Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Heart of Darkness

The only time I ever experienced complete darkness was in Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It was so dark that I could not see my hand before my face. My eyes never adjusted to the dark because there was no light to adjust to. Earlier in my life I was a photographer and spent a lot of time in a darkroom. But then there were "safelights" that allowed me to see in the dark, while not fogging up the prints.

But there were no safelights in Judea when Jesus died. There was complete darkness for three hours - from noon to three by our clocks. These three hours of darkness harken back to the three days of darkness in Egypt in Moses' day, where it is described as "darkness that could be felt." It looks ahead to the plague of darkness in the book of Revelation, which is so deep it causes pain.

The cross is wrapped in darkness. It is at the heart of the darkness. The darkness prohibited anyone from seeing Jesus on the cross while he was dying. This darkness is symbolic and spiritual. We cannot see what Jesus did on the cross. Not really. We have our theories of sin and salvation, sacrifice and propitiation. They are helpful, like safelights in a darkroom.

I believe the biblical models of atonement, and I preach them. They aid the understanding, but I know that the truth of the cross is deeper than that. It is wrapped in darkness. These ideas point to truth, but they only go as far as the mind can understand.

There is a heart of darkness in the cross that I can never understand. I cannot comprehend how the darkness tore the temple veil in two from top to bottom or caused the earth to shake and the dead to rise. I cannot comprehend the agony of darkness that caused Jesus to cry, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" - "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

I am in darkness when it comes to the mystery of the cross. As I contemplate the cross in the dark, I learn to unknow my theories and embrace the one who died in darkness and laid in darkness for three days and rose in darkness. Where the mind cannot see, the soul can apprehend. At the heart of darkness is the cross, and at the heart of the cross there is life.

No comments:

Post a Comment