The Earth at the Cross: Darkness

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, allowing the weight upon Himself of every curse and sin we had, the whole earth wept… 

It says in Luke 19 that should the people of the earth keep silent in proclaiming who Jesus is, that the very stones will cry out. Further, many scriptures speak of the sun, moon, stars, mountains, seas, and all the earth praising the Lord.

So, it is no wonder then that when Jesus hung on the cross, the whole earth wept. Man may have been blinded by the lies of the enemy and the greed of their own hearts, but the earth and Heaven were not. Everything, from rocks to man, to one degree or another—even those who were determined to disbelieve—felt the effects… 

Unexplainable darkness, the tearing of the veil in the Temple, a rock-splitting earthquake, and the raising of saints from the dead… 

These four phenomena surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection are described not only in the Word, but are also found in accounts of the historical sources of the time. Ranging from the accounts of Pilate (who at the insistence of seemingly all the people of Jerusalem, sentenced Jesus—albeit reluctantly—to death on the cross), to the account of Caiaphas—Joseph ben Caiaphas—the Jewish High Priest who put Jesus before Pilate, only later to question that decision. And others…

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.” [(Julius Africanus, Extant Writings, XVIII in the Anti-Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, 130) (Written in 221 AD but quoting, Thallus, a historian who wrote this in 52 AD.)]

In all these accounts we find the glory and majesty of God, the wondrous miracles and teachings of Jesus, and of course, the signs that came during the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Sign of Darkness:

Pilate wrote that after the crucifixion of Jesus, those who had been hungry for His blood walked away from Calvary in almost sorrow or shame. As though the insanity that had been upon them had passed away and their souls knew the sorrow that their minds could not—that they had been instruments in the death of Jesus, the Son of God.

Yet, before that moment, before Jesus died on the cross, the sky grew dark. 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give accounts of this unexplainable darkness that lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour—noon to three. 

This phenomenon of darkness is further found in an historical account of Pilate and is perhaps also shown in the vision his wife told him beforehand…

Pilate had taken a wife for himself from among the Gauls, and while he did not believe in her ability to foresee the future, he surprisingly included in his correspondence to Rome the vision she told him as he was being forced to lay sentence on Jesus. She said to him, “Beware, beware, and touch not that man; for he is holy. Last night I saw him in a vision. He was walking on the waters; he was flying on the wings of the wind. He spoke to the tempest and to the fishes of the lake; all were obedient to him. Behold, the torrent in Mount Kedron flows with blood, the statues of Caesar are filled with gemonide; the columns of the interium have given away, and the sun is veiled in mourning like a vestal in the tomb. Ah! Pilate, evil awaits thee. If thou wilt not listen to the vows of thy wife, dread the curse of a Roman Senate; the frowns of Caesar.” (THE ARCHKO VOLUME; Or, The Archeological Writings of the Sanhedrim and Talmuds of the Jews)

Her vision did come to pass. Not only was Pilate questioned by the Emperor of Rome after the death and resurrection of Jesus, due to the stir His crucifixion and resurrection caused, but in this same historical account, he states that from almost the hour Jesus was sentenced until the time He gave up His Spirit, the whole sky darkened. Further, Pilate claimed that dark clouds lowered over the pinnacle of the Temple.

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Continuing in this same account, Pilate was a man seemingly half-filled with belief and half with a flesh-filled logic of reason. He gave record of his encounters with Jesus. First, seeing him from a distance—thinking him to have a sweet, serene countenance. Second, calling Jesus to come to him as the reports and stirrings of malcontent in the wealthy population made him fear for Jesus’ life—trying to convince Him that He should speak more lightly of the rich so that they would not come down upon Him. Pilate, somewhat overcome by Jesus, His words, His wisdom, to the point that he could barely speak or move, save to bid Jesus to use caution. Then finally, on the day of Jesus’ trial, when Jesus, the only calm individual present, would not utter His defense—as foretold by the prophets—Pilate was amazed by Him, not desiring to see Jesus crucified…

In fact, according to his own account, Pilate gave the people all of the reasons why Jesus should not be crucified: from Jesus’ ‘crimes’ not being of a kind to warrant death by Roman law, to his pointing out to the people everything their own laws required, and how killing Jesus would be in opposition to those laws. He even tried to have Jesus merely flogged in an effort to spare His life, but the crowd would not have it. 

Finally, Pilate claimed that, due to his not having a sufficient number of men to stave off the thousands who were ready to riot if Jesus was not handed over to them for death, he washed his hands symbolically to show he did not find reason for Jesus’ death. 

And, as recorded in Matthew, Pilate said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see it.” To which they replied, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (see Matthew 27:24-25)

With that proclamation of the crowd, Jesus was handed over, and as Pilate said in his letter to the Emperor, the sky began to darken by degrees though the day had not long begun. The first sign of Heaven and earth that the Son of the Living God was suffering.

Within his account, Pilate quoted Dionysius the Aeropagite’s view of everything that occurred before and at Jesus’ death: “Either the author of nature is suffering or the universe is falling apart.” (THE ARCHKO VOLUME; Or, The Archeological Writings of the Sanhedrim and Talmuds of the Jews)


We see in the Word and in other historical sources from the time, four extraordinary things that occurred around and during Jesus’ crucifixion. 

  • First, darkness fell, though the day was new. 
  • Second, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple—where the Ark of the Covenant had rested, causing the veil to ebb and flow in God’s breath until the moment Jesus gave up His Spirit—was torn in two. 
  • Third, the earth quaked, and rocks were split. 
  • Fourth, tombs were opened and many of the saints were raised from the dead.

All of these events are found to varying degrees in both the Word and in other historical records, making even the most cynical—such as Caiaphas (who had been the first instrument of Jesus’ death, sending Jesus to Pilate)—to question whether Jesus was the Son of God or not. And those who still did not believe Him to be the Son of God, to question whether or not He was a holy man along the lines of Moses—sent by God Himself.

Thus, in this first phenomenon relating to Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection, we find the beginning of the earth’s travail and weeping for the one true Messiah—the Son of God—and none could explain it.

“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’”—Matthew 27:45-46