In which I pretty much ignore the whole “Tenebrae=Darkness” motif, and go with the whole “Jesus was in control the whole time” thing.
One thing must be understood about the events of Good Friday: Nothing occurred on that day that God did not will. Nothing happened to Jesus, that Jesus did not allow. As he himself says, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” If he had wanted, Judas would have been cut down before he ever went to the Chief Priests. The soldiers would have been stopped in the garden of Gethsemane as surely as Pharaohs chariots were at the Red Sea. The Chief priests would have come face to face with the God they claimed to worship. Pilate would have cowered in fear before the legions of angelic hosts. The whole Good Friday account occurs because God wills is, because Jesus goes along with His Father’s will.
The agony and bloody sweat, the betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, the scattering of the disciples, the false judgment by Caiaphas, the purple robe of mockery, the crown of thorns, the unjust condemnation, the stripes on his back, the straining of his limbs, the upraising of the cross, the insults hurled by crowd and criminals. Jesus allowed it all. Had he not, then not one of these things would have happened.
Jesus allows it all to save you.
Look on him, and see the just result of sin. Look at his dying form and see the result of your rebellion against God. See what you have earned, and see what he willingly took on himself in love for you. This is not Jesus world, spun out of control. Jesus is the very word of God. He is the one who called forth light out of darkness. Do you really imagine that the one who spoke the land and the seas into being, the one who, with a word created the moon and stars to rule the night and the son to rule the day, could not stop the soldiers armed with their sticks and little knives.
The Word of God prophesied already in the garden that this is what would be. This is what the Messiah came to do. It was always this way. Jesus would die for the sins of the world. This is not some cosmic mess-up. This is what God said when he told Adam and Eve that the serpent would be crushed by seed of the woman. When he said that the serpent would, in exchange, strike at the heel. Jesus crushes the serpent, but is himself struck, and dies. This is not some unforeseen thing. This is what had to happen. The millions of pigeons, turtle doves, bulls, goats and lambs that died in the temple, their blood pouring over the altar as an atonement, testify to the one who is to come. Now he is here. The blood pours out of his body. From the beating, the lash, and finally from the spear. His blood pours out into the earth because his most holy blood cleanses the whole earth. This is redemption, this is atonement, this is forgiveness. This is what it takes.
You want to see the fair price for your sins, look on him who was cursed, who was forsaken, who was smitten by God and afflicted. This is what you by right deserve. And yet, willingly God takes it on himself. Not because you are deserving, but because he is loving. Not because of your efforts, but because of his promise. Not because of what you can be, but because of who He is.
He forgives even those who nailed him to the cross. And in his agony, even after all that is done to him, his concern is not how he can get down and save himself, or how he can end the agony, but that his mother is taken care of. “Woman behold your Son” He commends her to the care of the beloved disciple. “Behold your mother.” Jesus is ever concerned that those he loves be taken care of. That is why he does not have the disciples fighting for him. Because he needs to save them by his death. That is why he entrusts his mother to John. That is why he forgives those who put him on the cross. That is why he goes to the cross, so that you would be forgiven your sins.
And then, when he dies, the blood and the water flow. They are the proof of death. But more than that, the water is the water that flows from Jesus to you, so that in the waters of Holy Baptism, you are crucified with him. Through water into death. And the blood of the new Testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, flows from His side. Now you take eat and take drink this most holy gift, and you are filled with the life of God himself.
God is dead. His body hangs suspended, and then is taken down and placed into the tomb. The God who is life itself, has given himself into death. But we can not say that he is no more.
He is the perfect sacrifice. The blood that flows from him is sprinkled on the altar as an atonement for you. The living water and the precious life blood, saving you from the hell you created for yourself by your sin. Giving you the new life that only God can offer you.
As Jesus goes to his death, as we relive those final moments, we remember again the love, the compassion of God, who was moved to sacrifice his Son for you. Who in love obeyed his Father’s will and gave himself into death for you.
But God is life. Not death. Death is our doing. Jesus went into it so that you would not be consumed by it. He went into the grave so that the grave would lose its power over you.
God is dead. God lives forever. Jesus is placed into the tomb by his disciples. They do so with no hope of resurrection. For if Jesus is not who he says he was, then truly he has abandoned and has been abandoned by God. They thought this was the end.
We have all stood watching as another body is placed in the tomb. We do so in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We are one up on the disciples. We know the end of every graveyard story. Even as we stand weeping onto the coffin of another loved one, we know that it does not end here.
Jesus has taken that on himself. Death ends with Jesus. He shouts “It is finished”. His work of redemption is finished. The penalty is paid. Forgiveness has been earned. And now, the waiting. Death has met its match. Corruption and the grave can not hold him. We go to the cemetery for loved ones, and do not know how long it will be. We do not know if our Lord will return before or after we are added to their number.
Tonight, we make the journey from the cross to the grave, and know that in three days, it all changes. Tonight we weep with the disciples. Tonight it seems, as it always does at the graveyard, as if death has won. And tonight seems to be the greatest victory of all for death. But this victory will soon turn to defeat. The death of Jesus is really the death of death.
There is more to come.