Today many Americans waited with bated breath for an event that had not happened in the United States in 38 years, and will not happen again in this country until 2024: a total eclipse of the sun. From Oregon to South Carolina, viewers watched the moon pass before the sun completely in “the path of totality.” Some had driven hundreds of miles to see it, and stood ready with their special solar-eclipse glasses.
Part of the literary beauty of the Bible is how the writers use natural objects and events, like an eclipse, as metaphors to carry across and communicate spiritual truths. Whether it is Isaiah’s use of an ox’s familiarity with its master to draw a biting indictment to Israel’s lack of knowledge (Isaiah 1:3) or Jesus’s use of the mustard seed to explain the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31–32), writers and commentators of Scripture use God’s creation to impart an impactful truth.
John Owen’s glimpse into the total eclipse (in his remarkable work The Glory of Christ) is fitting for today, as well as two brief glimpses from Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. When you looked into the sky today, or as you scroll by pictures in social media, did you only see what everyone else sees? Or will you see more, with the eyes of faith?
Owen: See the Humility of Christ
When the sun is under a total eclipse, it loses nothing of its native beauty, light, and glory. It is still the same that it was from the beginning, a “great light to rule the day.” To us it appears as a dark, useless meteor; but when it comes by its course to free itself from the lunar interposition, to its proper aspect towards us, it manifests again its native light and glory.
So was it with the divine nature of Christ, as we have before declared. He veiled the glory of it by the interposition of the flesh, or the assumption of our nature to be his own; with this addition, that he took on him the “form of a servant,” of a person of mean and low degree. But this temporary eclipse being past and over, it now shines forth in its infinite luster and beauty, which belongs to the present exaltation of his person.
And when those who beheld him here as a poor, sorrowful, persecuted man, dying on the cross, came to see him in all the infinite, uncreated glories of the divine nature, manifesting themselves in his person, it could not but fill their souls with transcendent joy and admiration. And this is one reason of his prayer for them while he was on the earth, that they might be where he is to behold his glory; for he knew what ineffable satisfaction it would be to them forevermore. (Works of John Owen, 1:344)
Edwards: See His Death and Resurrection
‘Tis an argument that the eclipse of the sun is a type of Christ’s death. . . . The sun can be in a total eclipse but a very little while, much less than the moon, though neither of them can always be in an eclipse; so Christ could not, by reason of his divine glory and worthiness, be long held of death, in no measure so long as the saints may be, though it ben’t possible that either of them should always be held of it. (Notes on Scripture, Yale edition, 15:291)
Spurgeon: See Your Total Security in Him
A total eclipse is one of the most terrible and grand sights that ever will be seen. But thank God, whatever eclipse happens to a Christian, it is never a total eclipse. There is always a ring of comfort left. There is always a crescent of love and mercy to shine upon God’s child. (New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, 4:151)
Stop to See the Son
A solar eclipse lasts under two hours and then the sun again is seen at full strength. What a picture of the glory of Christ! His glory was veiled by the moon of human flesh. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). He was worthy of being esteemed yet He was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3). Total eclipse.
Let the total eclipse be a great pointer for you. As the moon covers the face of the sun, let it remind you of Christ’s humiliation on our behalf, and of his death on the cross for us (and that death could not hold him for long!), and of our unshakable, utter security in him.