Holy Saturday: Christ In The Tomb

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” We say that powerful closing to the Lord’s prayer with the advantage of hindsight, but at this moment it does not appear so. If anything it appears that God has failed, that the Messianic mission of Jesus, his bringing of the Kingdom of God, has been aborted by the concerted actions of evil men.

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan, who represents the Lion of Judah, is bound on the stone table and killed by the White Witch. With a shriek, the assembled agents of darkness celebrate their apparent victory. They think they have won. Aslan is dead, his power was a myth. But they, like the evil men who brought about the scene at Golgotha, were wrong.

Lost in both of these moments, one fictional and symbolic and one real and eternal, is a genuine understanding of the absolute power of sacrifice and its ability to transform and heal at the deepest level of creation and existence, to heal even death itself. Yesterday in the upper room, Jesus counseled his disciples about this hidden power of sacrifice saying, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” and speaking of himself said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The power and glory of God’s kingdom is based on self sacrifice and personal service, on the deep, deep agape love of God. The apostle John will express the truth of this in his great statement that

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Paul will later address the same theme when writing to the Philippians he will say

Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

The kingdoms of man and their glory are built on the assertion of power and we see the power of Rome being exercised throughout this pivital moment in the history of creation. Jesus’ innocence did not matter. The only thing that carried any weight was what was best for Rome, what would maintain its undiluted power. That driving need to exercise and maintain power made crucifixion inevitable, since it was the most dehumanizing and power affirming death that Rome could inflict on those she would subjugate.

That raw, self-serving decision is contrasted with the Jesus’ promotion of the Kingdom of God, currently laying its cornerstone in this man dead in the tomb. The power of the Kingdom is in its acceptance of rejection and it is being built on sacrifice and not just any sacrifice. No, this sacrifice is of the very life of God the Son. Not for power, but so that we might be healed from our sin and degradation. It was done for us, while we are still sinners, still in the midst of our rejection, even then he died for us.

Tomorrow we know that this sacrifice will be vindicated. The stone will be rolled back and the tomb emptied. But today the demons dance, deluded that they have won a victory. Tomorrow it is their joy that will turn to ashes while the ashes of our sorrow will be transformed in an everlasting hosanna that will grow and multiply and fill all of eternity with its resounding chorus.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!

May the grace and peace of God be with you today and always.