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Apr 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Solar Failure

It was now about the sixth hour and the sun’s light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Sanctuary was torn right down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” With these words, he breathed his last. (St. Luke 23:44-46, New Jerusalem Bible)

Luke’s Good Friday braids the sun’s eclipse with two other events occurring at once: the great curtain in the temple torn down the middle and the last breath of Jesus—as if all things cosmic, religious, and holy had instantly disintegrated in apocalyptic nightmare.

I paused at the poetic words, “the sun’s light failed.” The sun’s light cannot fail. It can be blocked, but if it should fail, all life on earth would be quickly snuffed out like the flame of a candle. The sun’s light failed to penetrate the clouds (or whatever stood between it and the earth) so darkness prevailed. In all eternity this was the only time when humans could justifiably lose heart, when hope and courage should rightfully give out, for everything ended here.

Good Friday

This is the day of darkness . . . the day of death, the day of seed falling into the earth and dying (Jn. 12:24), the day of the anguished cry of desolation from the cross. The “sun failed”—it covered its face at the horrible crime perpetrated against Incarnate love when the only begotten Son of God was murdered by human hands. The sky grew dark and an even greater darkness wrapped its coils around the earth.

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ the mighty Maker died
For man the creature’s sin.

We, too, have known darkness, for the shadow of Golgotha has fallen on our souls.

  • We have lived, “children of the night” (1 Th. 5:5) who lost our way, as good as “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ep. 2:1). Even our torch of religion did little good, for it was no better than the Bible-believing Pharisees’ who loved the Scriptures, spent long hours discussing them, and worked hard at obeying them. They were true believers, unlike the aristocratic Sadducees who were too well off in the world to care about a life after death. Yet those devout Pharisees also walked in darkness. Jesus called them “blind guides” that would lead anyone who followed them straight into a ditch (Mt. 15:12-14). Clutching their doctrine as a white cane, thy refused to take hold of Jesus and were unable to tap their way through scripture to him. Nor did we, so “long our imprisoned spirits lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.”
  • We also know the desperation of Gethsemane and the desolation of Golgotha where the soul is crushed with sorrow to the point of death. In my own case, years ago I spent a Good Friday lost and God-forsaken. Everything I had treasured most in this world slipped through my fingers, and tightening my fists made it run out even faster. Until then, the best part of my day was evening when I returned to my nest and was greeted enthusiastically at the door by my youngest children, then moving into the family room where the older ones complained of homework and chores, and at last to the kitchen where a peck on the cheek reassured me that the world was as it should be. But one day all of that was gone, and I was gone— I lost them and my “self” in one blow, for my identity lay in what they were to me and what I was to them. I walked aimlessly in an alien world, my chest constricted by a suffocating sorrow. I was certainly not the first or last to be abandoned in the dark.
  • We, or someone we love, have also lost our way in the thick shadow of despair, having had all hope drained from our heart, mind and soul. We do not need a clinical diagnosis or description to know depression, for tears have been our “food day and night.” We know depression from the inside where we are haunted by Why questions and the endless, useless chatter of our brains, constantly asking, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:3, 6, 11)
    There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    Prisoners in misery and chains (Psalm 107:10)

Not every child lives to see the light of day, but everyone is conceived in darkness. And everyone gets lost in the spiritual “darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn. 2:11).

The Tender Shoot (Isaiah 53:2)

But even in this day of darkness, this day of death and artificial night, the sprout of a fresh revelation and unbreakable promise breaks through the surface of the soil at the foot of the cross. The seed that fell into the earth and died is already germinating new life and will soon bear much fruit.

Each of us, lost as we are in our own darkness, fearful of moving too far or too fast lest we plunge headlong into the abyss, hear a voice beside us,“Don’t be afraid. I’m here.” No need to ask who it is that found his way to us in the netherworld of our sin, or sorrow, or hopelessness. It is he who came from above to tell us “heavenly things,” who strolled the shores of the Galilee and hiked the summit of Zion, the Son of Man who at the same moment he was “lifted up,” also sank to the lowest hell (Jn. 3:12-14, 31-33).

Our Savior tells us, “I have descended into your darkness and entered the perpetual night of your sin and alienation from the Father; I share your broken heart and suffocating sorrow; My soul has been downcast and disquieted within Me. But unlike you, I am not lost. I, the Good Shepherd, have come looking for you to fetch you to My Father. I will be with you under the heavy sky, to guide your steps in the paths of peace—or if necessary, to carry you in My arms. No longer will you fear any evil passing through this valley of the shadow of death, for I am with you and My rod and My staff will comfort you. Our God declares that darkness is no longer a problem, your sin is no longer a problem, and he has sent Me to rescue you.”

That my sister, my brother . . . that my friend . . . that is what’s so good about Good Friday.

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