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Text Sermons : ~Other Speakers M-R : Old Paths Magazine - Issue 16 : The Darkeness of Golgotha by G. Campbell Morgan

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Christ And The Cross

THERE'S ALWAYS THE danger that we might read this verse too quickly. We treat it too often as though it were merely the record of something incidental. As a matter of fact, it is the central verse in the story of the cross. Indeed, the cross itself is not mentioned in the verse-no word is spoken of it or of the Christ. They are alike hidden, and yet the period was one of three hours' duration, the very central hours of the experience of the Savior of men. Christ and the cross are alike hidden within that verse, and that fact is most suggestive because in those hours transactions were accomplished that through all eternity defy the apprehension and explanation of finite minds.

It is not to be passed over lightly that all the Synoptists record the fact of that darkness. Three hours of darkness and of silence! All the ribald clamor was over, the material opposition utterly exhausted, the turmoil ended. Man had done his last and his worst. Beyond that period of the three hours' silence, even human actions were expressive of pity. Nothing has impressed my own heart, or amazed me more in reading this story anew, and attempting to meditate upon it in view of this service, than what I shall venture to describe as the wonderful psychological conditions of those hours beyond the hours of silence.

That Appalling Silence

It is as though that appalling silence and that overwhelming darkness had changed the entire attitude of man to the Savior. The very vinegar they offered Him to drink was offered Him in pity. What they said about Elijah was expressive of their desire to sympathize. The centurion's testimony was that of a man whose heart was strangely moved toward the august and dignified Savior. When presently they found Him dead, and therefore did not break His bones, the spear thrust was one of kindness, lest perchance He might still suffer, in spite of the fact that He appeared to be dead. Multitudes dispersed from the scene at Golgotha smiting their breasts, overwhelmed with a sense of awe, and strangely moved by some new pity. And there is no picture in all the New Testament more full of pathos and of power than that of the women standing silent and amazed through all those hours of His suffering, and still standing there beyond them.

Then also all of the cries that passed the lips of Jesus beyond the darkness were significant. "My God! My God, why didst Thou forsake Me!"—Matthew 27:46—for that was the tense; a slight change from the tense of the actual Psalm, a question asked by One who was emerging from the experience to which He referred. And then as John is most careful to record for us , "Knowing that all things were now finished, He said, I thirst"—John 19:28. Beyond that came the words of the great proclamation, "It is finished"—John 19:30. And as last the words of the final committal, full of dignity, were spoken: "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit"—Luke 23:46. Everything was changed beyond the hours of silence and of darkness.

Thou Didst Forsake Me

Much has been written about these hours of darkness, much which is not warranted by any careful spiritual attention to the story itself. You will call to mind how, at great length many years ago, it was argued that the darkness was that of the sun's eclipse. But that is entirely impossible, for Passover was always held at full moon, when there could be no eclipse of the sun. The darkness has been described as nature's sympathy with the suffering of the Lord, but that is a pagan conception of nature, a conception of nature as having some consciousness apart from God and out of harmony with His work. It has been said that the darkness was brought about by an act of God, and was expressive of His sympathy with His Son. I admit that that is an appealing idea, and has some element of truth in it, in that we may discover the overruling of His government; but to declare that that darkness was caused by God because of His sympathy with His Son is to deny the cry of Jesus which immediately followed the darkness and referred to it. The darkness was to Him a period when He experienced whatever He may have meant by the words, "Thou didst forsake Me"—Matthew 27:46. If I have succeeded in these words spoken in reverent spirit, in suggesting to you the difficulty of those central three hours, then our hearts are prepared for going forward.

I submit thoughtfully that no interpretation of that darkness is to be trusted save that of the Lord who experienced it. Has He flung any light on the darkness which will enable us to apprehend the meaning of the darkness? Did any word escape His lips that will help us to explain those silent hours? I think the answer is to be found in these narratives, and to that teaching of the Lord we appeal in order that we may consider the meaning of the darkness, and the passing of the darkness, and thereafter attempt reverently to look back at the transaction in the darkness.

The Meaning of the Darkness

What was this darkness? How was it caused? What did it really mean? That this question is of importance is proved by that to which I have already drawn your attention, the fact that Matthew, Mark, and Luke alike carefully record that it took place at this very time. The reference is made by each of them in detail. It was something to be noted, something to be remembered, something that made its impression alike on the evangelist who saw the King, the evangelist who saw the Servant, and the evangelist who saw the Perfect Man. We cannot pass it over as though it were merely incidental, and consequently we shall attempt to discover its meaning in the light of what our Lord Himself said before He passed into the darkness.

Luke records for us a fact not mentioned by either of the other evangelists, that in Gethsemane Jesus said to the man who came to arrest Him, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness"—Luke 22:53. That was a most suggestive word, spoken as I have reminded you, in Gethsemane before He passed from the garden to and through those trial scenes with which you are familiar. After the High Priest cast the incense on the fire and just as He was leaving the garden, Jesus spoke to the men about Him, " This is your hour, and the power of darkness." This is your hour! I go back to this phrase again, not to tarry at length with it, but to ask you most carefully to ponder it.

An Hour That Is Coming

At the beginning of our Lord's public ministry, He referred to an hour which was not yet, to an hour which was postponed. During the course of His ministry, you will find that the evangelists more than once allude to the same hour, and to that hour, whatever it might have been, as to a postponed hour. Men attempted to arrest Him, but they could not because His hour was not yet come. Men desired to encompass His death, and wrought with all their strength, all their wit so to do; but they were unable, because His hour had not yet come. And not always by the use of that particular phrase, but over and over again our Lord was looking forward toward some consummating, culminating hour which no man could hurry, and which no man could postpone, but which He did perpetually postpone until in the economy of God its set time should have come.

Why could He not save Himself? My question descends to the level of common, everyday human experience and capacity at its highest and its best. He might have saved Himself. He might never have gone to Gethsemane's garden. He might even in Gethsemane's garden have asked for twelve legions of angels, as He Himself did say. He might with one glance of His shining glory have swept the rabble from about the cross and descended to the deliverance of Himself. If He had spoken in terms of power He might have saved Himself. Why, then, was it that He could not save Himself? Because He is God, and because God is love, and love is never satisfied with the destruction of a sinner, but with the saving of a sinner. Love never finds its rest with holiness and righteousness vindicated by the annihilation of the things that oppose. Love will find its rest only when those who have been swept from righteousness and holiness are restored thereto and are remade in the image of the Father, God. That is why.
Yes, but once more. If that be true, then on the ground of the mystery of the compulsion of the ineffable love of God in Christ, could love find no other way? Love could find no other way because sin knows no ending save by that way. The conscience of men demands that, the experience of men demands that. I base the twofold affirmation on the testimonies of the centuries and the millenniums. I base the affirmation on what I know within my own soul of sin.

God Cannot Forgive?

Someone may say to me, "Cannot God forgive out of pure love?" I shall answer, "If He can, I cannot." If He could forgive me for the wrongs of which I am conscious, and that have left behind them their stain and pollution-if He could forgive me by simply saying, Never mind them, then I cannot so forgive myself. My conscience cries for a cleansing that is more than a sentiment of pity. Somehow, somewhere, in order that I may have forgiveness, there must be tragedy, something mightier than the devilish sin. I do not know what happened in the darkness, but this I know, that as I have come to the cross and received the suggestions of its material unveiling, I have found my heart, my spirit, my life brought into a realm of healing spices, to the consciousness of the forgiveness of sins. And there is no other way and there is no other gospel of forgiveness. In the darkness He saved not Himself, but He saved me. He declined to move toward His own deliverance in order that He might loose me from my sin. Out of the darkness has come a light. The word spoken to Cyrus long ago has been fulfilled in the spiritual glory to the Son of God, "I will give thee the treasures of darkness"—Isaiah 45:3.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land, and from the darkness have come the treasures of pardon, and peace, of power, and of purity.
?G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) - A mightily used man of God in England. Was one of the most influential bible expositors in his day. His works are still widely read today by Christians.

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