- Eldon Peterson
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
Today is Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter –we might say, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The darkness of Good Friday when Jesus was crucified and died was replaced by the light of the resurrection remembered at Easter. On Holy Saturday between the two, I want to consider how the message of Easter offers hope in the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic that surrounds us.
While not yet affecting our economy like the Great Depression or the rationing during WW II, everyone’s life has been impacted by the pandemic. The news reports (when this was written) say that the COVID-19 death tolls should peak Easter weekend. “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” It’s the promised light of the coming dawn that allows us to continue through the darkness.
On Good Friday, we’re told, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three, because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Saying this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46) For Jesus’ followers, this was the darkest day that they had known. If only they knew that, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
The darkness of Good Friday was both literal and spiritual. We are told that the earth was darkened “because the sun’s light failed”, but Good Friday also tells us that changes were coming – that hope from the dawn’s light was near. Darkness is when things are at their lowest possible point; dawn is the hope we anticipate will come in the morning light.
The tearing of temple’s curtain signified the first light of dawn. The writer of Hebrews saw it as God's way of removing the barrier between himself and humanity. Now, through Christ’s death and resurrection, sinful people could approach the holy God directly, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22). No longer would God reside behind a curtain in the temple; now he would take up residence in his people.
While we don’t know when the darkness of this pandemic will end, nor when the light of dawn will come, thankfully our hope is not in having the answers but in Christ. On Easter morning the women go to Jesus’ tomb in darkness to encounter the light of an empty grave! “The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” (Matthew 28:5-6) Just as He said. Jesus had foretold of what was coming but it wasn’t until after the resurrection that they understood fully.
Isn’t that true for us too. Hindsight is always 20/20. As Paul reminds us, the hope we need will not come from knowing the future but in trusting Christ, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25) As we trust in God, we can wait expectantly for the light of dawn to come on this current pandemic.
Easter reminds us to walk through the darkness of uncertainty with our eyes fixed on Christ. As Jesus went to the cross knowing God would raise him from the dead, we can rest knowing the Lord is mindful of our cares and needs too. Our salvation did not come by Jesus being rescued from death on the cross but by Him being raised from the dead after dying for our sins.
Easter reveals to us the eternal hope that Christ brings in the dark times. Don’t give up. The best is yet to come! Just when it doesn’t seem that you can survive one more trial, one more sorrow, heartache, disappointment, bad news…. That’s when victory comes; often in unexpected ways!