Many times the darkness can be attributed to rain clouds, pestilence such as locusts, or smoke. For example, Ezekiel 32:7-8 says:
When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord God.
Joel 2:2 says:
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.
On the night before his crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father. In his humanity, he was afraid. And his fear was realized when he cried on the cross in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
God abandoned Jesus on the cross. God had to turn his back on him because God is holy and He cannot look upon sin. Isaiah 59:2 says,
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Jesus became a sin offering and he bore the punishment for our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of Christ.
During those three hours, Jesus experienced a personal separation from His Father. The darkness that came upon the land was more than a symbol. It was God the Father turning away from His only begotten Son. One commentator writes:
… this period of darkness was a period of divine activity; this period marks God’s turning His back on Him, and Jesus Christ’s terrible struggle and torment in the face of that rejection. He represented all that is sinful and vile while on the cross, and that must have brought unspeakable agony to His sinless soul, but surely the fact that God had to turn His back on Him was His greatest suffering, one we cannot start to comprehend. Sin has unimagined force, for it was sufficient to break the eternal bond between God the Father and God the Son. Thank the Father and Jesus for their mercy, for after our vile actions separated them humanity is truly unworthy of salvation. Yet Jesus loved us through all the consequences of our sin.
Jesus faced the wrath of God so that we wouldn’t have to! He experienced the isolation and the separation that sin causes so that we wouldn’t have to! It should have been me hanging on that cross, feeling the full weight of my sin and shame — feeling the full brunt of His wrath and displeasure. It should have been me that God was forced to turn his back on. I should have been made to know the black darkness of the absence of God. But Jesus did it instead! Jesus faced the darkness so that I don’t have to!
And this is the glorious truth of Easter: Because Jesus experienced that darkness, we don’t have to!
But something else happened at Jesus’s death. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. Mark 15:38 says it was torn from “top to bottom” confirming that this, too, was an act of God. Whereas only the High Priest had the authority to enter into the presence of the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people, Jesus, our new and eternal High Priest, (Hebrews 8:1) offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins. And now, as the author of Hebrews writes,
…we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
The darkness brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has covered the entire world. It is no longer business as usual. Things that we took for granted, that we presumed would just always be – those things no longer can be trusted. No one can tell us what tomorrow will look like. But today our confidence is rooted in something that can never be reversed or undone. John 19:30 says that before Jesus died, he cried, “It is finished”. No doubt some heard these words and thought them to be an admission of defeat. But oh, were they wrong! On the contrary, this was a cry of triumph! Jesus disarmed the powers of darkness and he put the prince of darkness to open shame (Colossians 2:15). “It is finished” is the ground of confidence for every saint in every church age!
I conclude with Romans 5:6-11:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
 M. S. Mills, The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1999), Mt 27:45–Lk 23:45a.