by Dr. Greg Harris
The Darkness and the Glory
Isaiah 52:14 states of the Suffering Servant, “His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”. Greg Harris asks, “Is it [the statement] hyperbole?” He continues, “If the head of Jesus had not been connected to His body and was discovered by someone in a field, it could have raised questions as to whether it actually was a human head?”
How could that be true?
Harris develops the question by working through the answer at great length. While any man could suffer merely physical torment, Jesus suffered in three ways which went far beyond physical suffering.
However, before he answers that question, Harris begins with another question: Why did Satan at first try to keep Jesus from the cross and then shift tactics to drive Jesus to the cross? For Harris, the unity of the Bible is not a mere position to be stated, it is everywhere apparent in his writing. Whenever he tugs at one strand of the Bible, a dozen other texts come along from Genesis through Revelation.
The first movement in the book is a consideration of how Satan sought to derail his destruction by attacking Jesus. If he could not conquer Jesus with temptation, he would crush Jesus with trial. Thus, Jesus suffered differently from other men, due to rampage of Satan and his demons.
Harris makes the point vividly by asking, What did Jesus see as the soldiers held him down and nailed him to the cross? Did he see the heavens opened? Did he see Satan’s legions? He then uses this question to more fully consider the true spiritual dimension of the cross. In considering the matter, Harris works through the gospels, but also considers appropriate texts in Ephesians and Colossians (particularly Colossians 2:15).
From there, Harris moves to the matter of the darkness at noon. As he considers the matter, he draws on darkness elsewhere in the Bible. As he considers the matters of Abraham and Moses and the parallel texts in Hebrews and Luke: you really should read through the stories with Harris rather than merely pick up the conclusion. The means of obtaining the end point is as valuable as understanding the darkness.
Harris also considers at length the Father striking the Son and Jesus absorbing the wrath of God to redeem sinners:
Our sins did not go away by themselves; they did not evaporate. Our sins did not disappear because of some sort of imaginary sweep of God’s divine eraser. Our sins were borne by the One of whom the Scripture speaks (93).
This is a matter which we may never fully understand. Our forgiveness came at an eternal and infinite cost. Perhaps our faith hangs so lightly upon us because we too little value the redemption. And while the matters are beyond our comprehension, we have no excuse to not seek to understand.
Thereafter, Harris considers the third unique element of Jesus’ suffering (beyond the demonic and the darkness): the separation of the Father: Matt. 27:45-46. Harris ties this event to an understanding the Hell of Hell:
The last agony Jesus experienced before His death was literally hell on the earth. He experienced “the outer darkness” as God the Father removed himself from God the Son. …He alone in all history partook of the outer darkness within the frailty of a human body. As we have seen so many times before, is it any wonder, “His appearance was more marred than the sons of men” (Isa. 52:14)? How could it not be? (107)
Harris then moves onto the question as to what happened between the last breath and the resurrection. That question requires a look through Genesis, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, Ezekiel and the Gospels. It requires an understanding of what took place at the Fall, before the Fall and during the tenure Satan between the Fall and the coming of Christ.
This discussion entails a discussion of the two surprises Satan received when God pronounced judgment in Genesis 3. From here, Harris goes onto note the glory and good gained by Jesus for the elect. In this, Jesus gained for redeemed humanity far more than Adam held at the first – and the exaltation of Jesus.
When reading the book, one continually has the sensation of learning and thinking along with Harris. The value in the book is not merely in the conclusion and exposition (which are of great use), but also in the process of thinking in biblical lines. To read the book is to learn how to think biblically, that is, within a biblical context.
Happily, he does not waste the readers’ time. With many Christian books, the author has one point sufficient for a pamphlet – yet the matter has been dragged into book length. To achieve that end, the book becomes filled with stories with do little to illustrate and less to edify.
Harris does not fall into that trap, because the book consists solely in understanding what the Bible says. As he works through a matter, he runs into new questions and considerations. By answering one question, Harris comes to a new question in another text. Indeed, to a certain extent, the end of Harris’ book is arbitrary: because each act expositing a text leads to new texts and thus more questions.
Having finished the book, I am glad I read it. Not only did I learn about the Bible, I also learned better how to read and think through the Bible.