The Midnight Special

“Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me.”

You most likely know the song “The Midnight Special” from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic released back in 1969.

But the song was actually written during the early 20th century, reaching popularity as it was sung by those incarcerated at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Parchman Farm.

One particular train regularly made its way by the State Penitentiary.  The train departed its point of origin at midnight, arriving at Parchman while it was still dark.

Prisoners would tell the legend that, if the light of the engine shone into your cell, it meant a loved one was coming with a pardon from the Governor to set you free from prison.

So, that’s why they sang,

“Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me…”

Stay with me.

In Romans 4, as Paul is writing about the mercy, grace, and power of the saving work of Christ on the Cross, he quotes David from the Old Testament:

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” – Romans 4:7-8

When a judge in a court of law declares the defendant not guilty, all the charges are removed from his record. Legally, it is as if the person had never been accused.

When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. From his perspective, it is as though we had never sinned. (This is doctrine of “justification.”) He could do this because Jesus took the penalty that we deserved. Christ purchased our freedom from sin, and the price for our freedom was his life.

But it gets even better. Not only has God declared us not guilty; he also has drawn us close to himself as beloved children.

Jesus said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to announce release (pardon, forgiveness) to the captives,…” – Luke 4:18

Later, Paul wrote,

But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Eph. 2:13

At Calvary, the Light of the World shredded the darkness of human hopelessness.

At our moment of faith in the risen Christ, that light “shines on us.”