April 12, 2020 A+D
We all know that this is the strangest holy week we have ever experienced. Our normal ceremonies and traditions have been suspended. We have all tried to carry on with daily activities but they are largely a parody of normalcy. But even if this is the strangest Holy Week in our lifetimes, and let’s hope it stays that way, it is not the strangest holy week ever.
The strangest holy week ever was the one we commemorate. God became a Man and submitted Himself to the injustice of Pilate’s sentence in order to make Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world and appease His Father’s wrath. There has never been anything so strange, so unnatural as that. Jesus, who was innocent, was declared guilty in our place and it pleased the Father. The Son was forsaken by the Father in order to suffer our punishment and empty Hell of all its accusations even though we were His enemies and betrayers. We were His enemies so it makes sense that we would rejoice at that defeat and humiliation, but we rejoice as His children because this how He loved us and turned us and won us. God who is immortal died and the dead now live. Of course the sun would not shine, the earth shook, and the dead rose as if it was the Last Day. It was a confusing time, as chaos, sin and death were being undone and that by death. Life itself was being reborn in that horror on the cross, creation remade. The most powerful Being in the cosmos, the one being outside of the Cosmos, the One who is and who is Holy, become the weakest things in the all the cosmos.
What we currently endure was not that strange. That – Jesus being lifted up from the earth as the whole burnt offering, the peace offering, the Scapegoat, the atonement, that was strange.
As strange as that way, the Sunday following, the Day when Jesus rose from the dead, that wasn’t strange. The disciples, and maybe the guards, were surprised, but that was because of their fear. The priests knew the score. There was no shock when the guards made the report. It wasn’t strange at all. It wasn’t strange simply because it had been foretold, but it wasn’t strange because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They aren’t dead. Whoever believes in Him never dies. Abraham lives. Isaac lives. They rejoice to see this day because every day is now the eighth day, the eternal day of God’s grace, the living day.
He was made a little lower than the angels but now is crowned with glory and honor. It was strange that He ruled from a cross, with a crown of thorns and prayed for us, but now He takes His rightful place at His Father’s side. He reclaims His dominion over the works of His Father. He no longer denies Himself for He has perfected all things by His sacrifice.
There is one change, though. Now our God is a Man. He is still a little lower than the angels. He is crowned with glory and honor as a Man, in His Body and soul, alive out of the grave. He did not rise a ghost. He did not shed His humanity. He has forever united Himself to the flesh taken from St. Mary and is rules forever as David’s mortal Son who died but who is immortal, the Lamb who was slain but who lives.
He is the gate destroyer. He tore down the gate that locked us in Hell and removed the guards. He tore the Temple veil and revealed His Mercy to us. He dismissed the cherubim with the fiery swords and rolled back the giant pearls that sealed heaven off from us. Hell cannot hold us in. Its gates are destroyed. Heaven has no desire to keep us out. Its gates are destroyed.
We take all this on faith. We aren’t yet in the place of glory. What we will be has not fully been shown to us yet. We believe it. We hope in it. We wait on it. In many ways, we are like the women on their way to the tomb. We know quite a bit about disappointment, injustice, and tragedy. We have lost loved ones. We have lost our sense of security and well-being. There is danger all around us. But there is something in us, some bit of God’s Word and promise, that tells us death is not final. It is not the end. It is not even the worst possible thing to be avoided at all costs.
We do not know who will roll away the stone, but we bring our spices anyway. We bring them because we want to do something. We wash our hands. We wear masks. We social distance. But we know the stone will be rolled away. We know that Jesus lives. His promises are not fantasies or myths or Facebook rumors purporting from experts. His promises are real and trustworthy. We know the stone will be rolled away.
Modern Jews celebrating the Passover say, “next year in Jerusalem.” Lots of us have expressed similar sentiments about Easter. Next year, we will do it big. We will celebrate and rejoice and we won’t take it for granted. And if that it is to be, sobeit. Let’s do it big. But for my part, I’d be quite content to skip that intermediary step and go right to the end. I can hug my grandchildren in heaven better and for longer than we can ever do it on earth. Jesus Himself or one of the apostles can preach far better than me and though it is hard to imagine they even have better musicians and choir directors. Let’s just go straight there.
Make haste, O Lord. Get us out of here. Bring us home. End this pestilence. End this sorrow and temptations. End this living death. Save us from the devil, the world, and especially from ourselves. Fulfill your Word for us. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.