Amber rays crest the horizon, illuminating and revealing the undertakings of the night prior. Whether the destruction of a storm, who’s fury is first seen as the sun begins its ascent for the day, the presence of a deer from its bed of CRP grasses that was hidden in the secrecy of the night, or the flickering of charcoal feathers as a turkey lands in the dew-slick-end-grass. If morning brings with it new sights, sounds, and experiences, then dawn also brings accountability, the demanding of a reason and explanation for the hours dominated by the darkness.
Dawn is where this story begins. Unable to be divorce itself from the night before, the events that transpired in the hours of darkness before the dawn are connected and must be discussed before the sun even begins to rise. The world didn’t cease to exist or stand still on its axis during that night. Dawn arrives carried along by the momentum of the night.
On this night, in a garden on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is confronted, yet again, with the failure of his disciples. They are sleepy. It had been a long week and with the anticipation of the upcoming holiday, the stress of the city, and the duration of their day, their eyes were heavy. Jesus wakes them up as a familiar face approaches. Under the cover of darkness, an army wound its way up the hill and into the garden. With torches lighting the way and light reflecting off their weapons (John 18.3), the mob was on a mission to apprehend Jesus.
The arrest of Jesus had been at the forefront of their plans since he had entered the city 5 days ago causing an uproar. The leadership, however, was afraid of the people. What kind of riot would ensue if they arrested a Rabbi and Miracle worker, in the midst of a festival week at that? (Luke 22.1-6)
The leader of the mob was Judas, who himself had had a long night. He had been with Jesus since the beginning and watched his rise to fame. Now he was the one with poison on his lips and blood on his hands. He was the catalyst on that night. He pulled the pin to the grenade that would start exploding at dawn.
Jesus was bound, led into the city and tried before the courts. Under the glowing light of oil candles, Jesus stood and was interrogated before Annas, the former high priest (John 18.19) and then Caiaphas, the current high priest (John 18.24). In he final phase of the Jewish proceedings, Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin. The judge, jury, and final say in Jewish law. During the meeting, the sun was rising.
The whole night could be summed up in Matthew 27.1:
“Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death.” (see also Mark 15.1; Luke 22.66; John 18.28)
Dawn that Friday, was the result of a trajectory begun that night. A night filled with betrayals (Judas), denials (Peter), abandonment (the disciples), and kangaroo courts (the Jewish leaders). The night began with Jesus and his disciples, by dawn he stood there alone. Dawn calls into account the events of the night.
As the sun rises on the Friday of this story, I am reminded of how appealing the darkness can be. We can act, hide, run, and deceive in it. What is done remains hidden so long as the darkness remains. But eventually dawn comes and the light penetrates the darkness, revealing and illuminating the activities and actions once covered. Standing there, at dawn, is the condemned to die Jesus…ready to die because of what was done in the dark!