So here we stand before that tomb. What can we say at this point? When I was a child, all the churches in town would gather for a community Good Friday service. One after the other, the local ministers would mount the pulpit and preach on the “Seven Last Words” of Christ on the Cross, one after the other.
Believe me, a lot of words were said, words meant to make an impression. Each preacher had a moving story or touching illustration of how much our Savior suffered for us. It was as if the Gospel of the crucifixion needed some heartrending enhancement to bring its message home.
But here we stand before the Tomb of Christ after all the words have been said. It is as if we are at the cemetery for the internment after the funeral All the tributes have been given, all the memories have been shared, and now, we are standing under the undertaker’s canopy before the open grave. We stand there speechless looking into the dark hole that is the end of life on earth.
Here we are before the tomb and tears are more appropriate than words. With the grief-stricken Mother of God, we have offered our sighs of lamentation. Now in the words of our tonight’s service, with the Noble Joseph we “gaze on” the Lord’s lifeless body—“dead, naked and unburied.” In grief and tender compassion” we mourn with Him, “Woe is me my sweetest Jesus... how can I bury Thee, O My God? How can I wrap Thee in a shroud? How can I touch thy most pure body with my hands?”
What, then, can we say before this tomb? Indeed if we listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in tonight’s Epistle reading, there is nothing that can be said--at least from a human point of view. What we see before us is truly death. And in the first place, death is the end.
Death is the end of earthly life. And with that end is the end of all worldly things. Whatever we might possess in this world--whether of riches, fame, power, or satisfaction--in death, it is all taken away in an instant, in a blink of an eye.
St. Paul put it this way in our Epistle for this evening. When we consider the cross on which the Lord died, “Where is the ‘wise man’?” And where is the “strong”? The cross is the end of the world’s wisdom and strength. It all comes to an end--whether the wisdom of human knowledge and understanding or the power of riches, authority, or might. It is all is buried here in the tomb.
Yet for our sake, the Lord chose this way of the cross—this way of entering into the seeming foolishness of death and powerlessness of the tomb. That is the great mystery of God’s ways. For what the world considers foolishness, turned out to be wisdom. And what the world considers weakness turned out to be strength. For neither the worldly wisdom nor earthly power can withstand the ravages of death. Only by death could the Lord defeat death. Only by descending to the dead, could the Lord raise the dead. Only by going down into the grave, could the Lord rise up from the grave.
Therefore, if there is any understanding that we might take home from this service tonight it is this. The old ways of worldly wisdom and earthly power are futile. All our human efforts to find happiness, security, peace, fame, and fulfillment in life will come to nothing. Here is their end—the tomb before us.
Still, there is hope for something better. For the Lord said, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). There must be an end, if there is to be a new beginning. Thus, if we make this tomb the end that it is, then this open grave can represent a new beginning for us. If this tomb means the end of our search for the world’s wisdom and our struggle for the world’s power, then we can claim a deeper wisdom and a higher power.
Before this tomb, we hear the call of the Lord to take His Way of the Cross and to follow Him. He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” In Him is the unconquerable Wisdom and the Almighty Power of God. In Him we have what we could never achieve by ourselves, for God has made him to be “our wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
So here we stand before the tomb of Christ. Let it be an end for us so that by God’s grace it also might become a new beginning. In this tomb, let us leave behind all our human efforts to make ourselves wise, powerful, and good. And let us wait in hope for the Lord to rise from this very grave to bring us into the New Life of His unconquerable wisdom and strength.