Why the Darkness?

Good Friday Homily, 2018

I — Text: Matthew 27:33-50


II — Theme: What is the significance of what happened during the three hours of darkness that Jesus hung on the Cross?


III — Unpacking the Text:

A — Intro: Why would we spend time contemplating these three hours of darkness, when the Bible is nearly silent about what happened? Is it mere speculation to delve into this subject of the darkness that descended upon Jerusalem for those three hours?


  • There is a contrast in the text that should be very striking to us: Jesus has been—even in His agony upon the Cross—very verbal, up to the time the darkness arrives.
  • He has thus far prayed for those crucifying Him (out loud); He has comforted the believing criminal beside Him with words of salvation; and He has commended His mother to the care of His disciple, John. But then the darkness descends, and He is utterly silent for those three hours. Our question is, “Why is there darkness and silence, and are they significant for us?” In a word, “Yes.”
  • It is no mere speculation to say, as one writer puts it, “..with the descent of the darkness, all narrative ends [by the Gospel writers], as if a veil had been drawn over the unspeakable suffering of God’s Son.”
  • Though the narrative is silent, we know precisely what happened during those dark hours, because of what Jesus cries out when He breaks the deafening silence: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?” or, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”


  • From 12:00 noon until 3:00 in the afternoon, in the most literal fashion, Jesus Christ took upon Himself, the burden of our sin, was punished for them as a Substitute in our place, and, as one writer says, “experienced such terrible alienation from His Father..” which is what causes Him to cry out in the greatest of anguish, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” There is our proof of what happened in those dark hours. Why else would the Lord of heaven and earth cry out so?
  • Finally, let us approach the rest of this message from the point of view that, “the darkness which Jesus suffered cries out against the blackness of our sin and testifies to the tremendous cost to God of our redemption.” (Boice)


B — The Fact That Jesus Endured Desertion by God is Actually the Chief Aspect of the Work He Undertook for Us:


  • First, it’s of utmost importance to us that we recognize this fact: God “forsakes”/abandons, if you will, Jesus while He’s on the Cross—yet, He doesn’t abandon Him as a Father, but as a Judge.
  • As His eternal Father, God loved Christ more deeply than anything else, because in loving the Christ, He is actually loving Himself. Yet, as the Creator and Judge of all creation—a creation that has, in every regard, sinned against Him (Romans 5:12-21)—God has no choice but to forsake the very Christ who is, at that moment, taking upon Himself the entirety of His people’s sins. Here we remember that God cannot ever look favorably upon sin, for it in its very nature is utter rebellion against His very nature.
  • Let’s consider then, that because God the Judge had forsaken Christ, Jesus suffered immensely from “Grief of Mind.”
  • Grief of Mind is always more difficult to bear than pain in our bodies.


  • Spurgeon says, “Spiritual sorrows are the worst of mental miseries…[for Christ, in this hour, there must have been] a torment within His breast, which I can only liken to a prelude of [what it’s like to be in] Hell.”
  • In that moment, the eternal Christ is acutely aware of the hopelessness of humanity absent His work on the Cross. He sees, like we do, that it’s one thing to endure a broken, bleeding body, and perhaps even a wounded spirit; but when one becomes conscious of being deserted by God, it is nearly un-endurable. And yet, Christ endures even this, for our sakes. And yes, we can liken all of Christ’s agony on the Cross—physical and mental—to a mere shadow of what we would otherwise be forced to endure, eternally, for our sin.
  • He endures however, because He still knows that God His Father utterly loves Him, and has given Him this task in order that God’s people would be spared of this eternal agony.


C — Closing: Jesus’ Use of Scripture and the Substitutionary Atonement, Displayed In the Darkness of “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani:”

  • His cry of desperation is from the Scripture itself: In His utmost time of grief, Jesus turns to the Word of God to express His pain and His need. His words are from the opening sentence of Psalm 22. In it, He identifies with David, who wrote the Psalm, and, in identifying with David, Jesus thus identifies with us—as it would be for us, if we had to endure this agony for all eternity.