It was their last meal together. The group had been on the road for about three years in a great cause, the cause of God and His Messiah. At the end of the meal one of them got up and left, and we are told “it was night”. If we read, or listen to, the Bible at a superficial level we will think that was a reference to the time of day, the time when Judas left the room where what we call the Last Supper was taking place, but that is not the case. John in his gospel (13:30) is making a theological statement about what Judas was going to do. A statement that here is darkness, a spiritual darkness, a darkness where God, who is light, is not.
To the Jews (and we need to put on Jewish spectacles to properly understand the New Testament) darkness represented evil etc. This is the meaning of the primeval darkness at the very beginning of the Bible “when darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Genesis 1:2) about which we also might say “And it was night”. To the Biblical writers darkness represented fear, danger, evil, chaos, disorder and above all the absence of God. The darkness that God (who is light) drove away with His command “Let there be Light”.
“It was night” when “darkness came over the whole land” when Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:44), for here was the presence of great evil, here for a nano-second the forces of that great Dragon Satan used men to kill the greatest purity there has ever been. Here is the horror of the Son being torn from his Father “and it was night”.
A week ago, at around 5:30 pm on an eastern European summer’s day there was a flash of light in the east “and it was night’” a manifestation of evil, the murder of 298 people in a passenger jet flying high above the Ukrainian landscape. This event has been followed by world-wide expressions of horror, outrage (a much abused word these days but appropriate here), grief, anger and shock. This begs the question as to how those who are Christ’s people are to respond? There is a number of dimensions to answering that question.
Firstly, we should be deeply sympathetic to those who have lost loved ones in this murderous event. We should empathise with their grief, pray for them, and, if it is in some way in our power, to assist those Australians closely affected we should do so.
Secondly, we should be angry, very angry with the righteous anger that Jesus displayed against evil (Mark 3:5, John 4:33).
Thirdly however, we should be neither shocked or surprised. Billy Graham the great evangelist sums up his and the Christian response to the constant manifestations of evil around the world (wars, suffering etc) when he wrote that such evil shows that “The Bible Is True”.
Fourthly, we should remember that there will be a Day when all those in Christ will be healed of all their pain, wounds and suffering. We should also remember that those who perpetrate evil acts of the night will stand before God for perfect judgement.
We are told a few verses before Judas left the ‘Last Supper’ that “Satan entered him.” Here was a man who was controlled by an evil power, that caused him to betray Jesus to be crucified “and it was night”. That same force “enters and influences people today” to cause them to commit acts of great evil—the evil of Port Arthur, of the Bali bombings and flight MH17, “And it was night”.
It should not limit our extreme sympathy for the victims’ families or reduce our anger at this evil, but Christians of all people should be those able to understand why events like this happen. The Bible is realistic about the human heart, and tells us that we should expect such evil events as the bringing down of flight MH17. It tells us that we live in a world that is not operating properly (Romans 8:22), indeed it is groaning in its dysfunction, and also that the human heart is evil (Matthew 12:34, 7:11). The Apostle Paul graphically describes this in Romans 1:29—”They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.”
The only antidote to the poison of the kingdom of darkness is when the light of Christ enters and drives out the darkness from evil human hearts (as Jesus acknowledged them to be—Matthew 7:11). Christians are called to “shine like stars in the (black) universe and hold out the word of life.”
(Philippians 2:15,16) to those who are perishing in the darkness.
Events like the evil of MH17 should cause us to say with great sadness and anger “and it was night” but then redouble our efforts to “shine like stars”, in the night; and in word and deed shine the light of Christ into the darkness in which, and controlled by which, so many live.