How hopeless must the disciples have felt as the rain poured down and the earth grieved the death of the great King.
I remember the darkest night of my life so far. I remember the weight of despair so great that it was hard to inhale and exhale. I’ve cried in that kind of awkward and tragic way where it really seems like my very soul is trying to push its way out of my throat.
If I imagine of all the nights in all the world, the Friday that my Jesus hung on the tree must have been the darkest.
Isaiah 53 paints a dark picture of that day; a picture of torture and pain and rejection. But threaded in the text is this glimmer of hope and this promise of sovereign control and mighty victory.
Despite how everything must have felt and seemed and looked that Friday night, God was fully in control.
Here’s what Isaiah says in 53:10-11:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him.
Nothing was out of control. The Cross was the will of God. As Satan felt victory within his grasp, as the pharisees breathed a sigh of relief, as Pilot wrested with his fear of man, as it looked like everyone was having their way – the Father was the one whose will prevailed.
When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
When Jesus hung there, with His body collapsing and His soul being poured out to atone for our sins, He could see you. He could see me. He could see those who would belong to Him and He knew that the will of the Lord was right and good and prevailing.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.
Out of the darkest and most crushing darkness any soul has ever endured, Jesus could see our salvation and the glory of the Father. And He was satisfied.
By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
This is the Gospel. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never failed. He never rejected God. He never ceased to worship the Father in action and in deed. And through that ‘righteousness’, through that right-standing with God – all of us are now counted righteous. He signed my name to His perfect resume. And He takes credit for all my sin and all my failure.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.
Therefore. The Father will give Jesus a portion. He will give Him the highest portion. He will give Him a name above every name and a throne highly exalted and glory that cannot be measured.
And Jesus will divide that glory with us. Jesus will not only spare us the consequence of our sin through His death, He will buy for us eternal glory through His sinless life.
Just a story
It’s just a story today. For so many of you reading, it’s just a story. You know it well. Today you’ll try to press into it enough to prick your eyes with tears so that you can assure yourself that this Jesus is your Jesus, but you still cry more easily at a good book and your heart is as stirred by an epic movie.
When your own darkness comes, when you feel failed or forsaken, when it seems like you are out of control, this Friday is just a story. It has no real power over your fear or anxiety or anger or doubt.
If I knew better how to shape letters and twist words I would try to write now and convince you that this isn’t just a story. I would employ every stylistic device in the book to assure you that the life of Jesus is not a legend or a story, but the account of a true and faithful friend who was killed for you.
I don’t have that power. My words don’t have that power.
But there are words with power enough to produce in the darkest of hearts faith.
I began this post talking about a dark night for me.
I remember sitting on the couch, with the lights turned off, wrapping my arms around my legs to try to hold my body and soul together.
I felt like Peter. I had betrayed my King. I had failed my Savior in ways that just hours before I had protested I never would. And there I sat, in the dark, wondering if the course of Judas was the only one left for me. But I knew enough to know that if I was like Judas – death would bring no comfort.
Many of you may know nights like the one I describe. You cannot bear to reach for the Bible because you are terrified it will all just feel like some great fairytale. You cannot bring yourself to speak to the Father. What words are left to say?
In the darkness, at the end of myself, Good Friday came to me in power and truth. I wondered how the disciples’ gathering that Friday would have been different if they had truly trusted and known what we know now. I imagined how Peter would have been comforted that night if he had only known just how restored he would be.
I remembered the truth of the Bible. Another day is coming. This is not yet the end.
I remembered the words of Jesus spilling over Peter’s arrogant heart on Thursday night, giving assurance he would need when Friday came, but didn’t know he needed then: Peter, Peter, it’s going to be a hard and long night but don’t fear – I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented, be strength to all the others.‘ (Luke 22:31-32)
If Peter had known what was coming he would have used those words to fortify himself against his own sin.
Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail and it did not fail. But, let’s be honest, it sure looked like his faith failed. It must have felt like his faith had failed.
In the midst of the darkness I clung to that verse: there must be a kind of faith that endures and is not destroyed even by the steepest of sin.
And I sat there in the dark and I wept and I chose life over death, and breathing in and out over not breathing again, because of the faith birthed in me and sustained by the sovereign hand of a mighty God who has proved to me through Good Friday that darkness cannot prevail in the life and heart of a child of God.
It doesn’t matter how dark things seem. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like God is gone and hope is dead, you will never convince me that is the case.
You can shut out all the light, but you cannot make it darker than it was that Friday. None of us will walk through a day darker than that, and if God has proved that day to be one of the brightest and the greatest in his history of glory, I will trust Him with all my days.
I will trust Him because of Good Friday. Nothing is out of control. No plan of His is being thwarted. Victory is being worked out.
Come Lord Jesus.