A Cry in the Dark: A Good Friday Message

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02/04/2021

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02/04/2021

1

Jesus on the Cross

The following transcript was adapted from a sermon I preached in my church, Truth Baptist Church, on the Good Friday of 2019, which in turn was heavily inspired by Timothy Keller’s book King’s Cross: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God. We often think that embracing our calling brings us a life of coherence, joy, and fulfillment. However, for the Son of God, embracing His call involves agonizing pain, suffering, and hell. May we pause and meditate on what it took Him to reconcile us to the God who so lovingly calls us to Himself.


A Cry in the Dark

Mark 15:33-39

33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Why do we call it, ‘Good Friday’?

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends: in the Bible texts that we read, we have just witnessed the last few moments in Jesus’ life, from the night He was betrayed, to the unfair trial, through all the mindless torture and humiliation, to this very moment when Jesus died. Friends, if this is the first time you’ve ever attended a Good Friday service, you might be wondering why Christians would call it “Good Friday”. How can it be ‘good’ to see a good and innocent Man, a founder of a religion, to die in such pain and loneliness and horrible suffering? What ‘good’ is there to speak of?

Indeed, when we looked at the events that transpired, we could not see that any good can come out of it. This was dark stuff. It exposed the darkness of the hearts of the people who were shouting, “Crucify Him!”. It exposed the darkness of the hearts of the religious leaders, the Pharisees and chief priests, who would twist the truth to protect their own power.

But here, the darkness became real. The sky literally turned dark. At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (Mark 15:33). The sixth hour was noon; the ninth hour was 3:00 p.m. So, from 12:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon, as Jesus was dying, there was total darkness.

This was not a natural eclipse

Many people suggested a natural cause for this event. Maybe it’s an eclipse. But a solar eclipse does not create absolute darkness for more than a few minutes. Furthermore, a solar eclipse can’t happen during the time of a full moon, and Passover is always celebrated at a full moon. What about a desert windstorm? The kind that can kick up enough dust to obscure the sun for days at a time? But Passover falls in the wet season, so this darkness couldn’t have come from a windstorm.

This was a supernatural darkness.

In the Bible, when there is an inexplicable darkness during the day, it is always recognized as a sign that God is angry with sin. It is a judgment from God. The prime example of that phenomenon is the darkness over Egypt – that was the 9th plague at the time of the first Passover (Exodus 10:21–23). So when this darkness fell, we know that God was acting in judgment. But who was God judging?

Listen to what Mark says, in v. 34:

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God was not so much judging the people who were crucifying His Son. God was judging His Son.

All through the events we had read so far, we saw a Jesus who was poised and in control.
He was so firm and courageous when the guards arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took His ground at the unjust trial, when the religious leaders were so eager to find fault with Him.
He did not flinch when the soldiers scourged Him with whips and lashes.

But here, something had happened. Jesus “cried out in a loud voice”. It’s a Greek word that literally mean – Jesus screamed.

Now, this really troubled many people at this point because it looked as if Jesus broke, that He lost confidence in God and as if He was saying to God, “You failed Me.” This has troubled many people. Did He just crack under pressure? One interesting thing is that historians know, that if this is such a troubling statement, then for sure it wasn’t made up. If you were making up the death of the founder of your faith, and you’re trying to promote that faith, you would never put such unheroic, disheartened, hopeless despairing words into his mouth. In other words, it was such a discouraging statement that for sure He said it. It really happened.

If you were making up the death of the founder of your faith, and you’re trying to promote that faith, you would never put such unheroic, disheartened, hopeless despairing words into his mouth.

But what does it mean? Why did Jesus scream? Was it the physical pain? Was it too much for Him to bear?

Look at what He said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

“My God…”

My GOD. When Jesus started to cry out, he didn’t say, “My head, my head!” “My hands, my hands!” He was not referring to His physical suffering. (He didn’t say a word when He was flogged) He didn’t say, “My friends, my friends!” He was not referring to His psychological suffering, His social abandonment. This was something way beyond physical or mental torture. It is His infinite spiritual suffering. He said, “My God, my God.” On the cross, Jesus was forsaken by God Himself.

MY God. He said, “My God.” That’s the language of intimacy. To call anyone “my Wendy” or “my Marcus” is affectionate. And in the Bible, to call God, “my God”, is a covenantal address. “You shall be my people, and I shall be your God.” It was the way God said someone could address him if he or she had a personal relationship with him.

“My God, you have forsaken me.”

The judgment was to be forsaken. If friend or colleague comes to me and says, “I never want to see you or talk to you again,” I will feel pretty bad. But if today my wife comes up to me and says, “I never want to see you or talk to you again,” that’s a lot worse. If you ever suffered a divorce, a rejection, or if someone you love died without forgiving you – that is one of the most painful thing that can happen to you.

The longer the love, the deeper the love, the greater the torment of its loss.

But this forsakenness, this loss, was between God the Father and the Son, who had loved each other from all eternity. No love between friends, no parent/spouse, no husband/wife comes close to the love between the Father and the Son. This love between the Father and the Son was infinitely long and absolutely perfect! And Jesus was losing that love.

There’s a word in the Bible that describes this condition. It’s called hell. The presence of God is something our soul needs, like the flower needs the sun. And if this moment the sun goes out we will be immediately dead. We couldn’t survive a second without the sun. Now Hell is to be cut off from God, cut off from the source of life and love and hope, source of everything that is good. Jesus was experiencing hell for us on the cross. At this point, His soul was plunged into infinite, utter darkness.

The Darkness darker than the Black Hole

Black hole with corona, X-ray source (artist’s concept). Source: Wikipedia public domain

The Black Hole. On April 10 this year, the world saw the first ever photograph of the event horizon of a black hole some 50 million light-years away. Stephen Hawking speculated that the black hole is where gravity is so strong as to drag light back and prevent it from escaping. Because nothing can travel faster than light, everything else will get dragged back also.

The darkness that Jesus experienced on the cross was darker than the black hole. Because the Light of the World allowed Himself to be sucked into that black hole of total separation, total forsakenness – of hell – for you and me.

You need to understand that, hell is not in time. It’s a spiritual condition of being utterly cast away from the presence of God. There’s no such thing as 3 hours in hell. It’s not as if Jesus could say to Himself, “If only I hold out for 3 more hours, it’ll be over.” He was experiencing an eternity and infinity of suffering.

Jesus was experiencing hell for us on the cross. He was experiencing an eternity and infinity of suffering.

If I ask you, “What if you die one day, and you realize that God is real and hell is real?”

You might defiantly answer, “I’m fine with that – at least all my friends are there.”

But guess what? You will not find your friends in hell. Because friendship is a gift from God. When you are cut off from God, you will be left utterly alone.

That was what Jesus went through on the cross. That was why He cried out in the dark.

“WHY have You forsaken Me?”

Why? The perennial question. Why did God forsake Jesus on the cross?

When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” He wasn’t asking a rhetorical question. Jesus intentionally referenced the first line of a Psalm in the Bible – Psalm 22:

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads
:
8 “He trusts in the Lord;
let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.

14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.

16 Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

Psalm 22 was written by King David, who lived 1,000 years before Jesus. When you read the details, you know it can’t be written about King David. He wasn’t ‘poured out like water’, not was ‘his bones out of joint’; no one ‘pierced his hands and feet’ nor ‘cast lots for his clothing’. No, this was describing an execution. King David living 1,000 years before Christ was making a prophecy, that points towards Someone who will be executed in precisely this manner, and yet was perfectly innocent and will be vindicated by God. Because later in Psalm 22 you’ll read how God will “deliver [His] life from the sword”, He will “rescue [Him] from the mouth of the lions] (vv. 20-21) God will “listen to His cries for help”. And finally in the last verse,

31 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn–
for he has done it.

What else did Jesus cry out when He breathed His last? “It is finished”. I have done it. The sacrifice has been made.

“It is finished.”

So the cry in the dark was not just a scream. It was a hint at the fulfilment of a prophecy, a Grand Plan to save us that was formed before the world came to be. I tell you, whatever the upcoming Avengers movie Endgame throw at us, whatever the grand plan that Dr Strange came up with to defeat Thanos, it can never be compared to the Grand Plan that God has conceived to save us that cuts across the eons of existence! Jesus died to save us sinners. He was forsaken so that we never would be.

The answer to the question, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was because Jesus was experiencing our judgment day for us.

It wasn’t a rhetorical question. WHY? The answer is: For you, for me, for us. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we would never have to be. The judgment that should have fallen on us fell instead on Jesus.

Why have God the Father forsaken Jesus on the cross? For you. For me. For us. As one Christian songwriter wrote, “We are the reason that He gave His life; we are the reason that He suffered and died”. It’s true. We are the reason that Jesus had to die. Because Jesus, the Perfect Son of God, was made to be a sacrifice for all of us, and God the Father poured out all His wrath and judgment on Him, so that He absorbed all the wrath and punishment in Himself. So that when we put our faith in Jesus – like the centurion who cried out, “Surely this is the Son of God” – if we submit our lives to Him, all the punishment of our sin will be wiped out. Totally, absolutely wiped out. Because it has all landed on Jesus.

This tells us 2 things:

  1. We are so wicked that Jesus has to die for us. Nothing you can do, none of your good deeds, random-acts-of-kindness, none of your social work or donation or corporate-social-responsibility events can stop the wrath of God crushing on you like a tsunami, because in the eyes of a holy God we are wicked to the core. Jesus is saying, “Despite all you’ve done for Me, I’ll still have to die for you.” There is no room for pride.
  2. We are so loved that Jesus willingly died for us. If you read the text you’ll realize that at every point Jesus knew what was coming and He knew He will be utterly forsaken by the Father and suffered eternal hell on the cross. But He chose it. He chose to die so that one day you and I will live forever, to be with God and with Jesus who was raised to life. “Despite all you have done to Me, I love you and I’ll still die for you.”

Christianity is the only religion that says that God himself actually suffered, actually cried out in suffering.

Why then do we call this, Good Friday? Because we are looking right at the greatest act of God’s love, power, and justice in history – for us.

God came into the world and suffered and died on the cross in order to save us. It is the ultimate proof of his love for us.

What is the darkness in your life right now?

Are you in a darkness of despair, where everything seems to go wrong?

Perhaps you are suffering a period of darkness in your life, where everything just seems to go wrong. You may be going through depression or severe anxiety, over events you have no control over. Maybe you were frustrated at work, wondering if people still value you as a person even if you are not performing.

Jesus’ cry in the dark demonstrates that God can be working in your life even when it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening.

And when you suffer, you may be completely in the dark about the reason for your own suffering. It may seem as senseless to you as Jesus’s suffering seemed to the disciples. But the cross tells you what the reason isn’t. It can’t be that God doesn’t love you; it can’t be that he has no plan for you. It can’t be that he has abandoned you. Jesus was abandoned, and paid for our sins, so that God the Father would never abandon you. The cross proves that he loves you and understands what it means to suffer.

Are you in a darkness of your sin?

The Light of the World allowed Himself to be swallowed up in the ultimate Darkness – of being separated from God – so that in Him we can have the Light of Life.

Jesus Christ not only died the death we should have died—but he also lived the life we should have lived but can’t. His was perfect obedience, in our place. It doesn’t matter who you are—centurion, prostitute, hitman, minister. The curtain has been ripped from top to bottom. The barrier is gone. There is forgiveness and grace for you.

When Mark said that the centurion “heard his cry,” he is pressing the story right up to your ear. If you listen closely to that cry—My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?—you can see the same beauty, the same tenderness. If you see Jesus losing the infinite love of his Father out of his infinite love for you, it will melt your hardness.

No matter who you are, it will open your eyes and shatter your darkness. You will at long last be able to turn away from all those other things that are dominating your life, addicting you, drawing you away from God.

Jesus Christ’s darkness can dispel and destroy our own, so that in the place of hardness and darkness and death we have tenderness and light and life.

Let us close our eyes, in silent contemplation. Let us meditate on how much the Lord Jesus Christ love us, by entering total darkness for us, to save us from our darkness of sin and despair. Let us each whisper a prayer in our hearts to say, Thank You, thank You Lord Jesus, for dying for us on the cross!


This post is part of a ‘Called to Preach’ column, in which I share sermon transcripts I have used, preaching tips and ideas, and related resources, to help lay preachers embrace our calling to proclaim the Word of God. Let me know if this post has encouraged you in any way, or drop a comment below so I can improve. I really appreciate your feedback in this.

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One Response

  1. 道德经阅读

    读《道德经》会发现因为各种版本或者内容不同,或者标点位置不同,表达的意思可能会相反。所以我取帛书《老子》来理解《道德经》。下面是第一章的原文。
    道可道也,非恒道也。名可名也,非恒名也。无名,万物之始也;有名,万物之母也。故恒无欲也,以观其眇;恒有欲也,以观其所徼。两者同出,异名同谓。玄之又玄,众眇之门。
    一般这段翻译为:可以用言语表述的道,就不是永恒的道;可以用言语说出的名,就不是永恒的名。无名是天地的始端,有名是万物的根源。所以经常没有欲望,以便观察无名的微妙;经常有欲望,以便观察有名的端倪。两者出于同一个源。名称不同,指的是同一个道。无比玄妙深远,是洞悉一切奥妙变化的门。
    故恒无欲也,以观其眇;恒有欲也,以观其所徼。多数翻译将无欲翻译成没有欲望,但是在翻译有欲时不翻译成有欲望,而是翻译成有意识,或其他意思。我认为这些翻译和理解不将有欲翻译成有欲望符合宗教和社会倡导的减少欲望的理念。
    对这一章的理解应是:我们用名称和讲解来认识道,而在内心去掉名称的束缚来理解道的含义。
    第三章说:不上贤,使民不争;不贵难得之货,使民不为盗;不见可欲,使民不乱。是以圣人之治也,虚其心,实其腹,弱其志,强其骨,恒使民无知无欲也。使夫知不敢,弗为而已,则无不治矣。
    这里的无知无欲应该不是说教人没有知识和欲望,而是让人知道无知无欲的境界,就像理解恒道和无名一样。有人虽然有深奥的学识,但应知道有无法用语言表达的道,这样就会虚心谦下,而不会轻举妄动。
    第二十二章说:炊者不立,自视者不章,自见者不明,自伐者无功,自矜者不长。其在道也,曰:余食赘行。物或恶之,故有欲者弗居。
    这一章简要地说就是自以为是、急功近利和贪食的人是令人厌恶的,有欲望的人不这样做。但是按照世俗的理解自大,急功近利或是贪食是贪欲的结果。而老子却说:有欲者弗处。
    要想理解老子“欲”的意思,应该了解《道德经》中心思想。《道德经》的中心思想讲的是道德,但是他只描述了道德的表现或特点,没有给出直接的描述,这正符合他开始所说:道可道也,非恒道也。所以我们要自己用心灵去体会。下面是老子对道德的主要描述:善者善之,不善者亦善之,德善也。信者信之,不信者亦信之,德信也。(第四十九章)报怨以德。(第六十三章)所以要以善和信对待任何人,要以德报答怨恨。
    第六十三章说:为无为,事无事,味无味,大小,多少,抱怨以德。
    我们如何理解这些:欲无欲,为无为,学无学,事无事,行无行,味无味。我们把欲、为、学、事、行、味这些看作是有欲的行为,但是要达到恒道的结果,就是无欲、无为、无学、无事、无行、无味。这里的“无”应解释为无名或不能用言语和文字表达。道恒无名指的是道没有名字或者是道不能用言语和文字表达。第十一章说:凿户牖,当其无有,室之用也。建造房屋最后用的是空的地方。第十一章又说:有之以为利,无之以为用。所以“学”可理解为学习通过各种感官可接触的道,“无学”是学习不能用语言和文字表达的恒道的本义。“学无学”可解释为“学恒道的学”。
    现在能够把第一章的有欲和无欲的关系解释为此二者出于同一个源,或者说此二者同时出现,就是欲无欲,名称不同,指的是同一个道。无比玄妙深远,是洞悉一切奥妙变化的门。
    第六十四章说:其安也,易持也。其未兆也,易某也。其脆易判,其微易散。为之乎其未有,治之乎其未乱。合抱之木,作于毫末。九成之台,作于蔂土。百刃之高,始于足下。为之者败之,执者失之。是以圣人无为也,故无败也;无执也,故无失也。民之从事也,恒于其成事而败之。故慎终若始,则无败事矣。是以圣人欲不欲,而不贵难得之货;学不学,而复众人之所过;能辅万物之自然,而弗敢为。
    从这一章我们可理解做事要自始至终认真去做,要慎终若始。如果执意而为就要失败。所以,这里理解“为无为”就是慎终若始。“欲不欲”就是我们虽然有日常所需,但不会追求所谓高雅时尚稀有的东西。“学不学”就是通过学习而不会再犯众人以前犯的错误。
    第七十九章说:天之道,犹张弓者也,高者印之,下者举之,有余者损之,不足者补之。故天之道,损有余而益不足。人之道则不然,损不足而奉有余。孰能有余而有以取奉于天者乎?唯又道者乎?是以圣人为而弗又,成功而弗居也。若此,其不欲见贤也。
    上面理解“为无为”就是圣人做事不会居功自傲或占有,而是功成身退。
    第四十章开始说:上士闻道,堇能行之。中士闻道,若存若亡。下士闻道,大笑之。弗笑不足以为道。
    让我们记住《圣经》来自 上帝的智慧。
    43“你们听过有话说:‘要爱你的邻舍,恨你的仇敌。’44但是我告诉你们:要爱你们的仇敌。为那迫害你们的祷告。45这样,你们就可以作天父的儿女了。因为他叫太阳照好人,也照坏人;降雨给义人,也给不义的人。46你们若只爱那爱你们的人,有什么赏赐呢?就是税吏不也是这样做吗?47你们若只请你弟兄的安,有什么比别人强呢?就是外邦人不也是这样做吗?48所以,你们要完全,如同你们的天父是完全的。”(马太福音第五章43-48节)
    4爱是恒久忍耐,又有恩慈;爱是不嫉妒;爱是不自夸,不张狂,5不作害羞的事,不求自己的益处,不轻易发怒,不计算人的恶,6不喜欢不义,只喜欢真理;7凡事包容,凡事相信,凡事盼望,凡事忍耐。8爱是永不止息。(哥林多前书第十三章4-8节)
    1. 理解大道甚夷
    第五十三章说:使我介有知也,行于大道,唯施是畏。大道甚夷,民甚好解,朝甚除,田甚芜,仓甚虚,服文采,带利剑,猒食而货财有余,是谓盗夸。盗夸,非道也。
    第十四章:视之而弗见,名之曰微。听之而弗闻,名之曰希。捪之而弗得,名之曰夷。三者不可至计,故混而为一。一者,其上不谬,其下不惚。寻寻呵!不可名也,复归于无物。是谓无状之状,无物之象,是谓沕望。随之不见其后,迎之不见其首。执今之道,以御今之有,以知古始,是谓道纪。
    夷字有很多意思,其中有平坦的意思。对大道甚夷的解释从古代就解释为大道十分平坦。而第十四章老子将夷定义为摸不到或抓不着叫夷,这一章我认为是老子在描述他所感受的道。虽然能感受到道,但是看不见,听不到,也摸不着。所以我们可将第五十三章理解为:假使我对道稍有认知,就依大道而行,但唯独担心做施行或施予的事。老子担心人们认为这些能看到的施行或施予的事即是大道。大道是摸不到的,但人们总愿意将现实的或描绘的路径理解为道,就像田地荒芜,仓廪空虚,但宫廷壮观,衣服绚丽,身带利剑,用不完的美食财货。而把这些认为是得道的话,实际上是在夸耀强盗。
    老子认识的道是:其上不谬,其下不惚。无状之状,无物之象,叫做沕望。随之不见其后,迎之不见其首。第二十一章同样说道之物,唯望唯惚。第三十四章说:道氾呵!其可左右也。
    第二十一章:孔德之容,唯道是从。道之物,唯望唯惚。惚呵!望呵!中有象呵!望呵!惚呵!中有物呵!幽呵!冥呵!中有请呵!其请甚真,其中有信。自今及古,其名不去,以顺众父。吾何以知众父之然?以此。
    第三十四章:道氾呵!其可左右也。成功遂事而弗名有也。万物归焉而弗为主,则恒无欲也,可名于小。万物归焉,而弗为主,可名于大。是以圣人之能成大也,以其不为大也,故能成大。
    第三十四章讲:万物归附但不自以为是主宰,这就是恒无欲,可称作小,也可称作大。
    第四十章:上士闻道,堇能行之。中士闻道,若存若亡。下士闻道,大笑之。弗笑不足以为道。是以建言有之曰:明道如费,进道如退,夷道如类,上得如谷,大白如辱,广德如不足,建德如偷,质真如渝,大方无隅,大器晚成,大音希声,天象无邢,道葆无名。夫唯道,善始且善成。
    第四十章讲的上德如谷,大白如辱,广德如不足,建德如偷,质真如渝,大方无隅,大器晚成,大音希声,天象无邢,道葆无名都是在说明道如费、进道如退。而夷道如类是说摸不到的道就像我们能够看到的各类事物一样无处不在,如第三十四章所说道氾呵!其可左右也。
    第四十七章:不出于户,以知天下;不规于牖,以知天道。其出也弥远,其知弥少。是以圣人不行而知,不见而名,弗为而成。
    一般人们崇尚见多识广、学识渊博,但认识天道不在于广识博闻。这里不出于户,以知天下说的是知天下不在于要走出家门,游遍五湖四海。人们可能会发现发生在乡里的事情实质上也可能在家里发生,国家发生的事情也可能发生在乡里,所以理解大道不在于阅历丰富。这里说的不行而知、不见而名、弗为而成强调的是知无知、学无学、为无为,这和第六十四章的为之者败之、执者失之一致。
    第五十四章:善建者不拔,善抱者不脱,子孙以祭祀不绝。修之身,其德乃真。修之家,其德有余。修之乡,其德乃长。修之国,其德乃夆。修之天下,其德乃博。以身观身,以家观家,以乡观乡,以邦观邦,以天下观天下,吾何以知天下之然兹?以此。
    第五十四章讲善于建立的不会被拔除或摧毁,善于拥有的不会丢失或被夺去。既然长存,后代理解后就会一直怀念。遵道而贵德就是这样会长存。个人遵从的道和天下遵从的道是一样的。个人遵循道就能够看到德的真实作为,天下遵从道就能够看到天下德的博大。然后自问:吾何以知天下之然兹?这里的然是如此或这样的意思,即:我怎么知道天下是如此的?这里的如此指修之身,其德乃真到修之天下,其德乃博。以此的意思是:就是这样,即以身观身到以天下观天下。以身观身可解释为道修之以个人就能够观察个人的作为,以天下观天下可解释为道修之以天下就能够知道天下的作为。我认为这里在强调第四十七章不行而知,不见而名,弗为而成。
    古人在解释德时说:德者,得也。得道就是有德。
    2. 理解行不言之教
    第二章说:天下皆知美之为美,恶矣,皆知善之为善,斯不善矣。有无之相生也,难易之相成也,长短之相形也,高下之相盈也,音声之相和也,先后之相随,恒也。是以圣人居无为之事,行不言之教。万物作而弗始也,为而弗恃也,成功而弗居也,夫唯弗居,是以弗去。
    在这里我认为“行不言之教”不是用不言的方式施行教化或是以身作则。如果老子提倡以身作则、不用言语,这就和他所作的道德经五千言矛盾,因为五千言本身就是老子所言。这里的行不言之教我认为其义为“言不言”,即教导人的目的是让人们理解那不能用言语描述的恒道。
    第四十三章:天下之至鞣,驰骋于天下致坚。无有入于无间,吾是以知无为之有益也。不言之教,无为之益,天下希能及之矣。
    道看不见,听不到也摸不着,这就是老子说的无。而天下有生于无,所以老子知道道常无为而无不为之益。
    六祖坛经也有相似的经文:执空之人有谤经,直言不用文字。既云不用文字,人亦不合语言,只此语言,便是文字之相。又云,直道不立文字,即此不立两字亦是文字。见人所说,便即谤他言著文字。汝等须知,自迷犹可,又谤佛经。不要谤经,罪障无数。
    3. 理解圣人和君子
    第十九章说:绝圣弃智,而民利百倍。绝仁弃义,而民复孝慈,绝巧弃利,盗贼无有。此三言也,以为文未足,故令之有所属:见素抱朴,少私寡欲,绝学无忧。
    这里要绝圣弃智,但在很多章节中描述了圣人和君子。道德经主要就是让人们知道圣人和君子的品德和行为。而这里又说绝圣弃智,看似有矛盾。我们知道道德经要人们做的是善,第四十九章讲:善者善之,不善者亦善之,德善也。信者信之,不信者亦信之,德信也。即我们要在心灵上和行为上是全善的,这是我们内心的品德和自然的表现,而不是内心的挣扎最后选择了善。因为我们内心挣扎的时候是因为我们内心有恶,我们在善恶之间抉择。
    第二章说:天下皆知美之为美,恶矣,皆知善之为善,斯不善矣。有无之相生也,难易之相成也,长短之相形也,高下之相盈也,音声之相和也,先后之相随,恒也。是以圣人居无为之事,行不言之教。万物作而弗始也,为而弗恃也,成功而弗居也,夫唯弗居,是以弗去。
    我们在日常生活中会看天上有无云彩,做事情的难易,买衣服的长短,登山的高矮,听周围的音声,这些是我们日常生活中自然的事情。就像有人需要长衣服,有人要短的,这里长短并无好坏之分。但是如果我们宣扬美好的事物,同样就会告诉人们丑恶的事情;向人们宣扬善,同样也告诉人们不善的事情。而人们内心应是全善的,没有恶,所以在教导人时是出自内心自然的恒道,没有善恶之分。而人们做事情成功后,不会居功自傲或要人们赞扬,和没做事之前一样,这就是圣人居无为之事或为无为。
    所以圣人如果是全善的,没有恶,就不会在善恶之间较量和挣扎。圣人同样会绝圣弃智,不再区分圣人和愚人、君子和小人。
    在六祖坛经中讲相同的道理:名为不二。一者善。二者不善。佛性非善非不善。是名不二。蕴之与界。凡夫见二。智者了达。其性无二。无二之性。即是佛性。又说:本性无二。无二之性。名为实性。这里说佛性和实性是一样的,即是人的本性。但惠能又告诉人:常行十善,天堂便至。这里说同样的道理,即佛性是全善的,没有恶。惠能说:诸佛妙理。非关文字。 佛性讲的是自性,自性迷即是众生。自性觉即是佛。但我们学习很多还是要通过听和阅读得到,所以人们还是要先通过学习知道善恶,然后内心中接受善而摒弃恶。在金刚经中开始就是提问:云何应住,云何降伏其心?
    我们总要记住经文的中心就是要达到全善而不执着于善。一旦偏离中心就会产生佛经所说的外道或邪见,如佛教说的做善事是建立功德,而惠能告诉人们:内心谦下是功。外行于礼是德。 自修性是功。自修身是德。
    我们能够通过惠能解释三乘法来理解佛性:见闻转诵是小乘。悟法解义是中乘。依法修行是大乘。万法尽通。万法俱备。一切不染。离诸法相。一无所得。名最上乘。这也可理解为学习佛法的过程,即:知道有六祖坛经后就开始阅读,经过学习理解了佛经的含义,然后按着经中的教导去做。最后融会贯通,经中的内容不再是文字而是我们本性的表现,这就是最上乘。
    在《圣经》旧约中告诉人们的是律法,而律法是惩戒人的,告诉人什么是罪。新约中耶稣教导人们的是爱,人们在心灵里充满爱,不再有恶。罗马书第十三章8-10节说:你们除了彼此相爱,对任何人都不可亏欠什么,因为那爱人的就成全了律法。那不可奸淫,不可杀人,不可偷盗,不可贪婪,或别的诫命,都包括在“爱邻如己”这一句话之内了。爱是不对邻人作恶,所以爱就成全了律法。
    4. 理解小邦寡民
    第67章:小邦寡民:使有什佰之器而毋用,使民重死而远徙。有车舟无所乘之,有甲兵无所陈之,使民复结绳而用之。甘其食,美其服,乐其俗,安其居。邻邦相望,鸡犬相闻,民至老死不相往来。
    这里我认为老子不是崇尚小邦寡民,而是描述了小邦寡民的存在方式,正像第六十章描述了大国的治理方式一样。我们现在也可看到如云南深山中的一些少数民族、新疆克里雅人、黑龙江鄂温克人,这些人以前的生活有可能很艰辛,也可能怡然自乐,但是他们至少躲过了朝代更迭、异族战争和颠沛流离之苦,正像桃花源记所说:乃不知有汉,无论魏晋。
    第60章说:治大国若烹小鲜,以道莅天下。其鬼不神?非其鬼不神也。其神不伤人也?非其神不伤人也,圣人弗伤也。夫两不相伤,故德交归焉。
    这里描述了大国的治理方式。下面一章描述了大邦和小邦和平相处的方式。
    第61章说:大邦者,下流也,天下之牝也,天下之交也,牝恒以静胜牡,为其静也。故大邦以下小邦则取小国,小邦以下大邦则取于大邦。故或下以取,或下而取。故:大邦者不过欲兼畜人,小邦者不过欲入事人。夫皆得其欲,则大者宜为下。
    5. 理解天道无亲,常与善人
    第81章:和大怨,必有余恕,焉可以为善?是以圣人右介,而不以责于人。故有德司介,无德司彻。夫天道无亲,恒与善人。
    最后两句应理解为:天道不讲亲与疏,而是以常善待人。第27章说圣人总是以善救人而不放弃人。第49章同样说圣人以善对待任何人。这些章节都和第5章相对应,即天地不讲仁义,同等对待万物。
    第27章:善行者无辙迹,善言者无瑕谪,善数者不以筹策。善闭者无关楗而不可启也,善结者无绳约而不可解也。是以圣人恒善救人,而无弃人,物无弃财,是谓袭明。故善人,善人之师;不善人,善人之资也。不贵其师,不爱其资,虽知乎大迷,是谓眇要。
    第49章:圣人恒无心,以百姓之心为心。善者善之,不善者亦善之,德善也。信者信之,不信者亦信之,德信也。圣人之在天下,歙歙焉,为天下浑心,百姓皆属耳目焉,圣人皆孩之。
    第5章:天地不仁,以万物为刍狗。圣人不仁,以百姓为刍狗。天地之间,其犹橐龠乎?虚而不淈,动而愈出。多闻数穷,不若守于中。
    6. 理解不得已而为之
    以下三章用到不得已:
    第29章:将欲取天下而为之,吾见其弗得已。夫天下,神器也,非可为者也。为者败之,执者失之。物或行或随,或嘘或吹,或强或羸 ,或培或堕,是以圣人去甚、去大、去奢。
    第30章:以道佐人主,不以兵强于天下,其事好还。师之所居,楚棘生之,善者果而已矣,毋以取强焉。果而勿骄,果而勿矜,果而勿伐,果而毋得已,居是,谓果而不强。物壮则老,谓之不道,不道蚤已。
    第31章:夫兵者,不祥之器也,物或恶之,故有欲者弗居。君子居则贵左,用兵者贵右,故兵者,非君子之器也。兵者,不祥之器也,不得已而用之。铦袭为上,勿美也,若美之,是乐杀人也。夫乐杀人,不可以得志于天下矣。是以吉事上左,丧事上右,是以偏将军居左,上将军居右,言以丧礼居之也。杀人众,以悲哀泣之,战胜,以丧礼处之。
    第30和31章讲有欲者和善者不会参加战争。这里的有欲者我认为是指理解了欲无欲的圣人。上面的弗得已、不得已我认为意思相同。弗、毋和不都是否定的意思,而毋有劝说的意思。得在经中出现很多次,意思是得到。第四十四章有:得与亡孰病?即得和亡是相对的。已字出现十几次,如第九章:持而盈之,不如其已。这里的已是停止的意思。第三十章有不道蚤已,这里的已有败亡的意思。第55章有类似的描述:物壮则老,谓之不道,不道早亡。弗得已、不得已可翻译为得不到而失败。毋得已可解释为:不要为得到而灭亡。第四十六章讲:罪莫大于可欲,祸莫大于不知足,咎莫憯于欲得。《圣经》提摩太前书第六章10节说:贪财是万恶之根。
    第四十二章有类似的表达:道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物。万物负阴而抱阳,中气以为和。天下之所恶,唯孤、寡、不谷,而王公以自名也。物或损之而益,益之而损。故人之所教,亦议而教人。故强梁者不得死。我将以为学父。
    这一章和第八章讲的上善若水类似,即王公以人们不喜欢的名字自称,老子同样也这样教导人让人们虚心谦下。这里的不得死即是不得而死的意思。
    7. 理解愚民
    第65章说:故曰:为道者非以明民也,将以愚之也。民之难治也,以其知也。故以知知邦,邦之贼也;以不知知邦,邦之德也。恒知此两者,亦稽式也。恒知稽式,此谓玄德。玄德深矣远矣,与物反矣,乃至大顺。
    这里我认为“将以愚之也”并不是要人民愚昧无知,而是要“以不知知邦”,即以知不知认识世界,最后两句一般翻译为:这样就能返回事物的本原,达到完全顺应自然。
    第20章说:唯与诃,其相去几何?美与恶,其相去何若?人之所畏,亦不可以不畏。恍呵其未央哉。众人熙熙,若享于太牢而春登台。我泊焉未佻,若婴儿之未孩。累呵似无所归,众人皆有余,我独遗,我愚人之心也,惷惷呵。俗人昭昭,我独昏呵,俗人察察,我独闵闵呵,惚呵其若海,恍呵其若无所止。众人皆有以,我独顽以鄙。吾欲独异于人,而贵食母。
    从这一章我们可以看到“愚人之心”是圣人的一种品德。
    8. 理解自然
    自然的直译是:自己如此或自己这样。
    第17章:大上,下知有之,其次亲誉之,其次畏之,其下侮之,信不足,案有不信。猷呵,其贵言也。成功遂事,而百姓谓我自然。
    可将百姓谓我自然解释为:百姓说我自己就是这样。我们可以把这一章的自然理解为六祖坛经中惠能说的本性或自性。即:百姓说这是我的本性。
    9. 理解以顺众父
    第四十二章:道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物。万物负阴而抱阳,中气以为和。天下之所恶,唯孤、寡、不谷,而王公以自名也,物或损之而益,益之而损,故人之所教,亦议而教人,故强梁者不得死,我将以为学父。
    第二十一章:孔德之容,唯道是从。道之物,唯望唯惚,惚呵!望呵!中有象呵!望呵!惚呵!中有物呵!幽呵!冥呵!中有请呵!其请甚真,其中有信。自今及古,其名不去,以顺众父。吾何以知众父之然?以此。
    父字在造字之初有教导的意思。学父可理解为:学习的宗旨。以顺众父能理解为:人们能够遵循这些教导。 第二十一章开始说有大德的人都遵从道,后面说从今到古,人们都认识道,这样人们就能够遵循道的这些教导,我是如何知道这些教导的?根据这些。这里的以此指的是:自今及古,其名不去,以顺众父。老子感受到道并得到启示而认识道,他也向古代圣人学习道。
    第十五章:古之善为道者,微眇玄达,深不可志。夫唯不可志,故强为之容,曰:与呵!其若冬涉水。猷呵!其若畏四邻。严呵!其若客。涣呵!其若冰泽。沌呵!其若朴。湷呵!其若浊。旷呵!其若谷。浊而静之,徐清。安以动之,徐生。葆此道者不欲盈,夫唯不欲盈,是以能蔽而不成。
    10. 理解道
    第二十五章:有物昆成,先天地生。萧呵!谬呵!独立而不改,可以为天地母。吾未知其名,字之曰道。吾强为之名曰大,大曰逝,逝曰远,远曰反。道大,天大,地大,王亦大。国中有四大,而王居其一焉。人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。
    独立翻译成无匹双或独自长存,而无匹双即是独一的意思。有浑然一体,先天地而生,无声无形,独一而永恒的取字为道。勉强取名叫大。即是独一而永恒,且先天地生,道就是《圣经》中的独一的真 神。《圣经》中把创造天地万物的永生 神称为父,老子把先天地生独一而永恒的道称为母。这样对道生一的理解就能够在《圣经》中找到。
    第四十二章:道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物。万物负阴而抱阳,中气以为和。天下之所恶,唯孤、寡、不谷,而王公以自名也。物或损之而益,益之而损。故人之所教,亦议而教人。故强梁者不得死。我将以为学父。
    创世记第一章开始说:起初, 神创造天地。
    歌罗西书第一章15-20节说:爱子是那看不见的 神之像,是首生的,在一切被造的以先。因为万有都是在他里面的,无论是在天上的、地上的,能看见的、不能看见的,或是有权位的、统治的,或是执政的、掌权的,一概都是籍着他为着他造的。他在万有之先;万有也是靠着他而存在。他是身体(教会)的头;他是元始,是从死人中复活的首生者,好让他在万有中居首位。因为 神喜欢使一切的丰盛在他里面居住,籍着他, 神使万有与自己和好,无论是地上的、天上的,都籍着他在十字架上所流的血促成了和平。
    天地是 神创造的,是 神籍着爱子创造的。正像在约翰福音第一章14节说的:道成了肉身,住在我们中间,充充满满地有恩典有真理,我们也见过他的荣光,正是父独一儿子的荣光。
    父既然把天上地下所有的权柄都赐给了子,道成了肉身的荣光也正是父籍着独一儿子的荣光显现在世人面前。
    约翰福音第十四章28节 说:“你们听见我对你们说过,我去了还要回到你们这里来。你们若爱我,就会因我到父那里去而喜乐,因为父比我大。”
    马太福音第二十四章36节说:“但那日子,那时辰,没有人知道,连天上的天使也不知道,子也不知道,惟有父知道。”
    虽然他是那看不见的 神之像,在万有之先,万有也是靠着他而存在,首生者耶稣还是说:“父比我大。”在论到终结的日子耶稣说:“子也不知道,惟有父知道。”
    道生一的一就是永生 神的独一儿子,一生二的二就是天和地。
    第三十九章:昔之得一者,天得一以清;地得一以宁;神得一以灵;谷得一以盈;万物得一以生;侯王得一而以为天下正。其致之也,谓天毋已清,将恐裂;谓地毋已宁,将恐发;谓神毋已灵,将恐歇;谓谷毋已盈,将恐竭;谓万物毋已生,将恐灭;谓侯王毋已贵以高,将恐蹶。故必贵而以贱为本,必高矣而以下为基。夫是以侯王自谓孤、寡、不谷,此其贱之本与?非也,故致数与无与。是故不欲禄禄若玉,珞珞若石。
    第十六章章:至虚,极也,守静,督也。万物旁作,吾以观其复也。天物云云,各复归于其根,曰静。静,是谓复命。复命,常也。知常,明也。不知常,妄。妄作,凶。知常,容。容乃公,公乃王,王乃天,天乃道,道乃久,没身不殆。
    第三十九章讲万物都是籍着一而生的,而任何事物的发展都有对立的两个方面,就如万物籍着一而生,但是如果万物不停地生长就会消亡。所以万物有生长就会有衰老,第十六章说万物从根开始生长到衰老,最后又回归到根。就像我们看到地上的万物春天根开始重新生长,种子开始发芽。万物的生长、衰老,最后又归到根就是按照天地的节律生的三,而生长、衰老和归根循环往复生生不息就生出万物。
    在第二十五章说天法道,而不说天法一。这是因为爱子是那看不见的 神之像,在万有之先,万有也是靠着他而存在,在他是丰盛圆满的,毫无欠缺的,所以听从子就是听从父。因此说天法道。约翰一书第二章23节说:凡不认子的,就没有父;宣认子的,连父也有了。
    第五十二章:天下有始,以为天下母,既得其母,以知其子。既知其子,复守其母,没身不殆。塞其兑,闭其门,终身不堇。启其兑,济其事,终身不棘。见常曰明,守柔曰强。用其光,复归其明,毋遗身殃,是谓袭常。
    第五十二章说从天下万物之始。道就是天下母,即得到母的启示,就知道了子。即知道了子,并听从了子的教导,就持守母的道,终身就不会有危险。眼目不被迷惑,口不妄言,终身就不会愁苦。开启眼目情欲,追求情欲的满足,终身不可解脱。知道常叫做明。持守柔弱叫做强大。用明的光就得到明,就不会有祸患,这就是学习常。这里的常有持久不变的意思。
    哥林多前书第十五章19-28节说:我们若靠基督只在今生有指望,就比所有的人更可怜。其实,基督已经从死人中复活,成为睡了之人初熟的果子。既然死是因一人而来,死人复活也因一人而来。在亚当里众人都死了;同样,在基督里众人也都要复活。但各人是按着自己的次序复活:初熟的果子是基督;然后在他来的时候,是那些属于基督的。再后,终结到了,那时基督既将一切执政的、掌权的、有权能的都毁灭了,就把国交给父 神。因为基督必掌权,等神把一切仇敌都放在他的脚下。他要毁灭的最后仇敌就是死亡。因为经上说:“神使万物都服在他的脚下。”既说万物都服了他,那使万物屈服的,很明显地是不在其内了。既然万物服了他,那时,子也要自己顺服那叫万物服他的,好使 神在万物之中,在万物之上。
    这里说到了终结的日子,子和 神的儿女都要顺服在 神的权柄下,叫 神在万物之中,在万物之上。所以说是天法道。

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