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2024-03-29 Good Friday

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

Tenebrae.” The Latin word, “tenebrae,” means “shadows” or “darkness.” This is the Service of the Shadows, the Service of Darkness. This reminds us of the darkness that came over the land when Christ our Lord was hanging on the cross, the great darkness that occurred when the author of life was put to death for us and our salvation. And then, His lifeless body was placed in the tomb, and night fell, and all was darkness and shadows in a land with no electricity or LED bulbs. This is the peculiar time of darkness and shadows. The effects of the darkness can be felt on the earth. The One Who had done only good, is man of sorrows. The One Who had brought healing and had shown God’s mercy to so many is now wrapped in the darkness of death. The One in Whom men had put their hope, has now been killed, and the hope of the Messiah died with him. Jesus of Nazareth–crucified, died, and was buried. Now what?

The light has gone out of the world. We are a people who sit in darkness and shadows. Look around and all you will see are people plagued by this darkness. Dying people. Suffering and hurting people. People losing hope. Shadows everywhere. The shadow called cancer, casting its gloom over lives once bright and cheerful. The shadow of old age, which creeps up on all of us and turns our hair white, our skin wrinkled, and our bones brittle. There are other shadows, too, shadows called vindictiveness and violence, divorce and depression, debt and death. Deep, dark shadows are there, everywhere we turn.

We are a people who sit in darkness and in shadows. Search your own heart and be truthful. Deep inside you will find no light of your own. A heart of darkness lies within us all, from one generation to the next. A heart of loveless-ness and lust, of selfishness and sin, a truly dark and ugly place indeed. We try to hide this darkness from others–and we may succeed to some extent. We can put on a good act on Facebook and Instagram. We may even try to hide the darkness from ourselves. We try to hide it from God. But that is not going to work. God sees through us. He knows the darkness in our hearts.

Shadows and darkness, death and grief and sadness. People hurting other people, people hurting themselves. Society turning its back on God, embracing iniquity, pushing Him further and further away. People have no desire to listen to God’s word. Men and women become their own gods, each one living for self, following the desires of their own sinful heart. Despicable, anti-christian practices are championed and celebrated as more and more churches close their doors for the last time. Darkness all around us.

But this isn’t new. Darkness has been around a very long time. It was there when Jesus came into this world, this land of shadows. In fact, this is precisely why our Lord came into our world. He came to bring light and life to our dark world. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (JN 1:4). The eternal Son of God was coming into the world, the one who was in the beginning with God: the Word, the Logos, through whom the heavens and the earth were created, when God said, “Let there be light.” This is Jesus, the Word made flesh, the One Who declares, “I am the light of the world.” I am your light.

“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Here was the true light, but men preferred the darkness. They preferred it so much that they wanted to extinguish the light, because the light was exposing their dark and evil deeds. That’s how we people are. We want to hide from God, to keep His spotlight from shining in the dark recesses that we’re trying to keep hidden. That’s how sin works. And so, their shadow plans come to fruition and they kill the author of life. Though He is innocent, they get Him convicted and condemned falsely and nailed to a Roman cross. Darkness falls over the land. The last candle, the final flickering light is going out. Extinguished. Nothing but darkness. It seems as though sin, death and the devil have won the day!

But St. John tells us the truth: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Just as the noise of the hammer and nails through our Saviour’s hands and feet echoed throughout the ages, so does the sound of the stone being rolled back from the tomb on Easter morning. The darkness over the land on Friday will yield to the light dawning on Sunday. Look for the return of the light, for truly “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

From the midst of Friday’s darkness comes the brilliant light of Sunday. It is on the old rugged cross where the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. It is when Jesus is lifted up on the cross that he shines like a beacon in the night, giving light to everyone in the world. For there on the cross Jesus took all our dark deeds, our heart of darkness, everything that causes pain and sadness and death–He took it all into Himself. He became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Our beautiful Savior shines fairest when He takes the darkness of death from us and replaces it with his light and life. Good Friday darkness leads to Easter resurrection light.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (JN 1:5). Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (JN 12:46). And so now “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. The forgiveness of sins. Life everlasting. This is the light that the Light of the world gives to you by faith.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1). Or what shall I fear? Shall I fear condemnation and judgment? No, for Christ has won forgiveness for our sins and release from our guilt. Shall I fear death itself? No, Christ has conquered death by his death and resurrection. Shall I fear loneliness or loss, despair or decline? No, because Christ has placed us into his loving family, the church, where we care for one another. Shall I fear whatever is my thorn in the flesh? No, for God’s grace is sufficient for me, his strength is made perfect in weakness. The Father of lights, who gives us every good gift from above has given this dark world of shadow His Son. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, by whose death and resurrection we have light and life. And the Holy Spirit, who enlightens our minds, working faith in our hearts through the light of the gospel. Even though we may sit in shadows today, we know beyond all shadow of doubt that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amen.

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