So this is what it has all come to. Three years of teaching about and living in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is what it has all come to. He wasn’t kidding about going up to Jerusalem to be delivered to death, a death on the cross. Not just three years but 2000 and three years. All of the promises made to Abraham, everything revealed to Moses, and all of the promises made to David. They all converge here, and it seems as if they have come to nothing.
Out goes the Light of the World, and darkness envelopes the world for good. He who was divine seems to be abandoned by God, and He cries out, helpless after all.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
In the rematch of the ages, God vs. Satan, it looks like Satan has won again.
And often our lives look and feel like Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Jesus has died, and that’s that. Yes, we know all about the promised Resurrection, but today all I see is the death of the Lamb of God. And I think: “Is this all there is?” It seems to me like much of life, where death still seems triumphant and like something has gone tragically wrong. Some of us may feel this way especially on a day like today, when the fate of the nation seems to hang in the balance, and the balance seems weighted the wrong way.
How powerful sin and death must be, that they were powerful enough to kill the King of Glory! How powerful that they seem to separate even Father from Son, Son from Himself, and body from soul. So powerful are they that they must have their Day, and it is a long and dark one to me.
But even here, even on Good Friday (an ironic name indeed!), there are hints of victory. Even in death and dying, there are hints of the resurrection to come. Nature seems to be God’s harbinger. Did you notice how it was dark for 3 hours before Jesus died? It’s as if Nature were telling us what would happen. But did you also notice how the earth quaked and the rocks split? It’s as if they were dying with Jesus and showing how great that death was. But it’s also as if they are showing us that the old world was about to be torn in two so that a new world can come. Did you notice that?
Did you notice what else happened when He died, when the darkness was at its greatest? The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This veil was the enormous, thick veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. How embarrassing it must have been. It’s almost as if the Temple itself had ripped its pants in the most embarrassing parts of its anatomy!
In fact, the ripping of the veil was a symbol and harbinger of what would happen in 40 years, just as Jesus had prophesied, when not only the veil but also the entire Temple would be destroyed. It’s as if immediately, when Jesus died, the Old Covenant began to die as well. Like a bad Hollywood actor of old, it took the Old Covenant a long time to die on stage, but it began to die at the moment Christ died. For at that very moment, the old was being torn down to make way for the new, even if few could see what was really happening.
And did you notice how when the rocks were split, so did the graves, those markers of death? It’s as if, unbeknownst to just about everyone, Death itself had begun to die and from this time Death was a marked man. At the moment Christ died, the saints of God began to be resurrected. Coming out of their graves after the resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. St. Matthew can’t keep the Resurrection out of the Crucifixion, for they hang together!
And something else amazing happens, in the midst of all this death: a pagan comes to know the Son of God. As a result of the earthquake and other things that happened, the death of Christ brings a Roman centurion to exclaim, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Often to me, this life seems like a Good Friday. There is still so much suffering and dying and death. How powerful sin and death must be that they still have the power over all of us in this life, 2000 years after the Crucifixion. It still appears as if Jesus is locked in mortal combat with sin and Death and Satan.
But that’s not true. How powerful the death and resurrection of Jesus must be, that 2000 years later the graves of the saints of God cannot contain them and one day there shall be a resurrection of body and soul. And pagans are still coming to Christ, 130 million in China alone, according to the latest reports. The earthquake that is Christ, who destroyed the Old Covenant and Temple so that He might create the New and better ones, is still rippling through the universe. And a strange earthquake it is, whose vibrations and power do not abate but only seem to grow stronger.
And so in this life of death and suffering, we cry out with a loud voice to God, and yielding up our spirits to Him, He receives us. He receives us because there is one who was born that He might die and who died that we might live.
The 2000 and three years were not a waste after all: it’s just that we’ve been blind.
“On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night, roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I shall see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12).
This Passover is an everlasting ordinance, as He promised. It’s one that we still celebrate today: “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
In that death which seemed so dark, He gave us His Body and Blood. Having made all things ready the night before, at the Last Supper, He prepared Himself to be a perpetual Passover for us. What else could He have done? In spite of His impassioned pleas in Gethsemane, what else could He have done? He who had made Himself a living sacrifice His entire life could only make Himself a living sacrifice in His death.
That sacrifice, that offering, that death, still lives in us today.
Therefore, regardless of how dark today may seem, we shall not fear.
Therefore, let us keep the feast by offering ourselves up to Him, crucifying our flesh and offering ourselves as living sacrifices, joined in death with Him that we may be joined in life!
Prayer: I earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, I, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And I offer and present unto thee, O Lord, my self, my soul and body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. And although I am unworthy, through my manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice; yet I beseech thee to accept this my bounden duty and service; not weighing my merits, but pardoning my offences, through Jesus Christ my Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What signs and symbols of the resurrection do you see, even in this life of suffering and death?
2. Take time to meditate today on Christ’s death on the Cross for you.
3. In what ways do you still need to die to self?
Resolution: I resolve to find one way to die to my self today, that I might be better united to the death of my Lord today.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day