Good Friday

Tread softly around the cross, for Jesus is dead. Repeat the refrain in hushed and softened tones: the Lord of life is dead.

The infuriated mob that cried for His crucifixion gradually disperses; He is dead.

And the passersby who stop just to see Him go on their way; He is dead.

The Pharisees, rubbing their hands in self-congratulation, go back to the city; He is dead.

The centurion assigned the task of executing Him makes his official report to the Roman procurator, “He is dead.”

And Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin go personally to Pontius Pilate and beg of the Roman governor His body, because He is dead.

Mary His mother and the women with her are bowed in sobs and in tears; He is dead.

And the eleven apostles, like frightened sheep, crawl into eleven shadows to hide, and they cry, “He is dead!”

Wherever His disciples meet, in an upper room, or on a lonely road, or behind closed doors, or in hiding places, the same refrain is sadly heard, “He is dead. He is in a tomb; they have sealed the grave and set a guard; He is dead.”

Simon Peter, the rock, is a rock no longer.

And James and John, the sons of thunder, are sons of thunder no longer.

And Simon the Zealot is a zealot no longer.

He is dead, and the hope of the world has perished with Him.

Then, then, then…

—W. A. Criswell

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Paradox

Christ’s own being on the Cross contained all the clashing contrarieties and scandalous fates of human existence. Life Himself was identified with death; the Light of the world was enveloped in darkness. The feet of the Man who said “I am the Way” feared to tread upon it and prayed, “If it be possible, not that way.” The Water of Life was thirsty. The Bread of Life was hungry. The divine Lawgiver was Himself unjustly outlawed. The Holy One was identified with the unholy. The Lion of Judah was crucified as a lamb. The hands that made the world and raised the dead were fixed by nails until they were rigid in death. Men’s hope of heaven descended into hell. He was deprived of all His rights, to be with us in our privation.

—Frank Lake, Clinical Theology, 116

Holy Week

Mounting opposition:

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill him. (Mark 14:1)

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. (Mark 14:10)

In that context:

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. (Mark 14:3)

“There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

—G. Campbell Morgan

Martin Luther’s Easter Hymn

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands,
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands,
And brings us life from Heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be,
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud songs of Alleluia!

No son of man could conquer Death,
Such mischief sin had wrought us,
For innocence dwelt not on earth,
And therefore Death had brought us
Into thralldom from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
And kept us in his bondage.

But Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever.

It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life;
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong His love!—to save us.
See, His blood doth mark our door;
Faith points to it, Death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us.

So let us keep the festival
Whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
The Sun that warms and lights us.
By His grace He doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended!

Then let us feast this Easter day
On the true Bread of Heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and wicked leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our Meat and Drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!

—Martin Luther (1524), translated Richard Massie (1854)

(may be sung to the hymn tune MIT FREUDEN ZART [“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”])

 

Holy Saturday (2)

Today a grave holds Him
who holds creation in the palm of His hand.
A stone covers Him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to Your saving work,
by which You have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday (excerpt)

Holy Saturday

In a tomb they laid you,
O Christ the Life.
The angelic hosts were overcome with awe,
And glorified Your condescension.

O Life, how can You die?
How can you dwell in a tomb?
Yet by Your death You have destroyed the reign of death,
And raised all the dead from hell.

Earth’s bounds You have measured,
O Jesus, King of all,
Yet today You dwell in a narrow tomb,
Raising the dead from their graves.

Lo, the sovereign Ruler
Of creation is dead.
Almighty God is laid in a new tomb,
To empty the graves of all their dead.

In a tomb they laid you,
O Christ the Life.
By Your death You have cast down the might of death
And become the font of life for all the world.

You have been numbered
Among transgressors, O Christ.
You have justified us all, O Lamb of God,
By freeing us from the devil’s works.

He who holds the earth
In the hollow of His hand
Has been put to death and held fast by the earth,
To save the dead from hell’s grasping hand.

O my Life, my Savior,
Dwelling with the dead in death,
You have destroyed the iron bars of hell,
And have risen from corruption.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday (excerpt)

SEE ALSO: Bruce Benedict, “Poem for Easter”