TEXT: JOHN 19:40-42
REMEMBER WHAT CAME BEFORE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

 

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets – but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Amen. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. St. Matthew adds that after placing the body of Jesus in his own new tomb Joseph rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away (Mt. 27:39).


Dear Christians, let your mind rest for a time this evening on the inside of that tomb. All is quiet - there is no sound. All is black – there is no light. All is still – there is no life - only darkness – total darkness - and death. There never had been much light there - a cave cut out of rock. As this Friday drew to a close and evening came it grew increasingly dark inside. Then a great circle of rock grumbled a few feet down its track and came to rest in place. As that heavy stone covered over the mouth of the tomb any trace of fading outside light was cut off.


On the outside evening had come – the Sabbath – the day of rest. On the inside it is pitch black. One recalls the ninth plaque on Egypt – a darkness so deep as to be felt (Ex. 10:21). On the inside of the tomb there is no light, there is no sound, there is no life. There is only darkness – total darkness – and death. The corpse of a man rests on the stone within. Grim death - with cruel rigor! 

GOOD FRIDAY (EVENING) – MARCH 25, 2016
TEXT: JOHN 19:40-42
REMEMBER WHAT CAME BEFORE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets – but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son. Amen. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. St. Matthew adds that after placing the body of Jesus in his own new tomb Joseph rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away (Mt. 27:39).


Dear Christians, let your mind rest for a time this evening on the inside of that tomb. All is quiet - there is no sound. All is black – there is no light. All is still – there is no life - only darkness – total darkness - and death. There never had been much light there - a cave cut out of rock. As this Friday drew to a close and evening came it grew increasingly dark inside. Then a great circle of rock grumbled a few feet down its track and came to rest in place. As that heavy stone covered over the mouth of the tomb any trace of fading outside light was cut off.


On the outside evening had come – the Sabbath – the day of rest. On the inside it is pitch black. One recalls the ninth plaque on Egypt – a darkness so deep as to be felt (Ex. 10:21). On the inside of the tomb there is no light, there is no sound, there is no life. There is only darkness – total darkness – and death. The corpse of a man rests on the stone within. Grim death - with cruel rigor!

But remember what came before!  Just a few minutes before there had been movement and sound in the garden and in the tomb. A dead body had been carried there and laid to rest to return to that from which it came – dust to dust. With rock all around the sounds and whispers would have echoed as the body was carried and positioned within the tomb. The burial party had consisted of two men of education and wealth – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They worked hurriedly for the evening that began the Sabbath was at hand. Luke tells us that the women who came with Jesus from Galilee observed what they did (Luke 23:55).


Now the working men and watching women are gone. So are their sounds and their movement in the garden and in the tomb. Now the burial shroud tightly binds the spices with the body it encloses. A smaller piece of grave cloth enwraps His head. The stone covers the mouth of the tomb and behind it there is no light, no sound, no life. On the inside there is only darkness and death.


But remember what came before!  Just before the corpse was carried to this tomb it had hung on a cross. Shortly before it was lowered to the ground a spear thrust brought a flow of blood and water from the side of the suspended body. A few hours before that, a company of evildoers had encircled this scourged and bleeding man piercing His hands and feet and lifting Him up for naked, shameful death by execution. “O Sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down.”


As we recall what came before His burial there is yet another darkness Scripture calls to mind. That darkness is not a quiet place like the inside of Jesus’ tomb. Rather Jesus had said of those who reject Him - they will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12). This outer darkness the Son of God also endured as our substitute. In the throes of His death struggle Jesus prayed the Psalm we sing on Holy Thursday as the altar is stripped (Psalm 22). Jesus thereby testified to the full punishment of the damned in hell that He bore in our stead. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?   The Son of God - one with the Father - is cut off from the Father.

 

As we remember what came before the darkness of His tomb, what is there for us to say about this whole day called Good Friday or Black Friday?  There is for us to say what Jesus said in the garden to those who came to arrest and kill Him – This is your hour and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). In these hours the power of darkness is unleashed. We stand on one side of Jesus and all the powers of hell beat on Him from the other side. He is covered with our sin in fact He is made to be sin for us. If the accuser can break through Him, then we are fully in the power of the devil.


We have no resistance to our adversary without this one who fights for us. It is also true that we have no power to help this one who dies and is buried for us. Indeed it is the burden of our sin that brought Him to this time and place of darkness and God’s damning wrath and death and burial!  The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. There will be no intervention – no help for Jesus.  The wrath of God consumed the life of Him who is the life!  He was cut off from the land of the living…they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death.

 

That’s how we come in our thoughts this evening to the inside of a tomb. Therein, wrapped in a burial shroud lies the dead body of Jesus. On the outside evening has come. On the outside the spectators of His crucifixion have returned to their homes. Some have gone home weeping. Some have gone home perplexed. Some have gone home pleased their part in getting rid of this “blasphemer” – as they thought Him to be. On the outside of the tomb the Sabbath has begun with its demand for rest and attempted obedience to so many, many rules.

 

But on the inside of the tomb rests the body of the one man who perfectly obeyed the light of God’s holy will and law. Yet on the inside there is no light - no sound - no life!  On the inside there is only darkness – total darkness – and death. The Son of Man – the Holy One of God – is dead – and buried.

 

Beloved, this is what we confess. I believe…in Jesus Christ our Lord who…suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. We confess it because it is true – grounded in history. However, we also confess it because it is good news for us. We believe that Jesus took into the tomb with Him not only the grave clothes but also the whole world’s sin and damnation. Christ was buried for us and now as St. Paul wrote, We were buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too may walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-4; Col. 2:12).


Jesus’ burial was real. Jesus’ grave was real and no symbol. Your baptism is sacramental union into His death and burial and resurrection. It is no symbol and therefore your death and burial with Him is also no symbol. It is the core of the full and complete gift Jesus gives you. You are right to have the outlook of faith – to know that you are walking in newness of life in God’s sight. This newness of life is not something you’ve attained by moral achievement. It is the status God has given you by taking you through the grave of Jesus. You have been buried with Him through baptism into death.


So let your mind and your heart rest for a time this evening on the inside of that tomb. The darkness is so deep as to be felt on the inside. There is no light - no sound - no life!  But there soon will be!  All is not what it seems to be in this house of death. The body that lies in the silent darkness of this tomb will not return to dust. The battle that He waged for you was not lost but won!  Even before the morning light of the third day, Satan’s domain will hear the voice of this Man of War - this Victor over sin and death and the devil. And on that third day those who watched his body buried and sought to anoint it will see and hear Him again – raised bodily – soon, with the Spirit – doing wonders with water and with His blood.


Beloved, your death is also not what it seems. It seems so final, so hopeless, so irreversible!  But this day means that is not true!  If there is one thing the suffering and death and darkness of Good Friday trumpet – it is that God who brought the curse of death for sin has fully poured out His wrath against sin. Since He has dealt with sin and its guilt for you in Jesus He certainly also deals with its wages of death for you in Jesus. The greater is done – the lesser will follow!  He has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days. Baptized of God, you are His offspring and His prolonged days – His unending eternal day is your inheritance.

 

When the darkness of death draws close to you (to me) earthly hopes will vanish, human counsel and spiritual fairy tales will melt away. But the work of Jesus will not!  “It is finished!”  All of it!  He tasted death for you. He was buried for you!  Death and grave – where is your sting? 


In these last days God has spoken to us through His Son – also through the burial of His Son. Tonight we recall His burial and what came before that dark tomb. Gather with us here on Easter morning to remember what came after. The best news this sinful world will ever hear came from inside His tomb by way of His cross.


In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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