April 22, 2011

Easter Even, Day Forty


Lectionary
Morning - Psalms 14, 16, Job 14:1-14, John 19:38
Evening - Psalm 27, Job 19:21-27, Romans 6:3-11

 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they 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.

Commentary

"It is finished." We have come to the end of Christ's journey to the cross.  We have followed Him from the outer reaches of Galilee to the courts of the Temple, to the hill of Golgotha.  In every place and every time He resolutely followed the road to the cross.  Nothing could turn Him aside from that great and terrible transaction by which He offered Himself for the sins of His people.  When He had suffered our punishment and died our death, He cried with a loud voice, "It is finished."   Let us remember it was for us that He died.  It was for our sake that He was placed in the tomb.  It was for our sin that He "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified dead and buried." His entire journey to the cross has been for you.

Devotional Thoughts

It is difficult for us to imagine how the disciples felt that first Saturday after Christ died.  They had given up everything to follow Him, and when He died all their hopes died with Him.  They were in fear for their lives, lest they too should be tortured to death. But more devastating than fear was their absolute despair.  God, they thought, had abandoned them.  Their entire faith and meaning in life died with Christ.  Today let us try to imagine their fear and despair.  Try to feel what they felt when they placed His body in the grave, never, as they thought, to live again.  But let us remember that their despair is only a hint of what we would feel if Christ were still in the grave.  Their emotional emptiness would be the natural condition of our lives, if Christ were still in the grave today.  Our existence would be as if someone had punched us in the stomach, and we were writhing on the floor, unable to breathe, unable to make ourselves do anything because of the uncontrollable pain and spasms.  Only it would not be our stomachs or diaphragms that were hit, it would be our souls.  But, more horrible than life without meaning is eternity without hope.  Eternity spent in forced exile from the Author of all goodness and happiness is eternity spent in abject sorrow and absolute misery, so deep it makes the fires of Hell seem almost insignificant by comparison.  As we imagine a world with Christ in the grave, let us see Hell yawning before us, pulling us in without mercy.  Let us imagine unfathomable physical suffering that can only be matched by the anguish of the soul.  And let us remember, that would be our fate forever, if Christ be not raised. 

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