Thrive: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn – Kristy Bay

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“‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’ After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.”
—Matthew 10:26-11:1

“Shake it out, shake it out . . . and it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back . . . it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
—Florence and the Machine

Once again, Jesus’ words are unsettling. Here Jesus lists all the discord that his presence will sow between family members. Harsh words that leave my nerves a little raw, if I am honest, because they don’t sound like the Jesus I know. I want to argue with this Jesus…with the Matthean scribe…and say, “No. The Jesus I know, love, and serve came to bring peace and NOT a sword. You know, blessed are the peacemakers?! Remember what you wrote five chapters ago!”

But here we sit, at the beginning of Holy Week, with these disturbing words of Jesus. What is to be done with them? Jesus is teaching and preparing his followers for what is to come. In the gathering shadows of betrayal, anger, and impending death, Jesus speaks these words. For me, I read his words with the shouts of Palm Sunday still ringing in my ears. But Palm Sunday has passed, and with each day that goes by, the darkness grows. The same crowds who cried, “All Hail! Hosanna!” grow increasingly silent before once more raising their voices. The next time they gather and cry out, they scream, “Crucify him!” Family members who once stood with Jesus and celebrated him quickly turn against him. Those who ran plowshares pick up and hurl verbal stones. Those who were considered brothers and sisters reject him.

Jesus did not bring peace to Jerusalem. He did not bring peace to the Roman government, or even to his early followers. Death and bloodshed and hatred and ignorance ran rampant through the streets. With the angry jeers of the crowd ringing in my ears, I read this passage with a renewed sense of challenge. These challenging words that could only be spoken by One who knew what lay ahead. Following Christ is not easy. It causes division, even between those who should be sisters and brothers. It stirs up dark feelings within those who cannot bear to hear the message.

Yet in the darkest hours of the watch, in the heavy silent darkness of Holy Saturday, I am reminded that it is always darkest before the dawn. By the end of the week, the light of the world will once more illuminate even the darkest of places. So I take hope and courage from the first lines of this passage: have no fear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. And what is it that whispered in the darkness of Holy Week? That death has lost. That He is not here, He is risen! This Easter Sunday, may we shout anew bathed in the light of the resurrection that Christ is Risen Indeed!

Kristy_Bay_smKristy Bay and her husband Zachary Bay recently relocated to Middlesboro, Kentucky, where Zach is the pastor of First Baptist Church. Kristy received her Master of Divinity degree from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. Her master’s thesis, titled When Narratives Collide, addresses meta-narratives and youth ministry. Kristy loves all things related to student ministry and most recently served as the associate pastor for youth and education at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia. She also served on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia’s coordinating council, has written for and led student ministry events such as March Mission Madness and Disciple Now, and has lead worship and done supply preaching in numerous churches. Her sermon, “The Road Map” was published in This is What a Preacher Looks Like, and she has written for Smyth & Helwys’s Reflections devotional guide and other NextSunday Resources projects. She loves music and French (and has a bachelor degree in both), and she loves reading, drinking coffee, and laughing.

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