Blackheath Good Friday

21st March 2008

 

Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in the tomb

 

Then they took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

They that passed by said ‘If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross’. ..Likewise also the Chief Priests said ‘If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe him’.

There is a real possibility that those who watched Jesus as he hung on the cross, both his foes and his friends must have been wondering whether a miracle might yet take place. After all, Jesus had raised the dead to life on at least two occasions.

Those who hated him feared that this might happen. Those who loved him hoped beyond hope, in the face of the all the evidence to the contrary, that it would happen. But as the hours passed and nothing supernatural appeared to be happening, the former must have felt a great relief; his friends, by contrast, must have found their hopes turning slowly to despair.

Yet both sides were mistaken. For something supernatural was happening during those Three Hours. In Christ, as St Paul says, God was reconciling the world to Himself. And through Christ, as Hebrews tells us the Perfect High Priest offered the Perfect Sacrifice once and for all to atone (that is ‘make us at-one) with His Heavenly Father.

Like any funeral service today, the taking-down of Jesus’s body from the cross, laying it in the tomb and sealing the latter looks to the unbeliever like the final triumph of Evil over Good the extinction of all Hope; to the chief priests and scribes it seemed like the vindication of their plans; to those who loved him it represented the extinction of their last hope; to many today the preaching of the Cross still seems either a stumbling-block or utter foolishness.

But to us who are being saved, Christ crucified is both the power and the wisdom of God. For we know what is hidden from others, that the story doesn’t end on Good Friday. The Three Days or Triduum is all of one piece, and our dearest hopes are fulfilled in the words:

Three hours and three days were all the time that God required to turn evil into good, despair into hope, and death into life!

Jesus lives! Henceforth is death
But the gate of life immortal
This shall calm our trembling breath
When we pas its gloomy portal.

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