New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.
— John Keble
Some days I’m anxious for night to fall.
It brings the close of day and a chance to sleep, perchance to dream.
Samuel Butler called nighttime “the Sabbath of mankind, to rest the body and the mind.”
And some days I’m anxious when night falls.
It brings the incessant replay of nagging regrets and an irrational sense of foreboding.
In the Bible, there are few references to things happening at night and so you tend to remember them.
On one holy night there was a birth announcement.
On another night a man by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus and in his nocturnal interview heard about the need to be born over again.
And once when night fell over Jerusalem there was a final meal in an upstairs room.
But it was not all hugs and kisses.
Sand was slipping through the hourglass. Jesus announced to his dinner guests that betrayal was on the menu.
Who would serve up the poison?
Allegedly Judas had a reputation as treasurer of cooking the books and pocketing the profits.
So why sell Jesus?
For the money, perhaps.
Or he may have thought that he should be chairman of the disciples and not a lowly bean counter.
Or maybe he was tired of waiting for Jesus to take the world by storm and wanted to force his hand.
Or maybe it was a little bit of everything.
At any rate, Judas left to get Caiaphas the high priest and set up the kissing cue with the soldiers.
Then the gang made their way out of Jerusalem along the chalky road to a familiar garden. They had met there many times before.
Judas knew it.
His hunch was that that would be where Jesus would go.
And Judas would be ready.
He brought along a battalion of Roman soldiers and the officers of the chief priests and the Pharisees.
They came; a mob with torches to see with in the dark, and weapons to subdue the enemy.
The mob coming to lynch a black man. The mob coming after Beauty’s hideous Beast.
Jesus asked him who they were looking for.
They told him and he told them he was their man.
According to Matthew, Judas planted his infamous kiss on Christ to confirm who the enemy was. Jesus was seized and arrested.
Judas could have taken his laundered loonies and found somewhere to spend them.
But when the time came he wasn’t in the mood.
Somehow he’d never dreamed that so much would be lost in his pathetic little deal.
His last desperate act was to return the money to the chief priests. When they didn’t take it back, Judas threw it on the floor and threw his life away.
The night wasn’t over yet.
Our enemies are our enemies because of their potential for dastardly deeds. But our friends will stick with us through thin and thick. They are our rock.
At least that’s what Jesus called Peter.
Who but Jesus would have guessed that while he was being interrogated inside by the High Priest, Peter the Rock would be outside warming his hands by the fire in the cold of that long night saying “Jesus who?”
Then the night that had fallen so hard was over.
In the pink of dawn welcomed by the squawking of a rooster, Peter saw his cowardly disaffiliation and tears ran down his face like rain down a rock.
We are, all of us, complicated creatures.
We make pledges with our fingers crossed behind our back. We say one thing and do another. We are not always to be trusted. We profess loyalty but harbor an agenda.
In the dark of a sultry summer night, we wrestle with our own betrayals and denials.
And so we should, in the full knowledge that with the light of dawn we wake and rise up not condemned, as Peter discovered, but in the words of lyricist John Keble, restored to life and power and thought.
Rev. Bob Ripley, author and syndicated columnist, is the retired senior minister of Metropolitan United Church in London, Ont.