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The Sun Stopped Shining 

When things went dark, God prevailed 

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Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” 

—Psalm 23:4 NLT 

“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.”

—Mary Gardiner Brainard


On April 8, 2024, millions of people from around the world watched a total solar eclipse of the sun. Many travelled to place themselves in the Path of Totality where they would experience the moon completely blocking the light from the sun. It was an event of a lifetime for all. For some, it was an impactful emotional or spiritual experience. I was most affected by the scenes of darkness I watched on TV. It was literally like nighttime in the middle of the day! 

This astronomical event made me think about another time when darkness struck during the middle of the day. As Christians, we read these words every Good Friday from the Gospel of Luke: “It was now about the sixth hour (noon), and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (3 p.m.). For the sun stopped shining” (Luke 23:44-45a). Nearly 2,000 years ago, after Jesus had already hung on a Roman cross for three hours, the sun was divinely darkened during the crucifixion of Jesus.

It was not an eclipse which lasted only minutes; it was a darkness over Calvary that lasted some three hours.1 Luke’s testimony — “The sun stopped shining” or as another translation reads, “The light from the sun was gone (NLT)” — caused a distinct disquiet in my spirit. The people in the Path of Totality in 2024 experienced darkness for moments, and those at Golgotha would have experienced a supernaturally orchestrated darkness for three hours! As those who crucified Jesus sought to snuff out the Light of the World by nailing him to a Roman cross, the greatest physical light of the world was being darkened by the hand of God. I now have a greater appreciation for the centurion at the foot of the cross who could not help but exclaim, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” As well, I better grasp why many who witnessed the blackout on that Good Friday were terrified and “beat their breasts” at what was happening.2 Another translation reads: “They went home in deep sorrow.” 

The April 8th solar eclipse was amazing, but in and of itself was likely life-transforming for none. The darkness over Jerusalem — over Calvary — was momentous, but it too was likely life-transforming for none. However, what was unfolding in the darkness at Calvary was not only spiritually cosmic but historically cataclysmic! In the darkness, Jesus was bearing upon himself the sins of humankind. What was unfolding in the darkness was Jesus’ work for our atonement, expiation, redemption, rescue. What was unfolding in the darkness was the battle for our souls. It was the greatest expression of love: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What was unfolding was a rescue: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). And, although some form of solar eclipse happens annually, the darkness at Christ’s crucifixion will never be repeated: “Christ died for sins once…” (1 Peter 3:18).   

Have you ever considered what the darkness over Golgotha may have symbolized? For me, the three hours of mid-day night symbolize: 

  • The galactic battle between God and Satan. Here was a conflict between good and evil, light and dark, forgiveness and condemnation, salvation and judgement, heaven and hell. 
  • Humankind’s wickedness and blindness. The darkness of the human soul. In her book Contemplating the Cross  Tricia McCary Rhodes writes, “God gives them a sky that matches the blackness of their own hearts.” 3 
  • God’s wrath and judgment. In Scripture, darkness is associated with God’s wrath and judgment. For example, the Lord plunged Egypt into darkness as a demonstration of God’s judgement against Pharoah.4 Isaiah writes that at the coming of the Lord’s judgement, “The rising sun will be darkened” (Isaiah 13). Amos writes that when the Lord brings judgement he would “make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos 8). 
  • A tangible expression of Isaiah’s prophecy coming to fruition: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced  for our transgressions, he was crushed  for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds  we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the  Lord  has laid on him the iniquity  of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). Again, Rhodes writes, “With every second, Jesus swallows more of mankind’s sin. Every disobedient deed… flows like poison into his very soul.”5 “Evil fell into the heart of Jesus,” penned Timothy Keller.6 
  • Creation’s rebuke of humankind’s crucifixion of the Creator’s son. In the Genesis creation account, when the earth was in chaos, “darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Genesis 1:1). Into this space the Creator brought light. At the crucifixion God removed creation’s light and plunged the “world” (the site of the crucifixion) into darkness — chaos.  When the Light of the world (Jesus) was being snuffed out, the Creator responded by darkening the light of the sun.   
  • An act of compassion toward Jesus and humankind. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon, in his 1866 sermon The Three Hours’ Darkness stated that God the Father furnished “our savior with a retiring room, not that He might get a shelter, but that He might now be able to do His great work — bear the full weight of our sins and endure the extremities of the divine wrath? I must not say it, but I do think it would have been impossible for human eyes to have looked upon the Savior when He was in the full vortex of the storm of wrath which fell upon Him — and that God, even in mercy to man, shut to the door that man’s eye might not see the Savior in that fearful extremity of misery.”7 

As quickly as the darkness descended upon those at the foot of Christ’s cross, it was lifted. The mid-day night ended with the final words of Jesus’ in his dying breath: “It is finished… Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”8 The crucifixion and death of Jesus were not a victory over Christ and the Kingdom of God but signalled the defeat of Satan, sin and death. The return to light symbolized God’s grand story of redemption and restoration moving one step closer to fulfilment.  The resurrection, ascension and second coming would complete the divine narrative. Now, the claim of Jesus before his crucifixion would take on new meaning with the glorious return of the sun’s light over the cross at Calvary: “I am  the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The sun’s light still shines over our lives today as does the Son’s offer of life in the light with him. 

What are some ways tangible responses to this part of the gospel story? 

  • Appreciate just how deeply this darkness over Golgotha might have impacted those who experienced it. 
  • Understand the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for you, which the darkness symbolized. 
  • Thank God for his great love in sending Jesus, for the victory that was won at Calvary and the power of the cross to rescue us from spiritual darkness. 
  • Live every day in a manner that reflects your debt to Jesus. The judgment of utter darkness apart from him, which was your inheritance under “Adam,” is now not yours under Christ. 

Your light, poor weary sinner, is not the candle… of your own dark heart, but the sunlight of the cross. Look there, and you shall be of good comfort, for to him who looks to Christ, light shall arise out of the darkness.”
—Charles Spurgeon

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

1 In addition, the crucifixion occurred during Passover. Passover took place during a full moon and thus an eclipse would not have occurred during that time.
2 Luke 23:47-48
3 Tricia McCary Rhodes. Contemplating the Cross. Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, Minnesota; 1998, p.139.
4 Exodus 10
5 Tricia McCary Rhodes. Contemplating The Cross. Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, Minnesota; 1998, p.139.
6 Timothy Keller. Jesus The King. Riverhead Books: New York, New York; 2011, p.231.
7 https://www.spurgeongems.org/sermon/chs3471.pdf
8 John 19:30; Luke 23:46

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