Something had gone terribly wrong.
God was the Creator. He had weighed out the winds (Job 28). He had measured out the earth, shut the sea within its limits, and clothed it with clouds (Job 38). He had pitched a tent for the sun (Psalm 19), set in place the moon and stars (Psalm 8), and stretched out the heavens (Job 9). In Isaiah 40, the Creator had sat “enthroned above the vault of the earth, its inhabitants like grasshoppers.”
It had been extraordinary enough that the Creator who had sat “enthroned about the vault of the earth” had taken the form one of those “grasshoppers.” But now He hung nailed to a pair of wooden beams, bleeding and breathing out His last.
The man who sentenced Him had shrugged off the murder of the Son of God. “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves,” Pilate told the mob. The soldiers who crucified Him treated the flesh-and-blood God as less than human, dressing Him up as a mock king and later casting lots for His clothing as He struggled to breathe. No one intervened. No one urged the soldiers to stop. Save yourself, the crowds told Him. Even those crucified with Him joined in the abuse (Matthew 27:40).
At first, most of the human race who witnessed the crucifixion of God Incarnate didn’t even bat an eye.
But the rest of creation shuddered at the murder of its Maker.
In the Old Testament, creation is depicted as joyfully singing the praises of its Creator. In Psalm 19, the “heavens declare the glory of God.” “Let the heaven and the earth praise him, the seas and whatever moves in them!” adds Psalm 69. In Job 38, the morning stars are singing for joy.
Now creation mourned Him. The skies darkened as the sun “hid his face” (St. Athanasius). The earth quaked at the thought of holding such a body (St. Hilary of Poitiers), and the rocks rent themselves.
While humanity didn’t recognize its Creator, nature did, as St. Athanasius writes in On the Incarnation of the Word: “For He made even the creation break silence: in that even at His death, marvelous to relate … all creation was confessing that He that was made manifest and suffered in the body was not man merely, but the Son of God and Savior of all.”
Jesus died on the Cross and was buried. The king who had once sat enthroned above the vault of the earth was now entombed in it. In Genesis 1, at the word of God, there was light. Now the Word of God had died in the flesh and all was darkness.