If you didn’t buy special glasses, you may have watched the total solar eclipse like I did.
Busloads of people went to various spots in Nebraska to see the natural occurrence of the moon slipping in front of the sun, casting a shadow on earth.
It was cool. The dark sphere of the moon appeared to have a halo and at some points even looked like a big diamond ring in the sky.
Nebraska was one of 14 states to be in the thin path of totality. The eclipse was set to happen at about 1:02 p.m. central time.
You could hear people booing when clouds drifted in front of the sun and moon and then cheering and clapping when they could see the spheres again.
For a while, the sun looked crescent-shaped before the moon was perfectly aligned with it – then you saw the bright corona around the dark circle.
Spectators in their protective eyewear described the sight as incredible, magical and priceless. One young woman said she cried. A man said he got goosebumps.
It was a much different reaction than what ancient people probably had centuries ago. For them, such an event could be explained only by superstition.
I thought about the eclipse and something I read in a Bible study by speaker and author Priscilla Shirer.
One of the stars of the “War Room” movie, Priscilla also wrote a study called “Jonah — Navigating a Life Interrupted.”
Jonah was a prophet, who ran away from God’s orders to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, and ended up inside the belly of a great fish.
The prophet repented, was expelled from the fish, and then did what God told him to do — warn the Ninevites to make a big change before it was too late.
And the Ninevites hurriedly did.
In her study, Priscilla added thoughts on what might have helped prompt the Ninevites’ quick repentance, namely two previous plagues and — you guessed it — an eclipse of the sun.
I can see where they would have repented.
Can you imagine how scary an eclipse might have been to ancient people who didn’t have our modern-day science and technology? They probably thought they’d done something wrong and their angry gods were punishing them. I’ve read where the Chinese thought a dragon was eating the sun.
As Christians, we know their gods were false — and no dragon was turning the sun into a sky-high snack.
But if the Ninevites did turn their lives around after a sun-and-moon show, I’m glad.
In that case, a little darkness was probably a good thing.
We can read about darkness covering the earth another time — in a very different situation.
It occurred when Jesus was crucified on the cross.
In the book of Matthew, chapter 27, we read: “From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land.”
At about three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Someone tried to offer Jesus some wine vinegar via a soaked sponge on a staff.
Other people, obviously more interested in seeing a phenomenon than helping a suffering man, said: “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if (the deceased prophet) Elijah comes to save him.”
Jesus cried out again and gave up his spirit.
Interesting things happened next. The thick curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom.
The earth shook. The rocks split. Tombs broke open.
“The bodies of many holy people, who had died, were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people,” the Scriptures record.
“When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:51-54)
I’d venture to say any phenomenon-seekers probably got their fill that day.
But for the scared-yet-awed God seekers, the day was unlike any other.
Most likely, it would be one that encouraged them throughout their faith-filled futures if they continued to seek God.
As for total solar eclipses — could one of these account for the darkness that occurred when Christ was crucified?
I really don’t think so.
An Eric Adler story in The Kansas City Star seems to reflect what I’ve seen elsewhere — pointing out that the crucifixion took place during the Passover.
The Passover occurs during the first full moon of the spring.
And a new moon — not a full moon — is needed for a solar eclipse.
NASA maps also indicate that while a total solar eclipse did occur in the year 33 AD, it was nowhere near Jerusalem.
Could God have altered the sun and moon’s paths to achieve that darkness?
The Scriptures record in the Old Testament book of Joshua a time when the Lord stopped the sun in the middle of the sky. God kept it from going down for about a full day to help the Israelites win a battle over their enemies.
Yet I honestly wonder why God would go to the trouble of rearranging the sun and moon during such a terrible time as the death of Jesus.
I can’t speak for God, but I know when you’re in deep pain, you don’t tend to go for the fancy stuff.
Instead, I think our Lord was in such heart-wrenching grief over the death of his only son that the darkness simply reflected his pain.
It’s pain many of us who’ve lost a precious loved one can understand.
To me, the earthquake and other miracles showed God’s power and victory over death.
You don’t need special glasses to see the love our Heavenly Father and his son have for us.
As it says in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And because Jesus loves us so much, he was willing to pay the costly price of our admission ticket into heaven.
I’m glad we have the science and technology to know that eclipses aren’t threatening situations.
More than that, I marvel at the wonders of the universe — things that shed a little light on our Lord’s amazing power and creativity.
When it comes to celestial occurrences, he sure knows how to put on a good show.