Into the darkness
In preparation for good Friday I wrote this piece to help us enter into the darkness of that day. Its a bit longer than my usual posts, but will hopefully provide an opportunity to reflect on what happened, and feel as if you were there. Thanks for reading!
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Jesus said “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Growing up in a loving family was a benefit that He did not take for granted. His earthy father and mother provided the best they could for him, encouraged Him, and nurtured him. As great as His earthly family was, it was his connection to His heavenly Father that sustained him. He and the Father above had a unity that could not be understood this side of eternity. This treasured harmony was revealed at His baptism when God joyously lavished these words on Him. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” It was witnessed in the transfiguration when once again God echoed His eternally deep and wide connection with His beloved Son. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” The unity He had with His father could be seen influencing every area of His life. It was more than a lifeline, more than that air he breathed, more than even the unity he had with his own body. The unity with the Father was all encompassing, all consuming, ever present, and so much a part of Him that our words cannot properly fulfill the meaning of the connection that He had with the Father. It was the epitome of love. Not love in the sense that we so narrowly define it, but a love that surpasses understanding. A love that is the very building blocks of all that is good. A love that is so profoundly known that he felt completely, utterly, totally, with all finality, joyful. It was glory. It is something that He longed that all would experience; something He knew could only be fully realized in a relationship with His father. As He grew so did His love for His heavenly father, though not in the sense that we understand growth in terms of getting bigger. The growth of love that he experienced came from the deepening of His earthly understanding of connection. When He was with the Father in heaven the glories and praises never ended. He and the Father, being one, were at their rightful place, in eternal paradise, with eternal worship, in indescribable love.
God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.
Here on earth, things were much different. He was not respected, we was rejected. He was not worshipped, he was whipped, He was not in paradise, He was paraded around as a fool. All that was rightfully His, all that was joy for both Him and those praising Him, and even the love that He had with the Father was being excruciatingly torn from Him.
In Jerusalem the spectacle of the slow death of the “king of the Jews” was entertaining to some, terrifying for others, and grotesquely agonizing to those who loved him the most. After the absurdity of His trial, flogging, and sentence, the Roman guards lead Him to be slaughtered. Much of His strength had been stolen from him during the torture of the led tipped whips ripping off his back, something the authorities thought would appease the people. This was not so, they wanted more, /“Crucify Him,”/ they shouted, and it was at that request that the guards forced him down and nailed his hands and feet to that wretched cross. A shriek of pain pierced the air as the nails pierced His skin. He screamed, but His cry was drowned out by those who laughed at his torment. He hung on the cross, struggling for each breath for 3 hours. Each attempt to breath was fought for with the strength that only desperation bring. As they mocked him, he pressed his impaled feet into the nails that had been driven through his flesh and muscles so that he could grasp at the precious air that was filled with the foul smell of his own blood, and the foul language of those who cursed at Him. He could taste the blood that flowed freely from thorns that were digging not only into his flesh, but into his skull. Some of the crowd that surround the execution hill they called Golgatha seemed to gain life from watching his life slip away. Others showed their faces in confusion, as if they were shocked that He was actually dying. Still some could not even show their faces. They buried their burning eyes into each other as they wept. And there too was His mother, the one who had been faithful, was patient, beautiful, and oh so loving. Her pain in having to witness His torment only made His agony worse. As she looked upon her son’s gentle face she recalled his first words, his first steps and even the first time he called her, “momma.” She remembered his eagerness to share what he had learned at school with her and Joseph. She was brought back to the numerous bumps, cuts, and bruises that her scrappy little boy would come to her for kisses, care, and healing. She longed, she ached, to give her son that same motherly comfort, but she hopelessly knew there was nothing she could do. Her desperate, shrill pleads, asking for mercy for her little boy, were ignored by the entertained executioners.
The physical pain was monstrous, nauseating, causing many onlookers to turn away before their stomachs emptied themselves of whatever they had consumed earlier that day. The emotional pain was demonic. The scorn from being naked, jeered, spit on, and ridiculed made those who were closest to him scream in empathetic despair. But that wasn’t the worst part. It was the crushing spiritual agony that was unbearable.
Although desperate cries were heard, begging to relieve His physical and emotional abuse, no one wailed for the darkness that was eager to wage war on His soul. It was noon when the darkness was released and, in the mid day blackness, the battle ensued.
By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone.
The light of the day had been silenced by the wrath of God. The farmers tilling their fields, the blacksmiths tinkering in their craft, the shepherds watching over their sheep all stopped in breathless fear as the light of the sun evaporated in the depth of nothingness. Shadows disappeared and everyone was blanketed in black. Around the world people thought that death had gripped their souls and pulled them to nowhere. Terror was capturing everything and making people prisoners to the fears that they so easily dismissed in the busyness of their days. The darkness was a different kind of darkness than that of night. Night brought the hope of day. This complete darkness was drenched in hopelessness. It had flavors of wrath, agony, mystery, and turmoil. Never had anyone experienced such darkness, it was darkness that you could smell, touch, and taste. It was a darkness that you could hear. It was a darkness that you could see, and it was horrifying.
In the darkness there was confusion, chaos, fear, anxiety, but in the vilest part of the darkness there was wrath. The prophets had spoken often about God’s wrath being poured out for the vulgarity of sin. The first things that came to the minds of those who knew the ancient scriptures was the descriptions of darkness found in the book of Amos:
18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, 19 as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. 8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”
9 “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
As they recalled the verses they had memorized as children they longed to go back to the time when the wrath described was no more than words on a page. Now they were living in it. Fear overcame them, some fainted at the thought of what was happening. The darkness offered voiceless answers, simply and overwhelmingly; it silently screamed anger, oppression and judgment.
For those closest to Jesus the darkness recalled the many times he claimed to be “the light.” “Where is that light now?” “Why does darkness shroud Him?” “What hope is there?” Hope was laboring for every breath; hope was enveloped in the lightlessness, hope was agonizing as the fractured wood of the cross scraped his exposed ribs and spine. Hope was dying, and hope was experiencing what everyone was frighteningly anticipating for themselves- the wrath of God.
In the darkness, The light was extinguished. The punishment for sin was being enmeshed into the heart of the perfect sacrifice. As the penalty moved through His body his heart fought furiously for each beat. He felt the pain of each sin placed upon him, He saw each revolting act. His mind took him to each lie, each act of adultery, each moment of pride, each outburst of hate, each murder, each idolization, and every single rejection of what he was currently doing. He wished to be numb to the hurt each one of these sins afforded Him, but the darkness carried only it’s mischievous grin of satisfaction. The sin was now pulsing through His veins, His soul was crushed under the weight of judgment. Each beat of His throbbing heart added more cruelty than can be imagined. Each second endured was lifetimes of suffering, pain, and rejection. While the darkness that surrounded Him was constrained to our time, the darkness for Him lasted for eternity. Yet he continued to let the sins be placed on Him and the wrath of the Father be absorbed by Him. He longed for the connection to the love, the glory, the honor, and the joy he once lived in, but the darkness would provide only the opposite. There on the cross, alone in darkness, His heart broke.