Judas’ betrayal of Jesus set in motion a unique series of events unlike any other the universe has or will ever experience. So in light of their cosmic significance, it seems odd that Jesus’ trials and crucifixion were kicked off in the early hours of the night while most people slept. There must have been a good reason.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-261
It Was An Eventful Night
Jesus didn’t sleep at all that night. His disciples only caught fragments of slumber. The Passover meal started after sunset and being full of tradition, the meal was not a hasty affair. After the meal, several hours of teaching preceded a late night trek to a garden where Jesus spent the middle hours of the night in agonizing and exhausting prayer while the disciples watched at a distance. Then Judas arrived to finger Jesus so he couldn’t slip away from the soldiers as had happened before. Jesus was led to his first mock trial before the first glimmer of morning sunlight.
Didn’t the death of the only true God-Man justify having everything happen in the full light of day for everyone to see? Was it just coincidence that events unfolded this way? Was it simply a matter of timing so His burial would happen before sundown?
Coincidence? Convenience? I think not. You see I’ve noticed that God doesn’t pass up a chance to arrange events so we can learn from their symbolism especially when it advances a theme that He has been developing for thousands of years. In this case the theme involves a contrast between two things that cannot be mixed and remain the same – darkness and light.
The Symbolism Of Dark And Light Emerges
The contrast between light and dark starts among the first words of the Bible. They describe a planet in unimaginable darkness in a universe without even one sun. There is only the presence of God hovering around this dark watery planet. His very next act was to create light and so bring into existence a contrast which became saturated with symbolism and destined to run throughout The Book.
Tracing the contrast through the the Tanak (Old Testament), we find that physical darkness became a symbol of three things:
- death and the fear of it
“For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead. “ Psalm 143:3 (NASB95)
- unrighteous or wicked behavior
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness … Isaiah 5:20 (NASB95)
“The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.” Proverbs 4:19 (NASB95)
- and a future day of God’s judgment of the planet and it’s inhabitants
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness,… Zephaniah 1:15 (NASB95)
On the other hand light became a symbol of God, His presence, His absolute truth, His righteousness, and His Messiah that offers joy and peace to mankind.
O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places. Psalm 43:3 (NASB95)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NASB95)
“Pay attention to Me, O My people, And give ear to Me, O My nation; For a law will go forth from Me, And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.” Isaiah 51:4 (NASB95)
The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130 (NASB95)
I will bear the indignation of the Lord Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness.Micah 7:9 (NASB95)
“Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.” Hosea 6:5 (NASB95)
People Are The Darkness
Under Jesus’ teaching, light and dark are even more clear symbols of two spiritual kingdoms that divide all of humanity. The Apostle Paul explained that we are all not just living in the kingdom of spiritual darkness, but along with a host of spiritual beings who have rebelled against God, we are the darkness.2
We love serving our own thoughts and passions not realizing that powerful spiritual beings have deceived us into thinking we are wise and righteous and that we need not fear ultimate accountability. In this rebellion we embody and perpetuate life without God, life of unrighteousness and denial of eventual total calamity. In this rebellion we unwittingly serve a prince of the kingdom of darkness who has his reasons to be glad that we ruin our chances to fulfill our created purpose of ruling with God.
The Apostle Paul wrote
.. the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NASB95)
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NASB95)
The Apostle John penned that
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:19-20 (NASB95)
There Is A Way Out of The Darkness
Jesus proclaimed that He is the Light, The Light of the World. But He didn’t come simply to inform people of this fact or of their situation. He came to provide a way out of spiritual darkness, even for the spiritually blind. But to do that He had to defeat the full power of darkness, not by an act of His own God-power, but by going through this particular crucifixion as a man who trusted, loved, and fully depended upon the Father with all his heart, mind and soul regardless of the circumstances or his own fears, a man who functioned as mankind was created to do.
At one of His trials Jesus said
“While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” Luke 22:53 (NASB95)
The Darkness Doesn’t Give Up Its Inhabitants Without A Fight
So it was fitting that these events began in the deep darkness of night. It was symbolic of the fact that it was the hour in which the darkness could attempt its worst. To rid itself of the one being who could dispel its power over mankind.
That night Jesus spent hours in private prayer cementing His submission to the Father’s will so that He could take everything that the darkness could throw at Him plus endure the Father’s withdrawal and wrath on behalf of mankind, something that had never happened in eternity past. The surprise is that even though He submitted to all the physical torture the darkness could wield, He overcame its attempts to make Him sin so that in the end His sacrifice on our behalf was acceptable to the Father. That is the only basis of our way out of the darkness.
Trust In What Jesus Did To Be Rescued From The Kingdom of Darkness
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.John 3:14-18 (NASB95)
Concerning those who acknowledge their unrighteousness and inability to earn God’s forgiveness, who trust in His Christ and what was accomplished on the cross to fully reconcile them with the Father, Paul wrote
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13 (NASB95)
“and for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” Ephesians 5:8 (NASB95)
Temporarily we must remain in a world dominated by the darkness, living out our lives as “…ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us…” 2 Corinthians 5:20a (NASB95), and when it is time, we will be released from this place. In stark contrast to the darkness described in the first lines of The Book, at it’s end we find the opposite and with it freedom from the conflict:
“And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; …” Revelation 22:4-6a (NASB95)