Joseph bought a linen shroud, and with the help of Nicodemus prepared the body of our Lord. They were powerful, wealthy, and well educated men, they were members of the Sanheidrin, the very group that condemned Christ to death. They were hurriedly working for the evening beginning the Sabbath was at hand.
The working men and the women watching had gone home. Their sounds and movement in the garden and around the tomb also gone. Now the burial shroud binds the body of our Lord and a small piece of grave cloth enwraps His head.
And now a stone is rolled against the entrance of the tomb. All is quiet, there is no sound. All is black, there is no light. All is still, there is no life. There is only darkness, total darkness, and death.
This has been happening all day. Just hours before they could see His lifeless body hanging on the cross as a spear thrust through His side and a flow of water and blood came about. Just hours before there was not silence but jeers and cheers as they mocked Him and divided His garments.
As we remember the total darkness of the tomb we are reminded of the total darkness that came over the earth from the sixth hour until the ninth hour (from noon to 3pm) as the Son of God dies and hangs suspended in our place.
Lifeless and in total darkness within the tomb.
In these hours of darkness, Christ is stricken, smitten, afflicted, dying on the tree. He had done no violence and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt. (Is 53:10). He cries out of the work of redemption for the sin of the world, “It is finished.” The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world as the Son is cut off from the Father and takes on the outer darkness and bears the full punishment of your damnation in hell. We stand alongside this man Jesus in darkness as all the powers of hell beat on Him and as He is fully covered with our sin. If Satan, the accuser, can break through Him then Satan has us fully in his power.
We have no resistance to the old evil foe without Him. It is the burden of our sin that brought Him to this time and place of darkness and death as He takes on God’s damning wrath! He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities… and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Because God so loved the world, because God so loves you and by His wounds we are healed.
And so we are the tomb. It is dark and lifeless inside. Laying in death, wrapped in a burial shroud lies the dead body of the man called Jesus who has been bruised, beaten, and bloodied.
On the outside evening has come and the second day, the Sabbath day of rest has begun. Some have gone home weeping, some have left confused as to what just happened, and some are perfectly pleased with themselves as they thought they had rid themselves of this blasphemer. On the outside of the tomb the Sabbath has begun. It is complete darkness. There is no sound. There is no life.
But soon there will be! All is not as it seems in this house of death. The battle that lies in the silent darkness of this tomb will not return to dust. The cold, black, lifeless, death will not long keep its hold on Him. For you and your sin, “it is finished.”
Sin is paid. Death atoned. Your deliverance accomplished. On this day Christmas finds its fulfillment. Fitting that today is also the Feast of the Annunciation, 9 months before Christmas, March 25th, the day Christ first took on flesh in the womb of Mary. Christ’s Christmas incarnation finally comes to its pinnacle, “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him…” Here in the death of the Son is the Christmas gift, God and sinners are reconciled in the Word made flesh. It is only a matter of time before death and the grave come for you. There’s no escaping it. Death is an enemy and it will come. But our Lord’s victory over sin, death, and the devil on the cross takes the enemy of death and flips it around. Christ the Son of God came to serve and not to be served and His crucifixion offers the greatest and most holy service to men. Christ faces the one thing that humanity wishes not to acknowledge or at best covers over it with superficial actions and language, that thing being death.
Yet in Him, your death is not what it seems. It seems so final, so hopeless, so irreversible. The suffering and death and darkness of Good Trumpet this: the curse of death for sin has fully been poured out on the cross. When the darkness of death draws near, earthly hopes will leave us and all will be futile, but this death of our Lord provides sure and solid confidence and comfort, for “it is finished.” He tasted death and burial for you.
The water which flows from His side has poured over you in Holy Baptism. Where you are buried with Him in His death (Rom. 6). The blood which flowed from His side given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Gather and keep Vigil for the best news the world will ever hear. Gather and receive His gifts as we hear and proclaim not the darkness of death but the light of Christ and the life that He brings.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.