Surely darkness is a poor metaphor for the Light of the World. And yet most of Jesus' forward looking parables are arrayed in sinister linings. Like chiaroscuro, his ominous shades of horror add a third dimension to our Savior. The One who would bruise no reed and smolder no wick invited hearers to peer into ghastly scenes of One who will account for every offense in bitter weeping and anguished gnashing.
These parables of tenants, wedding feasts, and minas tell a different story than the soft gospel of a God who punishes begrudgingly, caught in the awkward position of conjuring up wrath to prove his justice. No, he comes as an insulted father, a deceived debt reliever, a pained vineyard owner, and a king whose rule has been jeapardized. He comes enraged to "put those wretches to a miserable death", to "destroy those murderers and burn their city", to "bring them here and slaughter them before me". And all the beseeching, begging, pleading falls on deaf ears. He is merciless.
If Jesus is able to grant "joy inexpressible" to his beloved, who can put words to the grisliness that awaits his enemies? If he is the Creator of our bodies and the intricacies of our nervous system, he is able to inflict pain beyond our wildest nightmares. And if he sustains vast complex galaxies by his word, he is able to uphold this place of torment forever and ever.
We do no favors when we fumble the doctrine of hell - when we feign the complications of Gehenna, bemoan more loudly the present plight of the oppressed, take torture out of the gospel, and make Jesus appear squeamish around blood.
But if we come to grips with such terror, we will find in it something worthy of the brutality of the cross.