John 19. 28-42
On the seventh day, Jesus finished the work that he had done … and he rested!
It’s seven o’clock, Friday evening. Sunset’s less than an hour away. One day coming to an end; another just beginning. And Jesus has been dead, for hours. Just twenty-four-or-so hours ago, they’d been sitting at the table, together. Jesus and his disciples. He’d gotten up and knelt down before them, washing their feet. When he sat back down, he talked to them. Softly. Tenderly. About faith. About hope. About love. Especially, about love. Afterwards, they went to the garden. It was quiet, there. Almost peaceful. Not the kind of place you went to do, but simply to be.
What happened next happened so quickly that it was a blur. One moment, they were alone. Next moment, there was Judas, soldiers, police. They had lanterns and torches, swords and spears. They bound Jesus and led him away. First to Annas. Questions, accusations, insults. From Annas to Caiaphas. From Caiaphas to Pilate. And along the way, Jesus was abandoned and denied. But it was sunrise the real suffering began. Taunted, mocked, flogged. They dressed him in purple. Crowned him with thorns. Gave him a reed. Knelt before him in disdain. Ecce! Behold! Then, the shouts, the screams. Away! Crucify! No king but Caesar! Like the sound of many waters. Like the sound of mighty thunder-peals. The words crashed against the city. Ricocheted off the Temple. And then, there was the cross. The sight of it. The sound of it. Even the smell of it. As quickly as it began, it was over. Done. Finished. The body was taken down and laid aside. Two men picked him up and carried him away. Wrapped him in strips of cloth. Laid him in a tomb. And left.
It’s seven o’clock. Friday evening. Sunset’s less than an hour away. The crowd is gone. The world slips, one more time, into the shadow. Creation is silent. Still. Spent by the events of the day. No more moans. No more wails. No more whispered prayers. Jerusalem sits in the twilight. Not day. Not night. Stunned. Disoriented. Dazed. One day comes to an end. Another just beginning. And that day being born? John calls it “a day of great solemnity.” Great solemnity not just for the synagogue, for the Temple. But a day of great solemnity for Christ, as well! For Father! For the Son!
You see, sabbath is a day of rest. “And on the seventh day,” it’s written, “God finished the work that [god] had done, and [god] rested on the seventh day from all the work that [god] had done.” Hallowed! Blessed! Because God rested! Here, today, Jesus does the same! “It is finished.” The work that he – Jesus – had done. He bowed his head. He gave up his spirit. It’s finished! It’s an echo of what was written in Genesis. A reflection of what god had done … back at the beginning! When god created! And it’s here, again! Not in Eden, but on Golgotha! God recreating! God making over! And god seeing everything that god has done! And it’s all good! It’s all very good!
It’s seven o’clock. Friday evening. Sunset just an hour away. Today – tonight – one age, one dream, dying; another being born again. It is finished! And only one things remains … to rest! The goodNews … today, god has completed a new creation! New heavens! New earth! The goodNews … today, is a fresh start! A new beginning! This day isn’t, merely, the dying of what-has-been! It’s the rising of what-is-now-and-will-be-forever!
“This is the end,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said on the way to his execution. “This is the end – but for me, the beginning!” Not someday, somehow. But right here! Right now! This is the moment the kingdom comes! The moment god’s will is done! On earth as in heaven! And Easter? Easter is living in what god, this day, has accomplished! The first day of a brand-new week! This – all this – is the cause! Easter, only the effect! And for now, between the two, Jesus rests. The seed falls into the earth and waits. A new world appears. But it comes only through sacrifice. Only through suffering. Suffering with. Suffering for. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being,” John proclaims! “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all.” The light of everyone! The light of everything! And this night, that light, that life, shines!
So, it’s seven o’clock, Friday evening. Sunset an hour-or-so away. One day is almost over. It, too, has been a day of great solemnity. Before our very eyes, one age comes to an end; and another, even now, is being born. And god rests. Rests, once again. Rests in a tomb … in a garden … in the shadow of a cross. Rest eternal and light perpetual is our prayer, this night, for Christ. And rest eternal and light perpetual is his promise – his gift – this night, to us!