Skip to comments."The Light Shines in the Darkness" (Sermon for Good Friday, on John 1:1-5, 9-14)
Posted on 04/02/2021 1:15:22 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
“The Light Shines in the Darkness” (John 1:1-5, 9-14)
Tonight we’re doing a traditional Good Friday evening service called “Tenebrae.” The Latin word, “tenebrae,” means “shadows” or “darkness.” This is the Service of the Shadows, the Service of Darkness--moving to complete darkness at the end of the service. This reminds us of the darkness that came over the land when Christ was hanging on the cross, the great darkness that occurred when the author of life was put to death. And then his lifeless body was placed in the tomb, and night fell, and all was darkness and shadows. The loud noise that will come at the end of this service, called the “strepitus”--that will remind us either of the earthquake at the time of Christ’s death or of the shutting of the tomb, when the heavy stone is rolled into place. In either case, the sound will signify the finality of death. Boom! Death wins.
This is the time of darkness and shadows. It seems that darkness has covered the earth. The one who had done only good, a righteous man--murdered. The one who had brought healing and had shown God’s mercy to so many--dead. The one in whom men had put their hope, now has been killed, and hope died with him. Jesus of Nazareth--crucified, dead, and buried. Now what?
The light has gone out of the world. We sit in darkness and shadows. Look around you, and all you will see are dying people. You will see 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 virus and violence, divorce and depression, debt and death. Deep, dark shadows, everywhere we turn.
We sit in darkness and in shadows. Look inside you. There you will find no light of your own. The heart of darkness lies within us all. There are dark, hidden places inside, places of lovelessness and lust, of selfishness and sin--vile places, ugly places. We try to hide those dark, hidden recesses from others--and we may succeed to some extent. We can put on a good show. We may try to hide the darkness from ourselves. We may even try to hide it from God. But the fact is, that is not going to work. God sees the darkness in our heart. Don’t kid yourself.
Shadows and darkness, death and grief and sadness. People hurting other people, people hurting themselves. People turning their backs on God, wanting nothing to do with God. They 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. The prevailing opinions in the pop culture--this is what people think they need to go along with. Such is our society in 2021. People have no use for God or for his church. Headline this week: “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” We are living in a post-Christian culture. Darkness all around us.
But the darkness has been around a long time. It was there when Jesus came into this world, this land of shadows. He came bringing light with him, light from above. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” 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.”
“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 wanted to extinguish the light, because the light was exposing their evil deeds. That’s how we humans are. We want to hide from God, to keep his searchlight from shining in the dark recesses that we’re trying to keep hidden. That’s how sin works. And so they kill the author of life. They get him condemned falsely and nailed to a cross. Darkness falls over the land. The last candle, it seems, is going out. Extinguished. Snuffed out. Nothing but darkness. Is this the end of the story? It sure seems that way. Strepitus! Boom! Death wins.
Is this the end? No, it’s just the beginning. St. John tells us the truth: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The loud noise, the strepitus, the sound of the stone being rolled into place and sealing the tomb--that sound will be matched on Easter morning when the stone is rolled away. The loud noise, the strepitus, the sound of the earthquake when Jesus dies--that will be matched on Easter morning at the earthquake when he rises. The darkness over the land on Friday will yield to the light dawning on Sunday. Look for the return of the light this Sunday morning. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Sunday’s light comes out of Friday’s darkness. Ironically, the light of Christ is shining at its brightest in his dying. This is how the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. It is when Christ 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.” Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” 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 in the face of Jesus Christ.” You who believe in Christ, you have the light.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” Or what shall I fear? Shall I fear condemnation and judgment? No, Christ has won forgiveness for our sins and release from our guilt. Shall I fear the Grim Reaper, 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. Whom shall I fear? No one.
Whom shall I thank? The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father of lights, who gives us every good gift from above. 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. Yes, dear friends, tonight we may sit in the shadows, but, thank God, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . .
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. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
When I was a Lutheran, I used to attend Tenebrae services on Good Friday.
Now I am Orthodox, but much of what you put into this post is valid for us too, Pastor!
On Pascha morning, May 2, 2021, we Orthodox shall hear the beautiful and life-giving words of John 1!
Joyous Resurrection Day, whether one celebrates it on April 4 or on May 2!!!!
The Paschal Sermon of St. John Chrysostom
Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople
The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read during Matins of Pascha.
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.
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