Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon the all the land until the ninth hour.

~ Matthew 27:45, NASB

Gustave Dore, photo by Ivan Burmistrov,Courtesy of iStockphoto

Annual mayhem ensued in 1960’s Philadelphia. It seemed everyone descended upon the city to celebrate Thanksgiving. Eager football fans swarmed to the downtown hotels while they awaited the annual Army – Navy football classic on Saturday.

Sandwiched between the Thursday feast and the Saturday game was a day filled with hundreds of thousands of people shopping for Christmas bargains. So many thronged to these sales that the streets became impassable. The honking horns, traffic jams, and impatient masses created nightmares for everyone there. Those who served in this chaos dubbed it Black Friday, which is what we know it as today.

  • The blackest Friday on record occurred two millennia before.

It was the day Christ died. And it wreaked utter havoc on the millions gathered to see it.

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  • Daytime darkness caused by eclipses weren’t unknown to earlier generations.

Historians recorded eclipses on the days Romulus and Julius Caesar died.

  • The Bible gives recurrent warnings of such judgments.

That’s why the Hebrews saw these omens as signs of God’s wrath.

Isaiah prophesied:

The sun will be darkened in its going forth …

I will punish the world for its evil…

~ Isaiah 13:10, 11, NKJV

Nahum proclaimed:

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;

The LORD is avenging and wrathful.

The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,

And He reserves wrath for His enemies…

And He will pursue His enemies into darkness.

~ Nahum 1:2, 8, NASB

Jeremiah declared:

I looked to the heavens,

And their light was gone…

All the birds of the sky had fled…

Because of the LORD

And His burning anger.

~ Jeremiah 4:23, 25, 26, HCSB

Joel warned:

The sun will be turned to darkness

And the moon to blood

Before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the LORD comes.

~ Joel 2:31, HCSB

Jeremiah lamented:

“You have forsaken Me,” declares the LORD…

“So I will stretch My had against you and destroy you…

I will bring against them …

A destroyer at noonday

I will suddenly bring down on her

Anguish and dismay…

Her breathing is labored.

Her sun has set while it was yet day…”

~ Jeremiah 15:6, 8, 9, NASB

  • The Hebrew terms for darkness (chosek, araphel) mean far more than just absence of light.

They describe misery, wickedness, destruction, sorrow, and death. This blackness was like a thick cloud of suffocating gloom that descended upon those experiencing it. A heavy evil seemed to compress them on all sides like an ebony veil of metal balls and chains.

  • That’s why Sheol was a place of blackness.

That’s why hell is a Stygian abyss though it burns with fire.[1] There’s no light at the end of the tunnel – no relief from sin’s heavy burden.

  • That’s what Jonah suffered in the belly of the fish.

He lamented his affliction in the darkness of the abyss. That’s why he called it Sheol.[2]

  • That’s what the people at Calvary witnessed when Jesus bore our burden.

The eerie blackness weighed on them. Moaning. Wailing. Screaming. There was no suffering in silence. In that ebony blanket, it was as though hell’s chaos had broken loose on earth.

  • T. W. Hunt commented that it was though God could no longer gaze at His Son when He bore our sin.[3]

And He made it so that others couldn’t either.

  • The darkness lasted from noon to 3 PM.[4]

As the blackness broke, Jesus was near His bitter end. His body marred beyond human recognition. Covered in blood. Gasping for breath. Suffocating from His own fluids. He finally let out a cry … and died.

  • This was Black Friday.

It was the day we now call Good Friday. And, for the Christian, every day that follows is one of thanksgiving when we come to realize it for what it is.

Have you ever thanked the Lord when you’ve faced such dark days?

[1] Matthew 22:13; 25:30.

[2] Jonah 2:2.

[3] T. W. Hunt, “The Mind of Christ: The Crucifixion,” (Nashville: Lifeway, 1994).

[4] Matthew 27:45.

*(Small web movie produced by Andy Stubbert, courtesy of iStockphoto)