During the three hours before Jesus’ death Scripture says that the earth was covered in darkness. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock,” (Matthew 27:45); “By the time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock,” (Luke 23:44). It is unknown how such darkness occurred, but it was clearly caused by God. Nature, itself, seemed to mourn the tragic death of God’s Son.
This event supports Old Testament prophecies that describe the Day of Judgment being evidenced by sudden darkness. “The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the Lord arrives,” (Joel 2:31). The “day of the Lord” is used in this verse as God’s appointed time to judge the nations. Judgment and mercy go hand in hand. The sun will descend at noon, “At that time,” says the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth while it is still day,” (Amos 8:9).
Immediately after Jesus dies there is a scene that interprets both a ceremonial and universal reaction. The Temple curtain is torn in half. Three main parts made up the temple; the courts, the Holy Place (where only the priests could enter), and the Most Holy Place (where only the high priest could enter and only once a year to atone for the sins of the nation, (Leviticus 16:1-35). The curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place and was torn in two at the death of Christ. This symbolized that the barrier between God and humanity had been removed. Now, all people can freely approach God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, (see Hebrews 9:1-14; 10:19-22). There is a clear message here; that the old order of things had been overturned. Before Jesus’ death the curtain in the Temple kept the people separated from the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt. But Jesus’ death offers salvation and redemption to all people without any exception and the Temple is no longer needed.
Accompanying the tearing of the curtain is an earthquake. “At the moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart….” (Matthew 27:51). This event is followed by graves opening up and the resurrection of faithful people from the dead. “The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead after Jesus’ resurrection. They left the cemetery, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.” With such events taking place, there is no way that Jesus’ death on the cross went unnoticed. Everyone present at His crucifixion was aware that something very significant had taken place.
The Roman officer and the soldiers, who were responsible for the crucifixion, were the first to recognize and vindicate that Jesus was who He said He was, God’s Son. “The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’”