The Darkest Hours in History: Mark 15:33-39

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During the past couple of podcast episodes, we have been looking at how Mark describes the time Jesus spent on the cross. For this episode, we will conclude looking at what Mark tells us happened during the hours Jesus spent on the cross, and discover what we can learn during the last portion of this event.

Our passage for this episode is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and for this episode, we will read from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 33, Mark tells us that:

33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

35 When some of the people standing there heard him say that, they said, “Listen! He’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar. Then he put it on a stick and offered Jesus a drink. The man said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

37 Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died. 38 The curtain in the temple was split in two from top to bottom.

39 When the officer who stood facing Jesus saw how he gave up his spirit, he said, “Certainly, this man was the Son of God!”

Without any question in my mind, the moment Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died is the darkest point in the entire Bible. For three hours, darkness covered not only the entire region but specifically Jesus on the cross. I wonder if this darkness was caused by supernatural forces, if there was some type of eclipse that blocked out the sun, or if this happened because of a thick cloud cover. It was as though the last three hours of Jesus’ life were aimed at prompting Jesus to feel like He was all alone.

Mark doesn’t describe anything that happened during these three hours, and I wonder if nothing noteworthy happened, perhaps except for Satan trying to mock and taunt Jesus that His death was for nothing and that His sacrifice would not be accepted by God.

Whether the darkness ended immediately after Jesus gave His last breath, or whether the darkness ended at the point Jesus cried out about feeling like God had abandoned Him, the last hours leading up to Jesus’ death gave Jesus time to reflect on His sacrifice. These three hours likely felt like an eternity, but it was an eternity where Jesus was able to reflect and resolve that His death would open the way for our salvation.

In my mind, it is significant to pay attention to what Jesus cries out here in Mark’s gospel. After three hours of darkness, Jesus cries out in verse 34 saying, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

This cry of Jesus is a cry we all may be tempted to believe when we go through dark points in our lives. In our lives, we all will have times when things go our way and when life is looking up, and we will all have times when it seems like everything is going wrong. It is tempting to think God is with us in the good times and that He has abandoned us in the bad times, but if we choose to believe this, we may be believing a lie Satan wants to trick us with.

I have no idea whether the darkness during the last hours of Jesus’ time on the cross was caused naturally or supernaturally. I don’t know whether it was something symbolizing God turning His face away from Jesus or whether it was a move by Satan to try to break His spirit.

However, I believe that regardless of the source of the darkness, and regardless of Jesus’ cry out to God about feeling abandoned, I have no doubt in my mind that God was 100% focused on this moment in history. Even though Jesus felt like God had left Him, I don’t believe for a moment that God turned His back on Jesus’ sacrifice.

One of the most famous verses in the Bible tells us that God loves humanity to the point that He sent His Son to face death for us. Jesus took the punishment we deserved onto Himself because God loves us that much. God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice because Jesus returned to life the following Sunday morning. The weekend of the cross was what the entire Godhead had been directing history towards.

However, with God’s focus present on this moment, I don’t believe God felt joy during this moment. Instead, in ways that would be hard for us to imagine, I believe God felt pain during the hours Jesus hung on the cross. Regardless of whether a skeptic could rationalize God’s perspective and say that He knew Jesus would be alive days later, God knows what it is like to watch someone you love die. God understands one of the greatest pains we can experience in our human lives.

In this event, we discover that Satan wanted Jesus to feel as though He was alone, and in this regard, it is possible that he succeeded. However, Satan wasn’t strong enough to convince Jesus that His cries to His Father would not be heard.

This means that for us living today, Satan can try to trick us into believing that we are all alone and that God is uninterested in our lives. Satan can try to trick us into believing that our prayers fall on deaf ears, or no ears at all. However, Satan is powerless to stop our prayers from being heard by the Father, and Satan is powerless to stop the Father from being passionately in love with us!

The best Satan can hope for is tricking us into not praying and seeking God, because he knows that if we turn to God, God is more than willing to help us in our time of need.

When Jesus gave up His Spirit, the curtain in the temple ripped in two from top to bottom. This spiritual and significant act opened the way for sinners to come before God directly and ask for forgiveness, ask for help, and ask God for answers to our prayers and requests. Jesus’ death makes coming to God possible, and Jesus’ death bridges the gap sin had created between humanity and God.

Everything worth anything in life hinges on Jesus’ death, and because Jesus died on the cross, we are able to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus that extends into eternity!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life. Resolve today to never let Satan trick you out of praying and seeking God. Satan’s best chance is tricking you into thinking that God doesn’t care about you and letting your mind resolve to give up on God. This is because Satan knows that God is unwilling to give up on us. Jesus came to prove to us that God loves us with all His heart and that He wants us together forever with Him in heaven!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and fall in love with the God who gave Himself for you and me. Through the pages of the Bible, discover just how much God loves you and what He was willing to give up in order to redeem you and I for eternity.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him – even when Satan tries to convince us we are living alone and God has forgotten. God never forgot Jesus, and He will never forget you!

Year in Mark – Episode 46: During the last hours Jesus hung on the cross, Mark describes a darkness covering the land. Discover some things we can learn from this event and how even when things seem dark and hopeless, that God will never leave us or abandon us.

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