When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34
Perhaps for his own reasons God draped a curtain of darkness around the death scene of His Son. Perhaps to conceal the transaction in some deep spiritual way that transpired between the Father and the Son.
I don’t know…
But I remember in the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest entered into the Most Holy Place and on that day, he would enter that enclosed place full of darkness. He could not see what transpired on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant…it was too high and holy. The rabbi’s said in the Talmud that he could not live if he had seen what happened in that moment.
I think of the first Passover in Egypt that it happened at Midnight.
I think of the experience in the Exodus at the foot of Mt. Sinai—it was the first real encounter of God and the people. God had given Moses the 10 commandments and the people were too frightened to be near God.
In Exodus 20:21 we read,
So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.
Somehow, someway God was present in the darkness with Moses on Sinai, but on a different mountain, a mountain called Calvary, God would not be with Jesus.
There are some caves in Colorado called Marble Caves that I have explored several times. If you turn off your headlamps it is blacker than the darkest midnight. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. You can’t tell directions. Getting lost in the darkness of the caves for more than a day or two can drive a sane person mad.
You can’t see forward, so you don’t know where you are going. You have no direction. You can’t even see yourself; you don’t know what you look like. You may as well have no identity. And you can’t tell whether there is anyone around you, friend or foe. You are isolated.
Physical darkness brings disorientation, but according to the Bible, so does spiritual darkness. Spiritual darkness comes when we turn away from God as our true light and make something else the center of our life.
The sun is a source of visual truth, because by it we see everything. And the sun is a source of biological life, because without it nothing could live. And God, the Bible says, is the source of all truth and all life.
If you orbit around God, then your life has truth and vitality. You are in the light. But if you turn away from God and orbit around anything else—your career, a relationship, your family—as the source of your warmth and your hope, the result is spiritual darkness.
You are turning away from the truth, away from life, toward darkness.
When you are in spiritual darkness, although you may feel your life is headed in the right direction, you are actually profoundly disoriented.
If you center on anything but God, you suffer a loss of identity. Your identity will be fragile and insecure, because it’s based on things you center your life on. It’s based on human approval. It’s based on how well you perform. You don’t really know who you are. In the darkness you can’t see yourself. As a result, you become isolated from other people and you feel unloved.
Any preacher who tells you he doesn’t care about how big the crowd is on Sunday’s when he preaches lies about other things. I take it personally when the crowd is small on Sunday’s. It can only mean that I am not performing in such a way in the pulpit that would make them want to come, right? That is what my idol says to me.
But God has a different word. His word to me is that because of what Jesus did on the cross and that I have entered into a covenant relationship with him, I am now the beloved of God. That love-relationship is not based on my performance, it is based on untrammeled love of the God of the universe through His son, Jesus Christ.
Author and speaker Brennan Manning has an amazing story about how he got the name “Brennan.” While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together and so forth. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the front lines together.
One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan’s life was spared.
When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name Brennan. Years later he went to visit Ray’s mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?”
Mrs. Brennan got up off of the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan’s face and shouted, “Jesus Christ—what more could he have done for you?!”
Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? and Jesus’ mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “Jesus Christ—what more could he have done for you?”
The cross of Jesus is God’s way of doing all he could do for us. And yet we often wonder, Does God really love me? Am I important to God? Does God care about me?
And Jesus’ mother responds, “What more could he have done for you?”