We focus, today, on the reality of shadows. It may seem an odd and somber practice to willingly place ourselves under the presence of these light-stealers. Yet here we are, fully confronted with the shadows of betrayal, denial, disappointment, violence, rejection, accusation, injustice, suffering and death.
But these are shadows that our world is all too familiar with. Indeed, these are shadows our own lives are all too familiar with. For we live in a Shadow Land.
We live in a land where the shadow of violence creeps into our airports, our metro stations, our workplaces, our elementary schools, our urban centers, our remote villages, and our homes, robbing us of the light of safety and peace.
We live in a world blanketed by the shadow of injustice. Millions of innocent families forced from their homes because of the ravages of war. Countless women, men, boys, and girls reduced to the status of slaves, selling their bodies as a throwaway commodity.
And these shadows hang over our own lives, for we ourselves feel their presence: The sting of a betrayal from a close friend-someone who turned their back on us and refused reconciliation. The unexpected bad report from a doctor’s appointment, the child who has turned their back on faith and family, the desire that has yet to be met – these disappointments suspend over us like dark clouds whose shadows we cannot outrun.
So shadows do not surprise us anymore. They sadden us, grieve us, wound us, anger us, or numb us, but they do not surprise us. In fact, our world is filled with cheap ways to try to outrun the shadows or ignore the shadows, all the while leading people further into the darkness of the very shadow they’re trying to escape.
And at this moment now we pause to reflect how Christ, the Perfect Man, and Son of God walked through these same shadows. He felt their sting, he endured their mockery, he bore their weight, and he experienced their darkness.
But on this day of shadows, there was another Shadow – a shadow that encompassed all others. On this day, when our Savior walked through these shadows, he walked in the presence of a greater Shadow. The Shadow of the Glory of his Father.
You see, from the perspective of the world, it appeared that the shadow of death – and all his lesser shadows – had the final word and the victory. It seemed that the embodiment of life and love and light were to be swallowed up in this darkness, extinguished and snuffed out by the shadow of death.
But little could the world see the over-arching presence of the Shadow of God’s glory. At that moment, only the Son could understand how all of this was orchestrated by, purposed for, and explained through the glorious presence of God.
You see, dear friend, this is the primary shadow in which the cross does stand: The Glory of God.
What moved Jesus to walk through the shadows of death, to feel the agony, to experience the betrayal was a commitment to the glory of His Father. What stands central to the purpose of the cross is not primarily our happiness or well-being. I was not the one on his mind, above all else, as he hung on that tree, drinking in the shadow of death. Nor were you. If you look to the core of why the cross happened at all, you won’t find yourself or me standing there; you’ll find the Father. Indeed, what truly brought Christ the most agony was not the presence of these lesser shadows, but the departure of the glorious Shadow; when the presence of his Father left him.
The sacrifice on the cross, the salvation of all peoples, and the events of creation are all moving in response to this one theme: the glory of God!
The shadow of death was not the victor! The shadows of betrayal, violence, rejection, and injustice did not have the final word! Were they real that day? Of course! But they moved towards a greater cause; they served a deeper purpose. These lesser shadows in some mysterious way actually illuminated the Greater Shadow – God’s glory.
And it’s in this, dear Christian, that we find such hope!
For now we see how these lesser shadows – while real in our lives – can illuminate the glorious shadow of God!
For instance, the shadow of injustice will be lost in the glorious shadow of God’s justice. When in the last days, His vengeance will be complete upon the afflicters and his comfort will be abundantly poured over the afflicted. When every tear is wiped away, and sadness is no more, the shadow of His glorious justice will shine with brilliance!
Or how the shadow of His Glorious love outweighs any hint of rejection or denial. When the shadow of rejection and loneliness creeps into your heart, may you run to the greater shadow of God’s love! Finding there an acceptance and a belonging that nothing or no being can separate you from!
Or when the shadow of accusation speaks lies in our minds and hearts, may we find rest in the healing shadow of God’s grace and forgiveness. May we dwell peacefully in the truth that because of the cross, “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Let us revel in the glorious shadow of God’s faithfulness! Let us not be consumed when the cloud of disappointment hangs over us. Instead, let us rejoice that God is present! That He is the pillar of light and the cloud of presence that leads us through this Shadow Land!
Today is a moment to reflect on the shadows of the cross. But let us not lose sight of the most beautiful shadow of all! And while on certain days it may feel like the shadow of death has had the final say, let’s join the psalmist and exclaim: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”