Summary: A sermon that considers the three hours of darkness at easter and the liberation that follows. Closes with a story from Sermon Central resources.
Just a few days ago the city of Baghdad was plunged into darkness - the wailing of bombs and sirens was followed a complete blackout of the city - hospitals - homes and army posts alike were dependent on the moon - candles and the flash of light from fearful bombs.
At that point in the war that it must have been clear that for better or worse the so called liberation of Baghdad was about to follow.
About two thousand years ago in another middle eastern city, Jerusalem, another fearful event.
Here there was no war as such - Israel had long been subjucated to the world power of the day the Roman Army. It was a normal day in the life of occupied Jerusalem - tomorrow was passover, a great religous festival and there was an air of excitement and preparation in the air.
There was the unpleasant task of the execution of three prisoners to be taken care of.
Two, thieves, were nailed up on cruel crosses on either side of the third. He was regarded as a rebelious and dangerous religous leader. Popular with the people and with most who met him he had been scandalously betrayed by one of his own, a man called Judas, to the grateful religous leaders who through intrique and intimidation had persuaded the Roman ruler, Pilate, to have him executed.
About twelve O’Clock that day with the gathered remnant around them - whilst the ordinary citizen went about their business in the city and while the religous leaders gloated perhaps skulking in their sanctuaries in the city while their evil plans unfolded - in the midst of that apparantely ordinary day - the city was plunged into darkness -
These religous leaders had flung one last challenge at Jesus "Come down from the Cross," they said, "and we will believe you."
As General Booth said long ago, "It is because Jesus did not come down from the cross that we believe in him."
But the darkness did not go away like some temporary power cut - the clock ticked and the darkness remained - some, those who understand the relevance of such an impossibility would have gone white with shock with the realisation of what the darkness signified.
The self assured soldiers who had cruelly whipped Jesus and left cruel lacerations down his back would, without even necessarily making the connection, have been plunged into fear in the face of such an untimely darkness.
The Centurian the hard bitten Roman soldier - the equivilent of the regimental Sergent Major must have been struck by the event . He had fought in many a campaign and he had seen many a man die. But he had never seen a man die like this and the darkness that accompanied it must have utterly convinced him for at the end of it he was sure that Jesus was the Son of God. So much so that he declared it aloud to all who would hear him and his words echo down through the centuries.
It is great to receive a testimony from friends but when your enemies testify to you you can be sure that they mean what they say.
The darkness clung to the troubled city like a blanket - in all of time - since creation - since the day God said E 1:3 "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day.
Since that day there had never been a day like this.
All the average citizen of Jerusalem could do was to sit or fumble around in the dark and wonder.
It was only days before that Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem as the King - the son of David - now he hung on the cross dying a criminals death.
The disciples sat not just bathed in darkness but bathed in guilt and grief at their apparant cowardice at deserting Jesus at his very hour of need.
Still time passed and the darkness remained - half past twelve - one O’clock One thirty - two O’clock -was there to be no end to this/ Two thirty three O’clock suddenly light again dawned on Jerusalem and at that very moment at the scene of the cross events escalated.
Here is an eyewitness account of what happenned:-
MK 15:33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
MK 15:35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he’s calling Elijah."