“He Is Not Here” – Poem for Easter Sunday

empty tomb image“He Is Not Here”
Easter Morning, 3/27/16

The darkest night now passed from gloom
As women journeyed to the tomb
And found the stone beside the door
That had been sealed two days before.

An angel said to them, “Don’t fear,
The one you seek he is not here.
Go quickly now so you may tell
That Christ has conquered death and hell.”

 

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“That He Was Buried”: The First Importance of the Body in the Tomb

Jesus being wrapped for burialRightly so, believers emphasize the death and resurrection of Jesus. The death of Jesus was an atoning work on behalf of sinners, and his resurrection was the firstfruits of new creation. Furthermore, his death and resurrection were the fulfillment of Holy Scripture. Paul told the Corinthians that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3) and that “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (15:4).

But Paul mentions something else that is of “first importance” (1 Cor 15:3a). Between Jesus’ death and resurrection, “he was buried” (15:4). Does that seem like an unnecessary detail? Why mention what could just be implied? Ponder why it matters that Jesus was buried.

The burial confirms Jesus’ death. Burial is for what’s dead, and Roman soldiers knew how to crucify people. Carrying a cross to the place of crucifixion was a one-way trip. His body in the tomb confirmed the success of the cross.

The burial prepares us for the empty tomb. The detail of the burial was significant because of a different detail soon to be proclaimed about the tomb. Two days later, the empty tomb required explanation because a body once lay there.

The burial reminds us of Jesus’ humanity. Burial is for bodies, and the Word had become flesh. The physical body of Jesus had been born and wrapped in swaddling cloths, and decades later it was wrapped in burial linens. The Son of God was truly, fully, wonderfully human.

The burial informs baptism and union with Christ. Paul wrote that believers died with Christ (Rom. 6:8) and were raised with him to new life (6:4, 11). But he also says “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death . . .” (6:4).

Plagues, Passover, and the Cross of Christ

darkness at the cross of jesusJesus didn’t die on just any week of the year. He died on Passover, a festival recalling the book of Exodus when it was first instituted. Passover, and the slaying of a spotless lamb, remembered when God’s judgment passed over those whose homes were covered with blood on the doorposts and lintel. God had raised up a deliverer, Moses, who would lead the captives free through a mighty exodus.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals around 9 a.m. on Friday (Mark 15:25), and for three hours the scene resembled the hundreds of crucifixions that the Romans were used to performing. But around noon, darkness covered the whole land for three hours, ending at approximately 3 p.m. (Matt. 27:45).

Given the context of Passover, the covering of the land with darkness probably evokes the ninth plague in Exodus. In Exodus 10:21, God told Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” And the darkness was all over the land of Egypt for three days (10:22).

From noon to 3 p.m. on the day of Jesus’ death, darkness covered another land entirely for a span of time numbered with “three”–this time, though, for three hours, not three days. Such pervasive darkness denotes something supernatural, the judgment of God. As one preacher said, by God’s power it looked like midnight at midday.

At approximately 3 p.m., God’s Son died on the cross (Matt. 27:46, 50). Since the darkness during Passover already recalled the ninth plague, perhaps the subsequent death of Jesus recalled the tenth in Exodus 12. In Exodus 12:29, God struck down “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . .” And on the cross, God struck down his own Son. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was not spared. He himself would be the sacrifice whose blood would cover others.

The scene at Golgotha not only portrayed Jesus as the spotless and slain Lamb, it described events of darkness and death that, in the context of Passover, recalled the ninth and tenth plagues in Exodus. The story in the Four Gospels is that God had once again raised up a deliverer, this time one who would lead the captives free from sin and Satan. The Messiah’s victory would surpass any Old Testament conquest.

13 Posts on Gethsemane

Jesus in gethsemaneIn January 2016, I wrote a series of posts on Gethsemane as I prepared to preach on our Lord’s sorrowful praying and his subsequent arrest from Matthew’s Gospel.

Here’s the round-up of 13 posts that take you through the events of that Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning. On this Passion Week, let’s reflect on our Lord’s experience in that garden where he resolved to drink the cup.

  1. Jesus communed with his Father as if alone in the Most Holy Place.
  2. As the Last Adam, Jesus faced temptation and overcame it.
  3. His prayers were expressions of reverence, not rebellion.
  4. At Gethsemane, Jesus was a true and greater Job.
  5. He was also a true and greater Isaac.
  6. Believers can learn about prayer by beholding Jesus at Gethsemane, for our flesh is weak.
  7. This Jesus, once transfigured before his disciples, was now in agony.
  8. The agony ends with the resolve of Jesus to meet his hour of suffering head-on.
  9. When the arresting party comes to Gethsemane, Jesus is in control.
  10. Judas, one of the Twelve, led the armed crowd to Jesus.
  11. Peter wounded a man with his sword, but Jesus told him to put it away.
  12. Jesus healed the wounded man amid the arresting crowd.
  13. The sword-swinging disciple would go from defending Jesus to denying him.