Plagues, Passover, and the Cross of Christ

darkness at the cross of jesusJesus didn’t die on just any week of the year. He died on Passover, a festival recalling the book of Exodus when it was first instituted. Passover, and the slaying of a spotless lamb, remembered when God’s judgment passed over those whose homes were covered with blood on the doorposts and lintel. God had raised up a deliverer, Moses, who would lead the captives free through a mighty exodus.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals around 9 a.m. on Friday (Mark 15:25), and for three hours the scene resembled the hundreds of crucifixions that the Romans were used to performing. But around noon, darkness covered the whole land for three hours, ending at approximately 3 p.m. (Matt. 27:45).

Given the context of Passover, the covering of the land with darkness probably evokes the ninth plague in Exodus. In Exodus 10:21, God told Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” And the darkness was all over the land of Egypt for three days (10:22).

From noon to 3 p.m. on the day of Jesus’ death, darkness covered another land entirely for a span of time numbered with “three”–this time, though, for three hours, not three days. Such pervasive darkness denotes something supernatural, the judgment of God. As one preacher said, by God’s power it looked like midnight at midday.

At approximately 3 p.m., God’s Son died on the cross (Matt. 27:46, 50). Since the darkness during Passover already recalled the ninth plague, perhaps the subsequent death of Jesus recalled the tenth in Exodus 12. In Exodus 12:29, God struck down “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . .” And on the cross, God struck down his own Son. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was not spared. He himself would be the sacrifice whose blood would cover others.

The scene at Golgotha not only portrayed Jesus as the spotless and slain Lamb, it described events of darkness and death that, in the context of Passover, recalled the ninth and tenth plagues in Exodus. The story in the Four Gospels is that God had once again raised up a deliverer, this time one who would lead the captives free from sin and Satan. The Messiah’s victory would surpass any Old Testament conquest.

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