Darkness came over the whole land...

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.’ Matthew 27:45

According to gospel writers Matthew and Mark, the death of Jesus was heralded by three hours of darkness. A three hour shadow obliterated the Middle Eastern sun’s warmth and radiance. A total eclipse, mirroring the sorrow in the Father heart of God. The Son, the Beloved, about to breathe His last.

The Light of the World extinguished. Our minds struggle to take it in - could the incarnate God die? Around eight centuries earlier, Isaiah had penned the same unimaginable thought: ‘Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain…..he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors.’ Isaiah 53:10, 12.

Matthew and Mark wrote of the darkness. They were probably in the crowd, experiencing the bleak despair. Matthew, who had lived in Jesus’ company for three whole years. Mark, friend of Peter, from whose first-hand accounts scholars believe he received much of his gospel material.

Today, and for the previous two thousand years, the darkness has been a familiar point in the crucifixion narrative. It is all too easy for us to read quickly over the gloom, because we know the glorious ending! But on that first Good Friday, for those with eyes to see, it seemed that everything good had been overcome by darkness.
Perhaps John, watching alongside Mary, recalled Jesus’ words from His teaching in the temple treasury, just a short distance from Golgotha, ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12. Did John find room for a shred of hope in his heart as he witnessed Jesus’ death?

For a while, as we each spend time with God this Good Friday, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the cross through the eyes of those who lived and walked with Jesus. Or from Mary’s shoes: experiencing that most acute grief of losing a child, exacerbated by horrific, shameful, public execution.

As we begin to touch the sorrow and anguish in the Father’s heart, we are better able to be moved by His sheer grace and to rejoice in this glorious salvation.

God’s heart tenderises our hearts. Our response may be in tears, in groans, but through the Holy Spirit, we also receive heaven’s perspective of hope and victory.  We are enabled to pray with faith for the millions who are experiencing deep darkness today, through war, persecution, slavery, sickness, famine and more.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.’ Isaiah 60.2

God calls and equips us to share the light of Jesus! Wherever there are followers of Jesus, His Light shines. God’s glory will be seen across the earth. He is the God ‘who changes times and seasons and light dwells with Him,’ Daniel 2.21-22.
Let us listen to the Holy Spirit. Where, Lord, are you asking me to take the Light of Jesus today?

- Catherine Horton
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