Sermon: Palm Sunday RCL C – “Darkness”

Gaudenzio Ferrari (1475–1546), Stories of The Life and Passion of Christ (1513),
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Varallo Sesia (VC), Italy.

The Gospels are not time-stamped so it is somewhat difficult to calculate the length of Jesus’ public ministry, but given the clues and festivals mentioned, it is estimated to have been three to three and a half years.  With that understanding, we can say that the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness and the temptation he experienced there took place about three years prior to the events we are reading today.

At the end of those forty days we are told, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”  Following this, Scripture tells us, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”  The public ministry begins.

Throughout that ministry, we know that there were many encounters with religious leaders, demons that he exorcised, teachings, feedings, miracles, and more.  For three years Jesus poured out his life for the sake of the mission, fighting every battle that came along, so when he arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was crucified—knowing full well what was about to happen—not only was he exhausted, he was also highly stressed.  He sweated drops of blood.  Hematidrosis.  An exceptionally rare medical condition brought on by stress and anxiety that causes a person to sweat blood.  Because of its rarity, the doctors aren’t entirely certain as to what brings it on, but it is postulated that it is related to the fight and/or flight response: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”  And then they came to arrest him, Jesus said, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

“But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”  The word ‘power’ (exousia) in that sentence can be translated in several different ways: power, right, liberty, strength, jurisdiction, authority.

Following the forty days, the devil left Jesus “until an opportune time”.  That opportune time arrived on the night of Jesus’ arrest when he was experiencing the greatest anxiety.  That hour and the hours to come were handed over to the power of darkness… to the jurisdiction / authority of darkness.  This handing over to the darkness was not because Jesus had been defeated, instead, it occurred so that Jesus might be glorified.  The darkness believed it had finally conquered God, but in being given authority for a short while, it was defeated.

What you and I experience of the darkness of this life is nothing more than the death throes of death itself.

“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.”

As we walk with Jesus during this Holy Week, darkness may seem to have conquered, but do not be afraid, it is only the hour before sunrise.

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