The Cross, the Day After, the Empty Tomb
[Suggest you read one day at a time, starting with Day 1 as Good Friday]
Day 1 – The Cross
On the afternoon of the first day, I came to the cross. Although the cross was empty, the crowds gone, the spectacle over, I felt strangely compelled to linger. Even after all these years, the memory of that day still offends; still makes me uncomfortable. This year especially, after so much suffering and death, so many lives cut short; now as spring blooms and we dare to dream of a better future; this year of all years I long to hurry on by. This year, of all years, I long to rush past the cross and make straight for the empty tomb proclaiming ‘He is not here, he is risen.’ Yet, as I come once more to the cross, I’m strangely compelled to linger.
Did you know that the events of Good Friday attract twice as much space in the 4 gospels as do the events of Easter Day? Over the years many have tried to understand the cross. Some find the offence too strong, scratch their heads in disbelief and turn quickly away. Others, making it their life’s work, understand much, found meaning to help them on their journey – but does that help me? Yet others still, perhaps the bravest of us all, see only this, ‘I may not understand what happened here, but it clearly matters to God, so it must matter to me.’ After all Jesus himself once said ‘I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.’ Today, of all days, that is enough.
Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine, never was love, dear king, never was grief like thine.
Day 2 – The Day After
In the end it all happened so quickly. ‘It is finished’ he cried, and that was that. The duty officer signed the death certificate, the governor released his body for burial, the tomb was sealed by nightfall. The haste was almost indecent, but it was done. Now what? What do you do the day after? There is nothing left but memories, life is empty.
Today all is quiet, no one moves. Tomorrow we will go to the tomb, lay some flowers, pay our respects.
(To be continued)
Day 3 – The Empty Tomb
This morning, before the dawn, with a few friends, I set out for the tomb. Every year we come to see the great slab of a door rolled open to reveal his hastily prepared burial chamber empty once more. We come in confident expectation that this is the day of resurrection. As we set out; I can picture the scene that awaits us. The early morning sun rising to cast long shadows through the olive trees, then gleaming brightly off the white rock of the now empty chamber. The risen sun creating a beautiful sight to greet a beautiful day – but it wasn’t always so.
I still remember that first visit. We came then to mourn and to finish anointing his body, a job only half done because Friday was so rushed. We came while it was still dark, without hope, drawn by that strange mix of love and grief. When we found the tomb open and empty, we thought the body stolen, a cruel joke perhaps. I know he had talked about new life and resurrection, but the idea was so far beyond anything we had ever known, how could we understand, let alone hope? Then, as the sun rose, he appeared; walked with us and talked with us. He gave us time to touch, to taste, to see. And it took time. Time to trust, time to stop waking up each morning and fearing it was all just a dream – but that too was long ago.
Today, as dawn approaches, we will walk in joyful and eager expectation to the empty tomb; just as we have each of the last 2,000 years. But we no longer walk alone for you are walking with us. If, like us, you’ve walked this road before, welcome. If not, if you are walking this road for the first time: mourning, troubled, looking for hope; may we join you a while? Can we help you find your footing until your path, too, is lit by the risen son?
Rev Philip Payne
Good Friday to Easter
The Pew Sheet with details of services for 4th April can be found here