Now Satan wanted to get Jesus on the cross ASAP, and he didn’t waste time. He entered in Judas (Luke 22:3), who conspired with the chief priests to determine the best time and place to arrest Jesus. He was arrested and tried during the night behind closed doors, which was illegal according to Jewish law, and brought in front of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, the next day.
[Discussion: Why do you think the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to the Roman Governor instead of killing him themselves to get it done quickly?]
The pretext for bringing Jesus to the Roman governor was he had the authority to hand out death penalties. However, elsewhere we do see the Jews taking justice into their hands. Thus it seems that the Jewish authorities wanted to have the Romans do their dirty work.
Pontius Pilate saw through the Jews’ plans, realized they were jealous of Jesus (Matt. 27:18), and so he tried to get him released (Luke 23:14). However, the Jewish leaders incited the crowd witnessing this event (Matt. 27:20) and Pilate, seeing he might have a riot on his hands (Matt. 27:24), yielded to the crowd’s wishes, but not before saying (Matt. 27:24-25):
“I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Indeed, the blood of Jesus was on the Jews and their children. It’s not a coincidence a few decades after Jesus’s crucifixion, after enough time passed for Gospel spread throughout the Roman empire, Emperor Titus wiped Israel off the map. More than 500, 000 Jews were said to have been killed or taken as slaves while a remnant escaped to places such as Europe. God did not take the crucifixion of his son lightly and brought judgment upon the nation.
Jesus, the perfect sacrificial lamb, was sentenced to crucifixion and “coincidentally” that week Passover lambs were being sacrificed. Did the Jews and Satan realize the irony or divine providence in this? Regardless, Satan pressed forward with his assault.
With Pilate’s having yielded to the crowd’s wishes and Jesus being sentenced to crucifixion, the final battle between Satan and Jesus commenced. Before, Satan attacked Jesus with temptation (Mt. 4), but Jesus stood strong against the one that he called “the ruler of this world”. Now, Satan rallied again with a furious onslaught to gain by terrors of the cross what he did not by allurement.
[Discussion: What do you think would have happened if Satan would have been successful against Jesus?]
If at any point Jesus would have said stop, the battle would have been over, humanity would have been doomed, Satan would have continued to be the “ruler of this world,” and death would have reigned forever. There would have been no redeemer.
So, what happened when Satan unleashed his full fury and power against Jesus? Exactly what Jesus had predicted would happen. During his final Passover meal, before his arrest, Jesus remarked:
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. (John 14:30-31)
Jesus knew who was coming for him. It wasn’t Judas, the chief priests, nor the Romans. It was the ruler of this world, Satan.
However, Satan would find no claim on Jesus, no sin nor point of entry to get him to sin. Not only didn’t Jesus fall to Satan’s attacks but also during it all he demonstrated his compassion towards the humans who were crucifying him. He prayed for their forgiveness and extended salvation to the criminal next to him. So, game over, right? Victory for Jesus? No, the worst was yet to come
Now, we come to the second question from our introduction. Why was it dark for the final three hours while Christ was on the cross? After Jesus extended salvation to the criminal on the cross next to his, we read this in Luke 23:44–45:
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
[Discussion: Why do you think darkness came upon the whole land? What was going on?
We are accustomed to thinking of God as light, but do you remember any instances in the Bible where darkness is associated with God?]
Recalling 2 Sam. 22:10, “He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.”
When God made a covenant with Abraham we read in Gen. 15:12, “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram…”
When God made the Mosaic covenant at Mount Sinai we see in Deut. 4:11, “And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. Then the LORD spoke to you… Deut. 5:23, And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness.”
In all cases, God chose to manifest in darkness.
This is not to say darkness is required to ratify a covenant. There was none mentioned when God ratified the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9. However, in two important Old Testament events, when God was sealing two eternally important covenants, he was present in darkness.
Why specifically in darkness? Maybe if he would have manifested himself as light, it would have been too much to bear. This is just a guess though; we do not know. We know that during the crucifixion of Jesus there was darkness on the whole land when the sun’s light failed and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
If God, the Father, was present in darkness during crucifixion, what was he doing? Isaiah 53:10 says, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” This was not just permission to let the Romans and Satan kill Jesus; God was actually pleased to crush him.
In Matt. 26:31, after the last supper and before his arrest, Jesus predicted to his disciples, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
Text doesn’t say they will strike the shepherd, but “I” will strike the shepherd. God is doing the striking.
Imagine the scene of Jesus’s crucifixion in your mind. First, Jesus endured the horrible physical suffering and everything Satan could unleash upon him. There he was with his feet and hands nailed by huge spikes to a wooden cross, with pieces of flesh likely missing from his back due to the earlier scourging. Suddenly, darkness so intense it overpowered sunlight.
God, the Father, was at the cross. The text said the sun’s light failed. This is the only time in the Bible where darkness overcomes light.
It’s possible that Satan and his forces saw God the Father approach the cross, where God the Son was. If so, they were likely totally confused about what was going on. They might have been thinking that they were in a whole lot of trouble now! With their human accomplices they had just been attacking God’s son. Now the Father was there and he wasn’t happy, in fact he was full of wrath!
If Satan had a time to attack Jesus (“This is your hour, and the power of darkness”), it ended. Jesus had endured indescribable horrors up to this point of his crucifixion. The movies always make a big deal about the physical suffering he endured, but, as mentioned by many commentators, Satan may have been unleashing a more devastating spiritual attack behind the scenes. Regardless, everything to then was nothing compared to what happened next.
About 2,000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God stopped Abraham from doing it and provided a substitute animal sacrifice. This was only a symbol of what was to come. Abraham’s son wasn’t the redeemer—God’s son was.
On the cross this came to be. God, the Father, started striking God, the Son. I can imagine Satan and his minions having been in utter disbelief. What in the world was going on? This didn’t make any sense! But it did. Jesus absorbed the wrath of God that we deserve.
The ultimate sacrifice that the Old Testament spotless lambs were pointing toward was now being sacrificed. Jesus had lived a perfect sinless life for this moment. Unlike anyone else, he had qualified to become our redeemer.
On the cross, the perfect sinless life of Jesus was being credited to every person, past, present, and future, who would believe in him. Likewise, Jesus was experiencing hell on earth as he was absorbing and suffering the equivalent of every believer’s eternal punishment. This may seem cruel.
What father would strike his son with unimaginable torture and horror? What we must remember is that the Son, Jesus, volunteered, and God, the Father, selflessly gave his beloved son for this mission. This is the only chance we have to avoid suffering the punishment for ours sins in Hell.
Furthermore, God made it clear Jesus’s sacrifice was satisfactory. He raised him up from the dead, after which he appeared to hundreds of eye witnesses during 40 days, until he was taken to heaven, in front of their eyes, where he rules on the right hand of God, the Father. Within three centuries, the Roman Empire changed from persecuting Christians to having Christianity as its official religion. Unlike many religions, Christianity transformed the empire not by force but from within, through their lives.
When the unbelievers looked at Christians, they saw transformed lives. This is what Easter is about. It’s a story about a savior who was prophesied in the first chapters of the Bible.
It’s about a perfect, sinless, sacrificial lamb to whom the Old Testament’s sacrificial system was pointing. It’s about Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, who is offering you the great exchange: his perfect life credited to you, and all your past, present, and future sins suffered for by him on the cross. He asks you to come as you are, with nothing to offer him, with all your brokenness and sinfulness. Yet, he asks you for everything should you choose to accept him as your lord and Savior—your life dedicated to him. Yet, he will also power you with the Holy Spirit, that will transform your life. “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”—2. Cor. 5:17.
 They tried to catch Jesus to stone him (John 8:59), and later they stoned Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). In both cases, there was no concern of involving the Romans.
 See Matthew Henry’s commentary on John 14:30.
 Harris, Greg, The Darkness and the Glory (The Glory Series, Book 2) (Kindle Location 1049).
 Reformation Study Bible, Pillar New Testament Commentary, Henry, Matthew, on Luke 23:46.
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