It was an ordinary day, a day like any other day, the day Jesus went to the cross. But that event, outside the city of Jerusalem, transformed that day into an extraordinary day, a day like none other before or since.
Centuries before, God’s prophets had spoken concerning that coming extraordinary day: “On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos 8.9).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the phenomenon of darkness falling over the earth at mid-day accompanying the Lord’s death. Mark recalls the event with these words, “When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (15.33).
In the Scriptures, darkness is often a symbol of Divine judgment (Isaiah 60.1-3; Joel 2.30-32; Zephaniah 1.14-18). And like the plague of darkness visited upon Egypt prior to the exodus, it was a sign of Divine judgment upon Israel for rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. Certainly the unexpected darkness, accompanied by an earthquake, seized the attention of those witnessing the crucifixion,
“Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27.54).
“Surely He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment that made us whole, and by His bruises we are healed” (Isaiah 53.4-5).
On that extraordinary day all the smoking altars and slaughtered animals of years past realized at last the fulfillment of their typical significance in the One on the cross — “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Read those remarkable words again: He was wounded for our transgressions…He was crushed for our iniquities…He was punished for our behavior…and we are made whole by His injuries! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
Sin polluted the world because of the transgression of one man; death was the consequence of that sin, consequently passed on to all men because all sinned. But God provided a remedy — if because of the sin of one man many died, by the death of One many will live…or as through one man’s disobedience all were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One many are made righteous (Romans 5.12-19).
The events of that day on Golgotha years ago weren’t that uncommon — the execution of three men, two who were thieves and the other accused of sedition. Brutal and ugly but ordinary in every sense of the word, the condemned would not only pay for their crimes with their lives, but the hideous nature of their deaths would serve as a deterrent to other would-be criminals and troublemakers.
But this one time it was different. One of the men crucified was innocent — but He died guilty! He who knew no sin became sin, and we who are full of sin became the righteousness of God in Him who assumed our sin (2 Corinthians 5.21).
Upon that cross, of Jesus, mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of His glorious love, and my own worthlessness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss;
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.