Charles Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” (p1). His purpose was to capture the mood of London and Paris in the years leading up to the French and American Revolutions. It was times of excess among the ruling class – coupled with an age of oppression suffered by the common folks. This book is among Dickens’ best-known; some claim it to be the best-selling novel ever.
We’ll skip the full plot and character development since most have encountered this in school. Important to note here is the relationship between Sydney Carton, Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette. Theirs is a convoluted love triangle where Sydney secretly loves Lucie. Doesn’t everybody? (pun intended) However, he never expresses it so she marries Charles – a man Sydney dislikes intensely.
Charles finds himself convicted as a traitor; his penalty: death by guillotine. Sydney expresses the bounds of his love by sacrificing himself in place of Charles. Sydney dies so Lucie and Charles can live.
Sydney’s life and death captures the message of conflict in Dickens’ opening line.
The verse this week opens a historical scene in another best seller; this one, the Bible, is not fiction. Jesus is on the cross and he is about to die. Darkness takes over the whole land at Noon and lasts for three hours. Science has proven this was not an eclipse or dust storm – it could only be a direct intervention from God. One can only imagine what it was like to experience three hours of complete darkness in the middle of the day. It’s just not natural!
Jesus cries out to God as the weight of the world’s idols, mishaps and wrong doings come fully down on him. This is one of the most difficult verses to understand – the point where Jesus, God with us – felt abandonment from God, his father. Who can comprehend it? Finally, in Jesus’ last act on the cross, he cries out one last time then voluntarily gives up his spirit.
Jesus is the only one who could take the death sentence we deserve.
The current pandemic has another darkness looming over the world: physically, economically, and spiritually. We are living in times where sacrifice is needed so we can get through. Maybe your sacrifice is staying home to protect yourself and others. It might be that your role is needed for society to continue to function – so you take on risk going out every day. What ever you may be facing, it will take discipline to get this behind us. Yet, the discipline required on us is nothing compared to the discipline it must have taken for Jesus to willing face our punishment.
Good Friday is just in front of us, let this is reminder of how worse times lead to better ones. Perhaps you still have questions about Jesus and his gift. We are here to help explain how you can live because Jesus died. Please ask!