The Darkest Dark

It was pitch black at high noon. Thick darkness enveloped the entire earth, not just Calvary’s hill. There, for the next three hours, Jesus would be hanging on His cross in a dark place.

Most likely, you, too, have been in a dark place. A place where only you knew the depths of your suffering.

The criminals crucified on either side of Jesus identified with the pain of nails pounded into flesh, of excruciating gasps for breath, of burning thirst, of a pulsating headache as well as the humiliation of public nakedness. But they did not experience what Jesus Christ went through during those black hours. For God was making “the One who did not know sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB). The sins of all people for all time—past, present, and future—were transferred to Jesus. Also, the punishment.

As with the criminals on their crosses, there might have been one or two in your life who related to some part of your pain. But there was no one who could fully comprehend the turmoil within you. Like Jesus, you sank to your lowest point, where you felt that God had abandoned you.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” cried Jesus as the third hour came to a close. The Son of God could not feel His Father’s presence. But had God removed it? There is Biblical evidence He had not.

Look at Moses as he is about to ascend Mount Sinai. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21 ESV). Later Moses would say, “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deuteronomy 5:22 ESV).

See Solomon standing at the dedication of his spectacular temple when “the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14 ESV). Listen as Solomon then proclaims: “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness” (2 Chronicles 6:1 ESV).

Read what David, Solomon’s father, wrote: “He made darkness His secret hiding place” (Psalm 18:11 AMPC). This was after thirteen years of running for his life from jealous King Saul. Can you imagine the secrets God revealed to him when David knew it was only the two of them!

We should not limit God to our way of thinking. To a feeling. God knows what He’s up to. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33 NASB).

Even though we may not feel it at the time, God is in our dark places. He is working in secret for our eternal good. Calling us to a deeper experience of knowing Him. Making changes to refine our character for His glory.

We will never be where God is not already there. And there will come the moment when, like Jesus, we can say, “It is finished.”

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FYI, below are other Crucifixion-related blogs:

The Ongoing Opening Statement

On that hill where He was lifted up, Jesus was higher than anyone. Some eyes turned upward in grief. Some eyes looked at the ground, following the casting of dice. Some eyes studied the crowd for any sign of protest. Some eyes gazed in derision.

Jesus’ eyes took them all in. His opening statement from the rugged cross has never expired: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

Did you catch that? Jesus Christ died for those who know they are sinning and for those who do not! What a Savior!

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Who Heard God’s Seventh Double Knock?

The Bible records only eight times when God reiterates someone’s name. Four were spoken in the Old Testament era:  to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, and to Hannah. A thousand years later, Jesus–God with skin on–repeated Martha’s name and, at the Last Supper, Simon Peter’s.

The seventh double knock was a terrorizing cry, the likes of which has never been heard on earth before or since. In unprecedented anguish God the Son’s heart wrung out a cry to God the Father:  “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”’ (Matthew 27:46 HCSB).

Before nails were pounded into His hands and feet, Jesus had spent a sleep-deprived night being hustled to kangaroo courts, spit on, beaten, mocked, scourged, and crowned with a wreath of thorns pressed down into his head. The next three hours His mutilated body suffered the commonly known horrific tortures of a delayed-death crucifixion. Those watching were well aware that the victim’s slightest twitch or gasp meant excruciating pain.

But Jesus’ worst suffering was yet to be. So terrible, in fact, that by an act of God no one on earth saw it:  “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land” (Matthew 27:45 HCSB). God the Father draped His Son in black and blocked from earthly view the approaching misery, where grieving of mind is harder to bear than bodily pain.

In the midday midnight transpired the incomparable suffering of all time. Perfect Jesus was made sin (not sinful). Giving up His own identity, Jesus became the personification of sin. As such, He was in combat with the diabolic forces of spiritual darkness. When His spirit wrestled, struggled, and fought those evil powers, the innocent Savior endured the abysmal agony intended for the damned and doomed.

Jesus had understood and accepted God’s mission to be the world’s sin-bearer. Every step he had taken was in obedience to fulfilling that purpose. So it had never crossed His mind that God would forsake Him at the end. Rather, just the opposite, as He had assured the apostles:  “‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me’” (John 16:32 NIV).

He knew ahead of time that Judas Iscariot would betray Him and that Simon Peter would deny Him. He wasn’t surprised, either, that the apostles fled from the garden when the soldiers made the arrest. Shortly before they hunted Him down, Jesus had suffered through His Gethsemane battle without prayer support. However, that human loneliness, when He aligned His will with God’s will, was nothing like this.

Then He was not destitute of God’s presence. What was happening while on the cross–divine desertion–the Suffering Servant had never ever known or expected.

Why, Jesus desperately pierces the thick darkness, would God abandon Him–leave Him alone and desolate when He needed His presence the most? He was following God’s will to the nth degree. Why the isolation? What had He done?

At other times His Father had affirmed approval. First at His baptism:  “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17 NIV); then  at the transfiguration:  “And a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’” (Matthew 17:5 NIV).

All along His earthly road, Jesus carried the inner security that God was happy with Him. So much so that He included it in His temple teachings:  “‘The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him’” (John 8:29 HCSB).

Yes, God deserted because He was displeased. But not with His Son. God was displeased with sin, and that displeasure came with a price. The Savior must drink all of the cup of sin’s punishment. Complete separation from God was the last drop.

Thus the Man of Sorrows paid sin’s full price for you and for me.
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