Dark Before Dawn
By Samuel Tunnell
April 26, 2018
Below is a transcript, as said, of Sam’s reading from our Good Friday Gathering.
On the night Jesus was betrayed John tells us something interesting… You see John himself had leaned over to Jesus at the last supper and asked him who would betray him. Jesus answers plainly. “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread ewhen I have dipped it” He hands the bread to Judas and John tells us “Then after he had taken the morsel, hSatan entered into him” It is a heart wrenching scene… Jesus loves Judas. They are friends. Just moments before this Jesus has explained to all of his followers how much he loves and respects them… and in this moment he sees the demonic influence of Satan over take his friend… John ends the section with the chilling line “So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. mAnd it was night.”
And all said… and it was night.
John uses the imagery of light and dark a lot in his description of the Gospel… but this is haunting… can you picture the scene? Jesus is sitting in a room with his closest friends… they’ve just enjoyed a celebratory meal together. There’s been laughing, singing, prayer, worship, good food… all the while Jesus knows what is coming. He knows this is it… And in that moment… as Satan himself exerts influence over his friend and he leaves the room to betray him to his death…
and all said… and it was night…
You fast forward just a few moments and all the disciples are still celebrating and boasting as they leave the room. Imagine with me our sweet Jesus, burdened as he is, seeing Peter, one of his closest friends on earth. He knows the spiritual reality. He has eyes to see and he sees his friend on the precipice of destruction. Luke records his words thus “Simon, Simon, behold, bSatan demanded to have you,4 cthat he might sift you like wheat, 32 but dI have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” Even now, Jesus can see his friend staring him in the eye as he denies him… and somewhere a rooster crows…
and all said… and it was night…
The scene shifts to a garden. Its dark and late and his friends just want to rest and continue to be together. Jesus, on the other hand, is suffering beyond words. He goes off alone and prays to his father. He asks for relief. He asks his Father. He asks His good Father about whom he told us “What father among you, if his son asks for4 a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, wwho are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father xgive the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” He asks this Father for relief. He asks him for a way out.
And his Father says no.
Jesus is broken by this denial. The anguish of what awaits him weighs so heavily upon him that as he prays to his father who has told him no, he sweats. And this sweat begins to become blood. Imagine the stress needed to cause our sweet Jesus to bleed as he prays to his good father… and to this Jesus says “not my will, but yours, be done”
and even as he prays these words they arrive… soldiers… torches… guards… and Judas.
Matthew records it thus “he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”
He walks up and kisses him. You can imagine the scene as Judas approaches Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi” You know that as Jesus looked in the eyes of his friend, he saw the dark cloud of demonic oppression over him… Those eyes he loved darkened by the weight of the curse… As Jesus himself said… “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
How great is the darkness… Then they bound him, beat him, and began to drag him away. As they drew Jesus away mocking and beating him, his friends, who only moments ago were boosting and celebrating scattered in fear to avoid being arrested as well. And Jesus was dragged off alone…
and all said… and it was night…
The scene moves forward. Jesus is standing before the Sanhedrin. These men have been entrusted with protecting the law and worship of God’s people. They stand Jesus up before them and proceed to lie and accuse and mock him. When Jesus answers he is struck across the mouth with the retort “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
Oh to disgusting irony. is that how he addresses the High Priest? Really?
The High Priest is the Levite chosen each year by lot to stand in the Holy of Holy’s in the very presence of God and offer worship on behalf of God’s people. He is literally charged with playing the role of intermediary with God and his People. And here he stands before God himself and rather than humbling offering reverent worship he is proudly demanding decorum…
You can imagine Jesus’ thoughts… “oh my Ciaphas… you dont’ know what you are doing…”
But it did not matter… As Mark Records “And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.”
And thus the under-shepherds of Israel abused the true shepherd… As Jesus himself said of them “‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
And all said… and it was night
The scene moves forward again and now Jesus is tied to a stone whipping post. As the mustard seed is to small to garner any attention our sweet Jesus was insignificant to Rome or to Pilot. He easily sends his maker to the torturer in hopes of appeasing the mob.
And the creator is tied to a Roman whipping post.
The cat bites and its teeth strike home. Jesus endures lash after lash. To describe gore of the scene would be unseemly, but the scene is unseemly. Lash after lash. His flesh is torn and shredded. His shoulder blades and ribs are exposed, the very muscle mass of his body is laid bare to the world.
And as our sweet Jesus cries out in agony we should be struck by his control.
As he stood before Pilot, the proconsul told him “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
As Paul would later teach the church in Colossae “all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together”
Jesus is not helpless before the onslaught of torture being poured out upon him. He is the creator. It is by leisure of his will that the very electrons that make up the atoms that make up the molecules that make the cells that make the muscles that allow the guards to draw down the lash another time continue to even exist. By his very will, Jesus sustains the life and existence of his abusers as the lash falls again and again and again and again and again
and all said… and it was night.
As the scene progresses, our sweet Jesus is paraded in front of the mob. A crown of thorns has been shoved into his scalp and a robe laid across is fresh wounds. He is presented to the mob. The very same mob that has known him these three years. The same mob that has followed him and been fed by him and received healing from him and chased him from city to city and town to town.
Our sweet Jesus stands before this same mob in the moment of his deepest need and when it is believed that he no longer has anything good to give them, the same mob that only days before shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” literally “Save us! Son of David Save us!”… the shouts of “Hosanna” have long snuffed and in their stead we hear “Give us Barabus. crucify him.”
Torture him to death. Kill him. End him. Crucify him.
And they do.
and all said… and it was night.
The scene moves forward and we find ourselves on top of a hill. Our sweet Jesus is unrecognizable. His face is bruised and broken and swollen. His nose is out of joint. There is blood across his entire face from the three inch long thorns jammed into his scalp. chunks of his beard have been pulled out ripping off the skin. teeth are missing.
they lay him down on this heavy cross bar. They take his and and lay it down flat and then pound a nail through his forearm just below the wrist. The grab the other arm and pull him taught and nail the other arm to the other side. They lift up the cross bar and drop it into place on a stake mounted in the ground. As the bar falls into its notch on the stake Jesus’ full body weight is born upon the nails. They then grab his feet and cross them and drive a third nail through the top of his feet below the ankle.
He is then left to suffocate.
And as if this weren’t already enough… the priests arrive. At this point it shouldn’t surprise you, but the scene is… well its wretched.
the Chief Priests and some of the religious leaders come out to the cross to watch Jesus suffer and die. Mark records it thus “…the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe…” The Irony here is thick…
You see… only 5.5 months earlier… Ciaphas the High Priest had done his duty on the day of atonement. He had killed the sacrifice, taken the blood, lit the incense, walked into the Holy of Holy’s and stood the the very presence of God. He had sprinkled the blood on the alter and worshiped God face to face. Oh what half a year can do to a human soul.
The same Ciaphas is standing before the same God. With no incense, no smoke, no veil, nothing to separate them. The blood of the sacrifice dripping down the alter… and the one man in all Israel who should have recognized God… mocks him.
The one man who should have recognized him.
The one man who should have fought for him.
The one man who should have shouted “No! Stop!”
He mocks him “He saved others; he cannot save himself”
He looks in the very face of God, as destroyed and unrecognizable as it is… “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe…”
And Jesus was truly alone.
Abandoned by all. His friends, his followers, his high priest, his creation… in the ultimate act of wrath, God the Father abandons Jesus to the fate of sin. Death.
Jesus is completely and utterly alone. He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And with this cry of hellish desperation our sweet Lord Jesus breaths his last.
And the author of life dies.
And as the dragon shouts in apparent victory the earth shouts in protest.
And the veil is torn as the alter of the living God is exposed and desecrated and blasphemed.
And the sun itself refuses to give its light on such a scene as this.
And all goes dark.
And all of us say… and it is night.