When I was a small child, I was terrified of the dark. My parents would tuck me into bed and go back downstairs to watch television or talk by the fireplace. I laid awake listening and waiting for something to come and get me. I would creep into the hallway and sit by the railing to the stairway. My parents would find me there an hour or so later when they came up to bed and gently guide me to my cozy pillows and blankets again.
For whatever reason, a nightlight was never enough for me. I wanted the light of my parents’ attention, their love, and, mostly, their presence to fall asleep.
The good news is I have outgrown my fear of the dark. Praise God—I was a little worried there for a while in college! Just joking. 😉
And in becoming a parent, I have noticed just how common a fear of the dark is in small children, and even not-so-small children. Why? Why is it so common, even in homes full of daily care and affection? Why is it just so hard for children to rest peacefully in the dark at night?
I think we can gain some insight into both childhood fears of darkness and all the light the resurrection gives us in one swoop today, by looking at Luke 23:44-47 –
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
In this passage we see darkness at its very worst. The Scripture is dead honest in Luke 23:45:
…while the sun’s light failed.
It wasn’t just dark — the sun was not capable of giving light at the moment of Jesus’ death.The Greek root for “failed” in the text is eklipontos, from the word ekleipó meaning to fail utterly, to leave out, to come to an end, defunct.
This is purposeful darkness, and really, since the creation of the world, darkness, alongside light, has been in the hands of our God.
Children do not have the understanding to accompany these considerations. I can say to my children, “God is with you. He’s right beside you.” But for them, my physical presence is what reminds them over and over that God is near. They are learning and growing in the Word as we share it in our home, but God is building understanding and trust in them as well. They are not yet there, just as I am really not yet there when we start talking about metaphorical darkness.
The darkness presses in within our lives and it is easy to forget that God gives purpose to it. Some purposes we will see this side of heaven—light will dawn as we read the Word and God gives us insight and understanding into our situation. For other pieces of darkness in our lives, we will have to wait for understanding to dawn when the New Creation comes with Jesus on the clouds.
What else happened in the moment that the sun utterly “failed” in Luke 23:45? Look back at the passage again to remind yourself.
When the weight of our sin was poured onto Jesus and darkness entered this world in a way it had not seen before, salvation also broke through and brought Light. Hebrews 1:10-13 uses the same Greek root word, eklipontos, to describe the greatness of our Savior in contrast to the world, and even the angels from whom we seek protection in our beds as we lay in darkness:
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? (emphasis added)
Darkness feels like an end. Certainly that darkness that enveloped the world at the time of Jesus’ death did for the disciples, for those gathered, but God brings Light, and His name is Jesus. Light is resurrected.
Dr Arthur A. Just, Jr. reminds us in his commentary on the final chapters of Luke, “Here during Jesus’ crucifixion, the darkness signals the imminent conclusion of God’s work of redemption.”
While darkness seems imminent, oh, is Light ever magnificent and eternal.
Night has its work. It is purposeful. God uses even this. Morning will always dawn in Christ Jesus.
Night has its work, but morning will always dawn in Christ.
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*Arthur A. Just Jr., Luke 9:51–24:53, Concordia Commentary, copyright © 1997 Concordia Publishing House, p. 942. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Concordia Publishing House.