Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:4-6)
O Sacred head now wounded With grief and shame weighed down Now scornfully surrounded With thorns Thy only crown How pale Thou art with anguish With sore abuse and scorn How does that visage languish Which once was bright as morn — “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”, Bernard of Clairvaux
In doing a basic search for a picture of a closed tomb, I find far more pictures of open tombs… the stone rolled away.
We don’t like the feeling of Good Friday. Somehow, we want some glimmer of hope. Thankfully, we know the end of the story! But on Friday… this day… we need to feel the loss.
Resurrection means nothing until you’ve stood at the grave. Not an open grave with nothing in it. Not a tomb with the stone rolled away.
The tomb has the body. The stone is over the entrance. All you had hoped for is completely gone. We need to feel the loss.
The heavier the loss, the sweeter the victory.
The deeper the darkness, the brighter the light.
When you stand at the occupied tomb, you understand resurrection.
Part of the “practice of resurrection” is to understand a sealed tomb.
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. (John 19:38-40)
Lord, too often I want the shout of victory without the battle of suffering. I want to feel victory without tasting defeat. That is not your way. Your way leads us past this graveyard. Your way calls us to feel the loss so we may more fully understand the victory. I stand at this tomb today… lost. I leave Good Friday service tonight with a sense of not knowing. Let my soul wait. Let my soul HOPE. There is a deep darkness before the hope of dawn… and I choose to wait… longing for something more.
Whether it’s legal issues in this culture or outright persecution in other places in the world, the Spirit is desperately trying to stir Western Christians into a deeper walk with him. We need our eyes on him. We need our vision full of Christ. The noise of this culture has to give way to the clear voice of our King.
Good Friday is an ideal time to focus. To see the Cross. To see our Savior. To hear his call.
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Peter 1:17-20)
Let us remember our true allegiance today. It is the cross. It is the King.
28 After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”29 A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life. (John 19:28-29, CEB)
38 The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.” (Mark 15:38-39, CEB)
Ronald Kernaghan offers some thoughts on the curtain in his commentary on Mark in the IVP New Testament Commentary Series. The curtain may have been the one in Herod’s temple that was the outer curtain that kept Jewish women and all Gentiles from the center of worship. The word “torn” is the same word used in 1:10 that describes the heavens being torn open at the baptism of Jesus. At the end of the Gospel the curtain of the temple was torn open, top to bottom, and the Gentiles were granted full access to the worship of the living God. One clue to this scenario is the confession of the Roman centurion when the veil is torn.
This day, this weekend, is an incredible weekend for us as believers.
We come aside to remember the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. He took our sins. The work is done.
C.S. Lewis said the person sitting on the bus next to us is capable of extraordinary horror or extraordinary heroics. This is the battle we all face.
This is what the disciples faced on the night Jesus was betrayed. They didn’t know who would betray Jesus. Then, Peter, big mouth that he was, declared his death-defying allegiance to Jesus. He ran like a scared little girl when accused by a slave girl of being with Jesus.
We must deal with the darkness inside of us before we know the light that is there as well. We need to face up to our horrendous possibilities to have Jesus step in and empower us to be heroic.
We need the strength of the Spirit. It is a new day. We live in resurrection. But that doesn’t mean we don’t falter.
37 He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? 38 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”(Mark 14:37-38, CEB)
I am trying to imagine the level of hopelessness in the disciples on this particular day. One of the Psalms for today’s reading is Psalm 88:
1 LORD, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you. 2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths. 7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. 8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape; 9 my eyes are dim with grief.
I call to you, LORD, every day;
I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you? 11 Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction? 12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.
That last line is powerful: “Darkness is my closest friend.”