It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46 NASB)
One of places all of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion seem to agree is the timing. Except for John, who leaves the timing out completely, all the Gospel accounts seem to agree on the timing based on the darkness that covered the earth. From the sixth hour until the ninth, darkness fell over the earth. Only Luke, of the three, attributes this darkness to an eclipse. He actually uses the technical term for it of his day.
A solar eclipse occurred as Jesus hung bleeding on the cross. There have been many things written on the significance of this. The position I have taken has been that Jesus had to suffer death in the form of separation from God as the penalty for sin for all mankind. But I have also believed that this happened when He breathed His last, and lasted for the three days He was in the tomb. Now, I’m not so sure about that timing.
What does the darkness mean? Considering that the Creator of the universe set that date and time in place as He created the universe, as it was marked by an eclipse, the timing must be important. Jesus lives through it, and breathes His last on the other side. Or does He? Luke says that the veil of the temple was torn, then Jesus cries out, committing His Spirit to the Father, then dies. The other Gospels include only one other detail, Jesus asking why He has been forsaken. Other than that, they agree, which presents an interesting option for timing.
It’s possible that Jesus breathes His last, and then the eclipse concludes, revealing the sun once more. Consider the dramatic conclusion to this life, that, as He breathes out, the sun slides from behind the moon to illuminate his Creator’s body suspended in death upon a cross. Why the sun now of all times? Why not the darkness from that point? But the image translates what was considered a defeat into the illumination of a victory. Jesus says Himself, “It is finished.” And so the sun can, once more, reappear to reveal the body of his Creator. Only now, that body is all that’s left…for now.
So, while Jesus hung for those three hours of darkness, what was happening? At the end of them, Jesus cries out asking why He has been forsaken, and the temple veil is torn from top to bottom. He commits His Spirit into the hands of the Father, and dies. Although, I believe that, even though He breathed His last at the ninth hour, Jesus dies at the sixth.
What is the penalty of sin? According to Romans 6:23, sin earns death. According to Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities have caused a separation between us and God, and He hides His face from us, and does not hear. In the Garden, God tells Adam that the very day he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will certainly die. Yet, the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, and have children. Did the “wages” change? It could be important that the banishment from the Garden is the last recorded communication between Adam and God.
The impression left from this cursory examination of sin may redefine death. Jesus, in order to pay this penalty for sin, would need to suffer that separation from God. God would have to hide His face and not hear Jesus. And this would be in keeping with God’s definition of death. The problem of Jesus’ deity aside, the payment remains the same. Just as the Trinity, the triune nature of God, is inexplicable, so too would be how Jesus could pay this debt. Regardless of how, He did. And so, I believe He did so, and as He does so, the sun is hidden behind the moon.
I believe Jesus dies in the sixth hour, is separated from the Father for three hours, and then breathes His last. And is then joined by the criminal in paradise? So it would seem. Wouldn’t it be supremely ironic if, as Jesus breathes His last, He lives again? The sun reappears. For those at the cross who witness Jesus’ last breath, it’s over, and He dies. But for the Father, that isn’t necessarily so. The reunion of Spirit and body hasn’t happened yet, but does Jesus’ connection with the Father resume when He breathes His last and the sun reappears? Or is the sun’s reemergence a promise of the hope to be revealed in three days? Does the Father foreshadow Sunday on Friday? I’m not sure. But that day Jesus stands with a redeemed criminal in paradise.
What’s your view of Jesus through your knothole?