The Easter story is one of those parts of the New Testament you hear every year. It’s also one of those parts you can hear over and over again and be struck with a sense of wonder and sadness and awe.
It may well be the greatest part of the greatest story ever told. There is betrayal and remorse. Courtroom drama. Good versus evil. Unfathomable love and unquenchable hate. Things look bleak and then wonderful, all in the space of a few pages.
There are questions, of course. My own. This doesn’t seem to be the best way for God to save the world to me. I’ve watched the shows on the History Channel about crucifixions. Nasty stuff. Horrible.
And then there’s the whole notion about Judas. No doubt he was a bad guy who did what we all seem to do on a pretty consistent basis—he gave up what meant everything for what meant less. He felt awful about it too, once it was all said and done. Hanged himself in a tree. I wonder about Judas. Christian legend says Christ appeared to him as Judas hung from that tree, moments away from death, and forgave him. I like to think that’s true.
But it’s this one verse from Matthew that’s always captured me more than anything else about the Easter story:
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
I can see that happening. Can see the sun blotted out and the people gathered at Golgotha look around and begin to shiver.
But what I want to know is this—
Why did darkness cover the land?
Theologians, pastors, and other people much smarter than little old me have their theories. A cosmic alignment. An eclipse. The fulfillment of a prophecy.
I don’t buy that. Not to say it wasn’t all of those things, of course. I wasn’t there. It might have been.
But I like to think the darkness fell upon all the land for a simpler reason.
Christians are taught to believe that the world in which we live was once pristine and beautiful. Paradise. No pain, no want, no suffering.
But with Adam and Eve came the first choice ever given to humanity, of whether they would love God or themselves. Add a serpent and a fruit, and you have the same choice Judas made—they gave up what meant everything for what meant less.
Darkness crept in. Sin entered the world through the human heart and became the ultimate virus, spread not just by touch, but by sight and sound and taste and smell.
Of course God knew what that first choice would become. He knew about the darkness and the sin. Knew about the virus.
I think that’s why the night gathered that day.
Because God did as only He could do—He used the darkness to help fulfill his plan. He let the shadows come so the light could be plainly seen.
Why did the darkness fall on that Friday long ago?
So the Son could shine.