Holy Saturday: Christ in the Tomb

Today is called Holy Saturday. There is a significant connection between this day and the Sabbath Day in the original creation. Just as God rested from his labors on the original Sabbath, the Son of God rested in the tomb on that Holy Sabbath. But the result of Christ’s Sabbath rest is a New Creation, the beginning of the Eighth Day.

Below is Hans Holbein’s painting, “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb.” The Russian author Dostoevsky saw this painting and was haunted by it. In his novel The Idiot, Prince Myshkin says: “Why some people may lose their faith by looking a that picture!”

 

There is something haunting about this painting. Look at the picture. There is a sense of death permeating it: head tilted back, mouth open, lifeless…Jesus was dead. But He didn’t stay there.

Good Friday

Our Good Friday service is always one of my favorites in the year. The service had moments of silent meditation and singing of hymns that reflect the depth of Christ’s death, such as “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted,” “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” and “Ah, Holy Jesus.”

Thinking about Christ and his death has a certain sense of “weightiness” to it that is hard to describe. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through that Sabbath after Good Friday. Thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Here is one of Thomas Cranmer’s collects for Good Friday (based on Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11 and John 10:16):

Merciful God, who has made all men, and hatest nothing that thou has made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reignth with thee and the holy ghost, now and forever. Amen.

The Son of Man, the Serpent, and Our Sin

Pastor John Piper recently preached a sermon on the comparison between the Son of Man and the Serpent in regard to John 3. To complement Piper’s comparison, I think it is important that we also ask what is significant in regard to the Hebrews looking to the serpent and believers looking to Jesus on the cross.

Looking back, I don’t think we should neglect the connection to the entrance of sin in the world. Sin entered the world through the temptation of a serpent in the Garden of Eden. In a very significant way, the serpent is the point of our own sin. When Moses lifts the serpent in the wilderness, we should not miss the symbol of the serpent and the fall, but we also should not miss the fact that the Hebrews had to look to the serpent. Numbers 21:8-9 explains:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.”

Notice the emphasis: see it, look at it, and live. Why is it important to look at the serpent? By doing that, they are not only reminded about how sin entered the world, but also about their own particular condition: they are serpents! They are as evil as the serpent in the Garden with their own sins. By looking at the serpent, they are acknowledging that they are wicked serpents.

And that is indeed the significant connection to the cross. When Christ is lifted up, he is lifted up not for his own sins, but for the sins of the world. The pain and suffering and torment of the cross, it is all there for us to see. And make no mistake about it: we have to look at it, for in looking at the cross, we are confessing our own evil and acknowledging that it is our sin that put the perfect Son of God on the cursed tree. We are there on the cross with him; we died with him on the tree.

See Christ, look upon his death in your place for your sin, and live! For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Good Friday Service

We had our Good Friday service tonight, and it was a powerful experience. We started this three years ago, and I am very thankful for it. It is one of my favorite services of the year. The service has a very serious tone and almost forces a significant amount of reflection upon the death of Jesus. We sung the following Psalms/Hymns:

  • Psalm 22
  • Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
  • O Sacred Head Now Wounded
  • Psalm 51 
  • Ah, Holy Jesus

We also read through the passion narrative in Luke and John and responded to the “Reproaches of the Cross.” For me, the experience tonight was the type that I simply cannot put into words. For the conclusion of the service, we sung “Ah, Holy Jesus,” I read the burial narrative in John and walked down the center isle out the front door. Each row followed without talking to each other, and once we all came outside, I closed in prayer. Thinking about Christ and his death has a certain sense of “weightiness” to it that is hard to describe. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to live through that Sabbath after Good Friday. Thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Good Friday and the Death of Jesus

Today, March 21, is Good Friday for the Western Church. This is the day that many churches reflect upon the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. A few years ago, we started a Good Friday service at our church, and it has been one of our favorite services of the year. I thought it would be helpful to post a link from Justin Taylor concerning an article written over 20 years ago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.”In spite of the tremendous physical suffering, it pales in significance to cry, “Father, why have you forsaken me.”