Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:45-46
The curtains of heaven closed and the radiance of God hid from the world for a time. And then came Jesus’ words of agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Not that God had actually forsaken His Son; He loved His Son, and He loved and approved of the sacrificial work that Jesus chose on the cross for mankind. No, God did not close the curtains of heaven because He wanted to forsake or abandon His Son. He closed the curtains of heaven because He cannot look upon sin.
Sin and God’s presence do not co-exist, for He is holy. But in mercy He sent His Son, Jesus, to cover the darkness of sin with the radiance of His glory.
Jesus, the Light of the World, came to dispel the darkness, and His work on the cross was as a flashing light alerting mankind to His mercy and grace that would redeem the world. He stepped out of heaven’s radiant light into the dark world of sinful man, making a way through the darkness. Jesus—the Way-maker. Jesus, the Holy One full of light and life.
With Jesus, there is always a way. Even in the darkest of dark, the light of Jesus’ presence envelopes the darkness, illuminating the path toward heaven’s throne.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4-5
God’s plan has always been to cover sin, bring life, and shine forth His glorious presence to us. In the book of Exodus, God, in grace, stooped down toward man, placing His glory in the innermost room of the tabernacle—the Holy of Holies—so His presence could dwell with His people.
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. –Exodus 25:8
But the light of God’s presence was hidden behind the veil, so what light shone forth in the Holy Place where the priest served daily?
The golden candlestick, also known as the menorah, was the only light dispelling the darkness within the Holy Place. Just as the brazen altar, the lavar, and the table of showbread pointed to Jesus, so the golden candlestick symbolizes Christ’s light, leading the way to the throne room where God’s presence dwelled. Nothing else lit the path that led to God’s presence—only Jesus—the Light of the World.
Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12
In darkness, there is fear and frustration. Things are cold and our sight is limited in dark places. We hide things in the dark, and we can’t find things in the dark. But light a candle in a dark place and the room becomes warm. The glow from the burning embers casts out fear and anxiety, and unveils that which was once hidden. Jesus does this for those who believe in Him. He illuminates our hearts, making our paths clear, our sin evident, and eases our fears.
In grace God stooped down toward man and placed His glory in the tabernacle, and in more grace, He placed a picture of Jesus as light there. But grace was heaped upon grace as Jesus—the Light of the World—extended Himself to man by hanging on a cross, once again making a way in the darkness.
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –Matthew 27:46
With the weight of the world on His shoulders, a crown of thorns on His head, and nails staked into His hands, His Father—His God—turned away. Not in wrath, but in sorrow as God saw His beautiful Son once again bringing light into darkness.
As Jesus hung high on the cross, He became the menorah. Though the sky faded black as night, Jesus lit the world, guiding all who would come to Him to the Most Holy Place—that is heaven—where the very presence of God dwells. In these magnificent moments of grace, the light of Christ was the only light in the world. And He, once and for all, dispelled the darkness.
Do you think Jesus thought of the words of the Prophet Isaiah as He hung on the cross?…
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone. …
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:2,6
But what of us? What do we hear, what do we feel, what do we see in these last words of Christ: “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”
I pray that each of us hears these sweet words from Jesus as we picture that dark moment, when His slaughtered soul shouted forth words of sorrow to His Father. I pray that as we imagine His agony, we are convinced of our need to share His gift of grace with our lost and dying world.
Jesus said this to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, and He says this to us today…
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16
During this season of Lent, let us remember to be that light. Let us remember to allow the radiance of Jesus’ glory to shine forth through us and illuminate our dark world.
Mediate on Psalm 22 today in your prayer time. Focus on the sorrow of your loving Savior, and the magnificent gift of grace He gave you on the cross.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, thank You for dispelling the darkness with Your glorious light. Forgive me for dimming Your light that is within me with sin and unrighteousness. Cause Your light to shine bright in me. Help me to be light in this dark world. Help me shine before others, so that they may see my good works and give glory to You, Lord. Amen.