Summary: This is a time of profound darkness, when many things we have depended on fail. We may be among the curious crowd or the concerned companions, but we will eventually see. Who will be the next converted centurion?
When you are suddenly plunged into darkness, that darkness is profound, and you cannot see anything. But wait a while, let your eyes adjust, and if there is a glimmer of light anywhere, you will begin to see and you will make your way through. The darkness will not be quite as dismal as you first thought. Even in the darkness there is enough light to go by, if your eyes know where to look.
This chilly weather reminds me of a trip my wife and I made to England a few years ago. We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast cottage in the village of Randwick in Gloucestershire. We had the whole cottage to ourselves, all four rooms plus-plus. I’ll explain the plus-plus in a moment. The owners lived next door and would bring breakfast each morning, but we were on our own at night. There were only two drawbacks about this 300-year-old cottage. First, the electrics – that’s what the British call electric power – the electrics were on a meter that we had to feed. We were to watch the meter and push in a pound when it was getting low, lest it run out and there be no power in the cottage. That was a bit of a challenge. But then there was the plumbing. They did not build restrooms or showers in houses three hundred years ago. So to answer the call of nature, one went through the dining room, out through an attached kitchen, plus a shower space, plus finally to a tiny cubicle with no window in it. Plus-plus.
But all right, we thought we could handle that. No problem. However, the weather turned quite cold. We kept a heater on in our bedroom all night. Well, I could not sleep. I lay there under a mountain of covers but shivered and shook. Finally I decided that something else was going on in my body and that I would need to find my way down the steps, out through that dining room, through that kitchen, plus that shower stall, plus that tiny little room without a window. Plus-plus. I pushed out of bed, found my shoes, and started on my way. Guess what? The light at the top of the stairs wouldn’t work; the heater had eaten all the electrics. So in absolute darkness I inched down the steps and out through that suite of rooms, plus-plus, growing chillier by the second and more urgent with each step. I could not see a thing, but fumbled my way along until I was almost to my destination – and something moved! Something was out there! Something looming, something moving silently, something …
When you are suddenly plunged into darkness, that darkness is profound, and you cannot see anything. But wait a while, let your eyes adjust, and if there is a glimmer of light anywhere, you will begin to see and make your way through. Even in the darkness there is light to go by, if your eyes know where to look.
One dismal day on a green hill far away outside a city wall, everything on which people had depended went out. One dismal day at a place called Calvary, the darkness was so profound that no one could see at all. But when they waited and let their eyes adjust, they found that they could see something. Something, even when everything that they depended upon went dark.
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last.
How much more dismal can it be than this? How much darker could life be? The One on whom they had depended for guidance had breathed His last; now darkness and death, death and darkness.
And the Temple curtain rent in twain. The religious institution all torn up. The ways of the fathers, given to Moses centuries before; the ways of a people, brought together under the mighty King David; the habits of a faith, distilled in Abraham and built by Solomon and recovered by Nehemiah and taught by so many prophets – all exposed. The Temple, their religion – it had seemed to house very God Himself. But now the lights of the Temple grew dark, and the curtain split open to reveal a vast nothingness. Darkness and death, death and darkness.
Jesus dead, the Temple curtain torn, and most astounding of all, the sun itself failed and darkness spread like spilled ink over the whole land. Can you imagine it? Do we have any idea what that would feel like? The spiritual asks us, “Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble.”