The movie scene is intense, and has the audience sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what will transpire during the tension filled press conference. Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s District Attorney in the movie “The Dark Knight,” is addressing reporters and the city in a live interview in which everyone anticipates that the true identity of Batman will be revealed. The city has been gripped by fear due to the psychotic actions of the Joker. The Joker has terrorized the citizens of Gotham and now has assured the city that if Batman turns himself in he will stop his murderous ways. The city is paralyzed with fear and is willing to sacrifice someone who stands for justice in order to ease their apprehension.
Harvey Dent knows that giving in to the demands of evil, personified in the Joker, will only weaken the city and lead them down a path of uncertainty and chaos. Dent knows the difficulty of standing up for what is right. Criminals have already tried to take his life, but that has not stopped this intrepid District Attorney. Dent appeals to the city not to sacrifice Batman, but remain strong and determined as they endure the evil of the Joker together. As he nears the end of his plea, he makes this statement; “The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
I believe the crucifixion and death of Jesus is by far His darkest time on earth. Jesus has spent the last three years of His life impacting the lives of everyone He came in contact with. He transformed people’s lives by healing them of all sorts of diseases and physical limitations. Jesus offered people a new life through believing in Him. He brought hope to the hopeless and proclaimed freedom to the captives. Jesus gave all that He was and all that He had for the very people who now were crying out, “crucify Him, crucify Him.”
Evil has powerfully responded to Jesus’ message of hope and new life and now evil is celebrating as the loving and compassionate Christ is hanging on a cross. As Jesus hangs on this cross He is enduring more than He has ever experienced before. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is taking upon Himself the sin of the world. Not only is He taking our sin, but also the punishment for our sin. Jesus feels the pain our sin inflicts on us and the world. He is now riddled with the guilt and shame that always accompany sin. The full fury of darkness has descended upon Jesus and He must endure all the pain and suffering the darkness brings. Finally, Jesus raises his voice one last time and speaks to the heart of the darkness saying, “It is finished.”
At these words evil must have rejoiced as never before. The darkness had succeeded in extinguishing the light of Christ in one twenty four hour period. While darkness and evil are ecstatic, the followers of Jesus are crushed when they hear His last words. Is it really finished? Were the last three years for nothing? At this point darkness seems to have won the victory, and even the reader of the Gospel must acknowledge defeat if she or he does not already know the ultimate ending. Truly the night must have seemed so dark and the dawn was nowhere in sight.
The darkness was unbelievably dark as Jesus was uttering His last words, but was there a ray of light shining on this day? John specifically mentions two unlikely individuals who are there for Jesus on His darkest day. Joseph of Arimathea is part of the religious structure that has sent Jesus to the cross. This whole ordeal must have been unbearable for Joseph. When he sees an opportunity to do something for Jesus, he offers to provide the burial site for our Lord, even though he would no longer be a secret follower of Jesus. Joseph was willing to stand up to the darkness even though I am sure he believed the ministry of Jesus was finished. He could no longer keep his love for Christ a secret and he shows us a tiny ray of light.
Joseph of Arimathea is helped by a very interesting and profound character in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus is the man who approached Jesus at night and asked how he could enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus responds by telling Nicodemus to be born again. As far as the reader is concerned, Nicodemus leaves Jesus just as confused and wrapped in darkness as when he first approached Jesus; however, clearly this was not the case. At some point, Nicodemus appears to have understood the message of Jesus because he is now stepping out of the darkness and serving Jesus when all others have abandoned Him.
As a reader of the Gospel of John, I must ask; if Jesus was able to overcome the darkness in Nicodemus’ life, could He overcome this darkness that has now consumed Him? The crucifixion and death of Jesus is undoubtedly a dark day, but this is not the last of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” he meant for sin, death, darkness and evil. Even in this dark hour, Jesus knew that the light was coming. No matter how dark our lives become, maybe we should remember that the night is darkest just before the dawn, and Jesus has promised the dawn is coming and the darkness will have no place to hide.