When Darkness Reigns

Text: Luke 22:39-23:56

One of the dimensions that I love about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” (though there are several aspects I don’t like at all) is the sense of darkness that pervades the first quarter of the movie. He captures the mood, but not only the mood—he captures the reign of darkness on that Friday.

Darkness begins and ends Luke’s account of “Good Friday.” As the temple guards, elders and chief priests arrest Jesus in the garden, Jesus announces, “this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:52). Darkness reigned till Jesus breathed his last, and Jesus died in darkness as God blocked the sun (Luke 22:44). Good Friday was a dark day epitomizing the darkness that enveloped the world; symbolizing the darkness that has choked the world since the Fall. Good Friday, however, was the hour of evil’s triumph. On that day Satan’s reign tyrannized the Son of God.

Luke’s narrative draws out that dark reign through the events that transpire. His story tells us what happens when darkness reigns.

When darkness reigns….

• Good people fail to pray
• Friends betray friends
• Swords are drawn
• Disciples deny their teacher
• The innocent are convicted
• The guilty are released
• The law is subverted for interests of power and control
• The righteous are mocked
• Women weep over the loss of their children
• Soldiers demean and torture others
• The condemned insult each other
• The blameless are executed

Luke paints a dark scene from the garden to the cross. But his canvass has rays of light. The dawning sun breaks into the darkness, just as he announced at the beginning of his gospel (Luke 1:78-79).

The kingdom of God is dawning and breaking into the darkness. Even when darkness reigns, the kingdom of God cannot be smothered and snuffed out. Light appears even within the darkness.

Even though darkness reigns….

• Kingdom people refuse to use the sword even when threatened; Jesus said “No more of this!”
• Kingdom people pursue the will of God despite the consequences; Jesus said, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
• Kingdom people confidently anticipate the fulfillment of kingdom in hope; Jesus says, “the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
• Kingdom people weep for the brokenness of the world rather than over their own suffering for the sake of the kingdom; Jesus said, “do no weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
• Kingdom people forgive their persecutors; Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”
• Kingdom people invite others into the kingdom; Jesus said, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
• Kingdom people trust in God’s work despite the reign of darkness; Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Kingdom people follow Jesus. They, like Simon from Cyrene, pick up the cross and follow Jesus. Kingdom people assault the powers of darkness by submitting to the will of God and trusting in the promise of the coming kingdom. Kingdom people follow Jesus.

Darkness reigned on Good Friday, but the kingdom of God also broke into that darkness. Even as darkness reigns in our day—in whatever way it reigns, as kingdom people we are called to follow Jesus….and it may take us to a cross.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

7 Responses to “When Darkness Reigns”

  1.   Christopher Heard Says:

    To be sure, the “darkness” with which Good Friday begins–at Jesus’ arrest in the garden per Luke 22:53–is a “negative” darkness, but also the literal, natural darkness of night. I wonder whether the daytime darkness during the crucifixion itself is an extension of this “negative” darkness, or whether it might not be the “positive” darkness of theophany. In the Old Testament, God’s presence is sometimes paradoxically revealed by the veil of darkness–so for example at Sinai, in Psalm 18, in Habakkuk 3, etc. The immediate sequel in Luke to the darkness at noon is Jesus’ saying “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” and the centurion’s praise of God and statement about Jesus’ innocence, and the darkness is immediately preceded in Luke by Jesus’ statement to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” And Luke does not have the “Why have you forsaken me?” saying at all, so I wonder whether the noontide darkness on Good Friday might not be the darkness of theophany–not when God is far away and the power of Satan at an all-time high, but when God is closer than ever, visible to those who have eyes to see, just behind those dark clouds …

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Hey, Chris…I enjoy reading you blog, and appreciate your comment here.

    There is a possibility of “positive” darkness of divine theophany (some would even say mourning) at the cross. But I tend to think that “darkness” are bookend words for Luke in this passion narrative. His use of darkness, as at the end of Luke 1, represents the brokeness into which the light dawns.

    I tend to think the theopany idea is too remote for the context and that Luke has not used darkness in this way within his Gospel. Perhaps Luke omits the cry of dereliction because he wants to see the movement from Garden to cross as kingdom discipleship (more like John) than some statement of lament (or atonement).

    For Luke, there is a triumph of the kingdom at the cross–the Son of Man is obedient, hopeful and intent on shining light in the darkness. But I think there is light here–there is kingdom presence. The light shines in this darkness.

    So, I prefer to see the darkness as negative–a symbol of the reign of darkness, but one through which the light of the kingdom shines and bears witness to the future reign of the Son of Man.

    But I could be wrong, or we both might be right. 🙂 Blessings

  3.   bradfordlstevens Says:

    I agree with your analysis of the darkness at the cross. I am reminded of the passage in Psalms 22:

    “11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. “

    I belive that Jesus was surrounded by the hoards of Satan’s army who encircled him waiting to devour him. The bulls of Bashan symbolized the apostacy of Israel when Jeroboam set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan for the people to worship as the Gods who delivered them from Egypt. I Kings 12:22-24. When God withdraws his presence, there is a vacuum that evil can exploit. That vacuum creates darkness.

  4.   Hurricane Willie Peppers Says:

    N.T. Wright says, quoting Earl Ellis in The Challenge of Jesus, that Luke depicts 8 meals throughout his gospel. The meal at Emmaus is the 8th while the Last Supper is the 7th, depicting 7 days of Creation and the first day of New Creation.

    If Ellis and Wright are onto something, then perhaps the light/dark theme you point out comes in the same vein. Creation begins with God creating light. The events surrounding and including Jesus death are very UNcreation. But under the nose of darkness, God is at work Creating a new world with a new King – King Jesus.

    Seems worth investigating to me.


  5.   Conni H. Says:

    Thank you for this lesson, both in written and verbal form! I enjoyed meeting you this weekend at McKnight and am so thankful for your message. You reminded me to keep remembering what and WHO matters the most, and to celebrate Him!

    Thanks for your work in the Kingdom.

  6.   TWS Says:

    Great stuff…JMH. Thanks for the soul food.

  7.   Richard Constant Says:

    THANKS FOR THIS john mark.
    it was just the gal’3:18 / 4:4
    you were always nailin it (the gospel) down for ME anyway…
    just wish I could write .
    I do think although I good with what I have said unless you could let me know how to improve on what I have said.
    i especially like this one
    blessings hope to see u in may

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