Holy Week is a time of deep reflection for Christians around the world. It is a time when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his death, and his resurrection. Good Friday, in particular, is a day that calls us into the suffering of the Lord of all creation. It is a reminder not to rush too quickly to Easter Sunday’s bright lights and celebration. It is good to linger at the cross before moving to the empty tomb. It is good to stay with this death for a while.
Theologian Richard John Neuhaus once wrote that everything, from the largest galaxy to the smallest atom, is called to attention on this day. He goes on, “This is the axis mundi, the center upon which the cosmos turns. In the derelict who cries from the cross is, or so Christians say, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The life of all on this day died.”
The Gospel of Matthew tells us of the ominous darkness that blanketed the land as Jesus was crucified. This darkness is a powerful symbol of death, a topic that continues to confound modern society. We often find ourselves at an impasse in our quest to deal with death. On the one hand, there is the secular approach of denying death’s existence, opting instead for cosmetic enhancements that offer only temporary relief. Religion tries to make peace with death by embracing it as a friend instead of fearing it as a foe. However, these solutions fall short of addressing the true nature of death as taught in the Bible.
The Bible sees death as the greatest enemy of humankind. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” And yet, we know that darkness and evil are still rampant in the world. Events like 9/11 or school shootings remind us of how dark a place the earth is.
But darkness is not the only theme in this passage. Darkness falls over all the land, but if we’ve been paying attention to the Gospel writers, we should know that there is a great light to be found here in this terrible scene, even if we cannot detect it with our eyes. In Isaiah 53:2, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” And yet, here in this darkness hangs the Light of the World. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The veil being torn from top to bottom is a significant moment during the crucifixion. It symbolizes the opening of the way to God for all people. The veil in the temple separated the Holy of Holies, where God dwelled, from the rest of the temple, where people could go. Only the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and that was only once a year. But when Jesus died, the veil was torn in two, from top to bottom. The fact that the veil was torn from top to bottom emphasizes that it was not torn by human hands but rather by the power of God. It was a supernatural event that signified the end of the old covenant and the beginning of a new covenant, in which all people would have access to God through Jesus Christ. We no longer need a high priest to enter God’s presence. We can approach God directly through Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, there is much darkness in the world, and all our solutions for eliminating it come up short. We needed the Light of the World to take on our darkness and fill it with his marvelous light. If we place our faith in Jesus, the Light of the World who defeated death by entering into it, we can have hope even though darkness and death fill our world and hearts. Let us remember this Holy Week that Jesus Christ is the light that shines in the darkness and the hope that we need to overcome it. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and by believing in Him, we can have eternal life and be free from the darkness of sin and death. Let us celebrate his resurrection and the victory over darkness that it represents, and let us strive to live in his light and share it with others so that they, too, may know the hope and the joy that comes from a life lived in the presence of the Light of the World.