There Was Darkness Over All the Land

(Special Eclipse Day Devotion)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

Struggling to climb the slow ascent to the top of the hill, Jesus was led out as a Lamb to be slaughtered. To add an extra bit of derision to an already humiliating experience, they placed Him under the weight of His cross. Knowing full well He had no strength left to carry it, the Roman soldiers must have jeered and sneered as again and again He fell under His burden. Forward. Forward. Always forward. Resolved to finish what He started, not even His own exhaustion would keep Him from the top of the Place of the Skull.

For their part, the soldiers and on-lookers were confident they were witnessing the demise of a faithless, run-of-the-mill felon. They were doing their duty to God and to king. One more offender off the streets. Certain no innocent man would be subject to such indulgent castigation, the witnesses watched as a cruel system carried out its justice. Every official and expert in town decreed His guilt; you’d have to be a fool to decry their collective judgment. So no one did.

Finally reaching the top of Golgotha, the soldiers finished their brutal work, one nail at a time. Tearing through flesh and tendons, Jesus was secured to His cross by those nails. Hoisting Him high for all to hail, Jesus was left for dead as the spectators enjoyed the show. Nothing left to do that Friday afternoon but wait. Jokes were made, belongings were doled out, and justice was served.

Then the sun went dark. Blacked out as if a divine pronouncement upon the evil transacted. Do you suppose an ounce of doubt may have found its way to the mind of the self-assured elites? Fear and trembling to the “innocent” bystanders. Certainly they questioned and second-guessed themselves, right? But what could they do? They’d already beaten Him so severely; He’d soon die anyways. He was already burrowed in all tight and snug to the cross. The cocksure chief priests, teachers of the law, Pharisees, Sadducees, and whoever else was around that day couldn’t admit their treachery. They simply couldn’t undo what they had done.

So darkness fell over the land for about three hours. Darkness, the only place where evil such as this could be executed. Darkness, like the place our sins always prefer. Darkness, tucked away and safely out of sight. Darkness, like the angry hearts of stone that watched.

Darkness that focused their eyes on the Savior. Darkness that taught truth.

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Darkness threatens to overtake our world and all its inhabitants today, but the Man on that cross won’t allow it. He will not allow the darkness that reigned in the land that day to reign in your life. Jesus brings light and life. Out of the blotted sun darkness of that afternoon, the Light of the World shines brightly for those with eyes of faith to see! Upon His cross, in His death, out of the darkness from the world around Him, salvation shines through in full brightness.

Lord Jesus, as we enjoy a spectacle of astronomical proportions today with the darkening of the sun, let your Light shine all the brighter in our world . . . in our lives. Amen.

What We’ve Earned

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

I have taught a “basics in the Christian faith” class several times a year for the past ten years. We meet together weekly over the course of six weeks for about an hour. Romans 6:23 has become the theme verse for what we do together. In this passage, Paul says it all! He tells us what we’ve earned. He tells us what Jesus has mercifully given. He tells us the whole story in a handful of words. He does this by clarifying God’s two words: Law and Gospel.

In lesson one, we explore how we know there is a God and what we know about God based on what He’s revealed of Himself. We then spend a heavy amount of time discussing what expectations the Lord has for us. It goes something like this. Almighty God has created each of us to be His human creatures. As such, He has a number of expectations for how we will act toward Him and one another. These expectations are written into the fabric of who we are as human beings. When we live up to these expectations, we are doing nothing more or less than being human. When we don’t live up to His requirements, we are proving to be something less than human, namely “broken humans”.

To determine whether or not you are fully human, I’d invite you to take this short quiz. Rate yourself (from 0%-100%) based on how well you live up to the expectations of each of the following categories:
1. Parent/Child
2. Spouse
3. Worker
4. Neighbor
5. Christian

If you’re honest, you did not write down five 100%’s here. We may do well in one area, but isn’t it amazing how others fall short. What’s more, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list!

God’s expectation for His human creatures is perfection at all times in all categories. How’s that working out for you? Not well for me!

So what have all my deeds earned me? Paul holds nothing back in his answer: the wages of sin is death. As I turn in my time card to the Lord for all that I’ve done over the course of my life, He hands me the paycheck I’ve duly earned. Stamped in stark crimson, the word that says it all DEATH. My thoughts, words, and deeds have brought about my demise. So have yours.

Thanks be to God, Paul doesn’t leave us hanging here. Rather than leave us with the bad news that death and damnation await us because of our brokenness, we are heralded with the best news that the Lord Himself gifts us instead of death, eternal life through Jesus Christ!

This Good News is for you! The Lord has decided in favor of you. That although you’ve earned death for yourself, He chooses mercy for you. He chooses to love you. Out of His own goodness, He chooses to gift you with His tremendous blessings. The gift of God for you is eternal life through Jesus Christ! You will never hear better news!

Dear Jesus, thank you for the gift of choosing me for eternal life. I am sorry for all my sins and shortcomings. Strengthen me in your love to do better. Keep me in the one true faith. Amen.