April 7, 2011

Death Comes Before Resurrection

April 7, 2011
For several years now we have had a special service on the Friday night before Easter Sunday. We come to listen to scripture and sing together as we progressively turn off the lights (signifying Jesus' descent into the grave).

This "darkening service" has proven to be a somber but rich time of reflection that has done much to help us savor the bitter-sweet death of Christ on the cross ... and to anticipate the celebration on Sunday of his glorious resurrection.

On Friday, April 22nd at 7:00pm we will meet in the auditorium to remember the seven saying of Jesus on the cross. Below is a brief overview of the scripture readings that provide the structure of our service:

  • The First Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Grace (Luke 23:33-34)
  • The Second Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Love (John 19:26-27)
  • The Third Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Hope (Luke 23:43)
  • The Fourth Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Agony (Matthew 27:46)
  • The Fifth Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Suffering (John 19:28)
  • The Sixth Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Finality (John 19:30)
  • The Seventh Saying of Jesus on the Cross: A Word of Rest (Luke 23:46)

After the service we depart in silence, reflecting on the death of our suffering Savior, waiting to resume our worship together on Sunday in celebration.

But this is no morbid funeral, no hopeless grief over a tragic ending.

His death was planned. God chose to pour out wrath on Jesus in order to make our salvation possible (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin was dealt with finally and authoritatively on that day. If it were not for his death, we would still be objects of God's wrath, destined for judgment and condemnation (Ephesians 2:1-4). Christ's substitution provides atonement for the sin of God's people. And so what appears to be a tragedy is actually a massive victory, as God accomplished His glorious saving purposes through the death of His Son.

This is why on Sunday we enter with joy, knowing that he is not dead, he is risen indeed! And he has accomplished our salvation and demonstrated his glory. Death could not hold him, the grave could not defeat him, he is alive and he is God. He is maker of heaven and earth, ruler of all creation, king of kings, Lord of lords, the Lion, the Lamb, our High Priest, the chief cornerstone of the church, and the one to whom we owe our lives and our love. And so we sing with joy for the Savior lives. And it is in his life, death, and powerful resurrection that we hope.