23. April 2011
Tonight the Holy Three Days, the Triduum, ends. We began at in the upper room, proceeded to the Garden and to the judgment seat, escalated to the place of the skull, and was finally laid in the tomb. A bittersweet meal, proceeded to exhaustion, then to condemnation, the dying breath, and the final resting place.
But that’s not the end of the three days. The sign of Jonah doesn’t end with the sealed tomb. Just as the fish could not contain God’s man, so also the grave could not contain the Son of God. He burst the chains of death’s prison, destroying its captive hold forever.
Our Christian celebration of Christ’s bloody triumph is not just three days. It is also seven. Just seven days ago, we rejoiced with our Lord as the multitude declared Jesus the Son of David, King, and Messiah. Hosanna to the highest.
For six days our Lord labored for your salvation. On Sunday, he entered triumphant. Monday, he cleansed the temple. Tuesday, debated in the temple, leading to the condemning charge of blasphemy. Wednesday, he prepared his disciples through discourse. Thursday, he held his final Passover and his first Supper. Friday, he dies. And now, Saturday, he rests in the tomb from his labor.
Sound familiar? It should. Its not the first time our Lord has labored for a week. The last time began in darkness with nothing. Then, on the first day of the week, there was light and it was good. The next day, the heavens and the earth were separated. The next day, the earth and sea were separated with the blessing of all plants and trees. The next day, the earth was blessed with stars and planets. On the fifth day, the living creatures of the sea and air were made. On the sixth day, the living creatures were made upon the earth and it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…
And God saw everything that he made, and behold, it was very good… Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Then, through the sin of Adam, death entered the world. Mankind tasted of the prohibited fruit, violating God’s command. He ignored God and received the due penalty for his violation. He was cast from the garden. His life became a living hell, struggling against thorns and thistles, against shame and guilt. His wife labors in pain for the good fruit of marriage.
Suffering, pain, and anguish were bad enough. But even worse, their grievous error opened the gates of Hades. Satan and his legions would torment them night and day. The tempter’s charm would drag them further into lawlessness and the despair it brings.
And worst of all, through Adam death entered into the world. Through this one man, all mankind dies. We are the inheritors of the curse. We are cursed to disobedience, to lawlessness, to shame, to death.
Even in the midst of this death, our Lord has not forgotten us. What he made, and we corrupted, he wants to redeem. So great is his love that he promises to restore the world to its former goodness. What took six days to make, and one shameful sin to destroy, our Lord Jesus Christ the crucified restored in six days. This day, we receive the blessings of this week’s recreation.
Tonight is the seventh day. Just as our God rested on the seventh day, the founder of the world, rests from this week. The labor is long but the work is complete. When he declared from the cross tetelestai, which means “it is finished,” he is declaring that the work is done. Our Lord looks down from the cross at those three days, at that week, at the three years of ministry, at the thirty years of life—all lived for your salvation—and he sees that is very good.
So it is each week, each Sabbath, that we rest from our labors, considering all God’s work for us. We consider his baptism, his fasting, his temptation, his teaching, his preaching, his agony, suffering, and bloody sweat. We consider his condemnation and crucifixion. We consider his three day rest in the tomb.
When the dawn rises upon us in the morning, Holy Week will be but a vivid memory and the new week of the new creation will begin. It is our triumph over sin, our victory over death, our everlasting life in paradise. It is our rebirth in Christ in Holy Baptism. It is our conscience renewed in the declaration “you are forgiven!” It is your body and soul kept in the steadfast faith through Christ’s body and blood.
These precious gifts are ours because we are in Christ and he is in us. Easter is the eighth day, the beginning of our new life with Christ. The work is done, the victory won. Let us enter into the blessed rest that is our Lord.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church