Pastor Dan Eddy
The Miraculous, Complete Darkness
3-9-11 Ash Wednesday
Matthew 27:45 ESV “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour…”
At this time, I would ask the ushers to dim the lights in the sanctuary and I would like you to close your eyes. Please go ahead and do that now.
This is the way it was for three hours from Noon to 3pm the day Jesus was crucified. Complete darkness covered all the Earth. Jesus had been hanging on the cross already for three hours with a myriad of activity much of which contributed greatly to our Lord and Savior’s immense suffering.
But in this complete darkness…do you feel a little lonely? Do you feel a little bit separated from even those sitting next to you? Imagine if we sat here for three hours like this. How would you feel?
Okay ushers please bring up the lights.
This darkness on Black Friday was predicted by the Old Testament prophet Amos, chapter 8, verse 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.
This was predicted over 750 years before that Black Friday.
The Gospels of Mark and Luke add that the darkness covered the whole Earth. And Luke adds that the sun failed. So it wasn’t a big cloud. That single event on that day was so indelible that even unbelievers wrote about it. The best they could do was to explain it away as a solar eclipse. There’s only one problem. Solar eclipses can only occur during a full moon. Passovers occur on full moons and that day had just passed.
Additionally this type of supernatural darkness had occurred before. It was the 9th Plague recorded in the book of Exodus. There the Egyptians sat in darkness for more than three hours. They were literally in the dark for three days. Lights were somehow ineffective. Meanwhile the enslaved Israelites were in complete light for three days.
Like with the Egyptians, the darkness covering the Earth that Good Friday was God’s judgment on all of humankind for having to have His Son killed. Judgment came to Jesus for all the sins we commit. And not just for the sins we commit but for those committed against us.
Sin creates separation between us and God. Please close your eyes again and cover them, if you have to, to keep the light out. (Pause) The darkness of our sins creates uncertainty of where we are and where we need to go for safety. Keep them closed.
It’s one thing to sit in the dark of the church when you know loved ones are around you. It’s another to wake up and you do not know if anyone is around you. Pretend that you’ve been kidnapped, knocked out and wake up in a pitch black room. How disturbing that would be. That’s what sin does to us. It kidnaps us from God, and leaves us wondering where we really are in life. Satan is ironically called the Angel of Light. He glows in the night, but only brings darkness to our souls. This is just a little bit of what Hell is like. The loneliness. The separation from God.
In the dark Jesus experienced total separation from His Father when He cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Darkness was brought to Jesus even though He did nothing to deserve it.
You can open your eyes again.
The darkness of that day not only helps us see a sliver of what Jesus went through on the Cross but it reminds us of the dark lonely times in our lives when we think no one can understand…when our grief is so great we can’t express it…when we are overwhelmed with sorrow…health problems, family turmoil, mental struggles, financial difficulties. If Jesus went through total darkness and separation from His own Divine Father…then don’t you think He fully understands the struggles you are facing at this moment?
As you know my dad’s cancer has returned, and he admitted that sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the dark night, alone, and concerned about his illness. I recommended that he takes his thoughts, feelings, and frustrations and write them down or type them into the computer and then lift them up to the Lord in prayer.
As I tell you this…I am reminded of the words of Psalm 44:23-26: “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! But even in those moments God is right there.”
God does not want us to sit in the everlasting darkness of our misery and He certainly does want us to spend eternity in the black hole known as Hell. That’s why He had to forsake His Son. The complete darkness of that day is a reminder of what Jesus did for you and me.
But remember when is it the darkest? It’s darkest before the dawn.
The lifting of the darkness came at 3pm on that Friday and Jesus was dead, but the story is not over. The light that returned signified what was going to happen to Christ in just 3 days. The darkness has not overcome Jesus. What happened on Easter signifies what will happen on the Last Day.
If you were here the past two Sunday you know of struggles Kathy DuBois’ mother has been facing. Helen Best fell down the stairs to her basement and broke numerous bones and went into a coma. The doctors operated but she was not coming out her coma. The doctors said she was brain dead…a vegetable if you will.
But then a miracle happened and Helen Best woke up from the darkness of her 8 day coma. And do you know the first thing she did? She took her hand and touched the face of her husband of 66 years.
On the Last Day, we, too, will rise from our soul sleep, from our dark grave, and touch the face of our Savior.
And that’s a message of reassurance as we face our dark struggles today. We are given those 3pm moments of light…when the temporary darkness has been lifted. When our prayers are answered…when our problems are resolved…when we hear that Word of God that we are forgiven…when we know the Lord Jesus loves us. The everlasting darkness that has been lifted because Jesus removed the spiritual blackness of our sins.
Because of the darkness of what Christ went through being rejected by His Father…we can better appreciate then what He has done for us as we sit in the darkness of the struggles we face in life, which don’t even come close to what He experienced.
And that means we can minister to those we know who aren’t a part of a church community or haven’t attended in a while…who are sitting in their own darkness. We can sit with them to let them know Jesus took away the darkness of their sins, too.
Because Jesus has lifted you out of your darkness…now you can sit next to them witnessing in word and deed the light of Christ shining in your life as you help them out of the darkness of the struggles they are facing.
In a moment when you receive the imposition of ashes, please do not see it as a symbol of piling on guilt and sorrow. Rather when you received the ashes and see them on your forehead tonight as you look in the mirror…see the cross and be reminded of Jesus who was put upon it, who experienced the suffering and pain you will never experience for eternity because of the faith He gave you at your baptism and continues to nurture and strengthen tonight.
And when you wash away the ashes know that Jesus has washed away the darkness of your sin with His everlasting light of salvation to live as a light for others who are sitting in their darkness, waiting for the light. Amen.