The Seal Broken

stone rolled away

Matthew 27:62-28:10

During our very meaningful Tenebrae service on Friday night, we listened to the voices of Good Friday. “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.”

“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going.  See my betrayer is at hand.”

“The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

“Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?”

“Then all of the disciples deserted him and fled.”

“He has blasphemed!  Why do we still need witnesses? He deserves death. Then they slapped him and spat in his face.”

“You were also with Jesus, the Galilean.” “I do not know what you are talking about.”

“This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” “I do not know the man.”

“Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

“’I do not know the man!’ And the cock crowed.”

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” “Judas then went out and hanged himself.”

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

“Release to us Barabbas.” “Crucify Jesus.” “Let him be crucified.”

“I am innocent of this man’s blood, see to it yourselves.”

“Hail, King of the Jews!”

“You, who would destroy the Temple and build it in three days, save yourself!”  “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “He saved others, yet cannot save himself.”

“Eli, Eli, lema sa-bach-tha-ni? My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”

“Command the tomb to be made secure. You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” “So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”

These are the voices of Good Friday: voices of betrayal; voices of denial; voices of disappointment; voices of hate; voices of cruelty; voices of finality; voices of no turning back; voices of no moving forward; voices of death. “Make the tomb as secure as you can. Seal the stone.”

And the reality is that you did not have to attend either the service on Thursday or Friday to hear these voices. For we live in a Good Friday World, don’t we?

We’ve heard these voices just this week.

Yesterday from Utah: “A woman heading to her mother’s funeral has died in a car crash.”

From Iraq on Friday: “A suicide attacker detonated an explosive belt in a park outside Baghdad on Friday, killing 41 people and wounding over 50 more.”

From Oklahoma City on Thursday: “The state medical examiner’s office said bones recovered from near Lake Stanley Draper are human.

Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said police received a call Monday that bones, clothing and personal effects had been discovered near the lake.”

From North Carolina on Wednesday: “In a bill that zoomed through with head-spinning speed, lawmakers blocked cities and counties from protecting people from discrimination.”

From Brussels on Tuesday: “Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Brussels airport, killing 11 people, and a third man detonated a suicide bomb one hour later in an underground train in central Brussels, killing 20 more.”

From Indiana on Monday: “Indiana Sheriff’s deputy shot dead. Partner seriously injured after serving search warrant.”

And from Enid this week: “I can’t believe she talks about me behind my back.”

“Why does he have to be so hateful?”

“I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“Why won’t my children come and visit me?”

“My wife is having part of her foot removed next week. We are just waiting for the doctor to call with the exact day and time.”

“Since my back surgery, I am still dealing with a lot of pain.”

“She needs a root canal. He needs braces.”

“I owe thousands in taxes this year. And I don’t know where the money is going to come from. I am already working more hours now than by body and mind can stand.”

“I’m never going to be able to forgive myself. “I have never been so embarrassed in my whole life.” “I simply can’t continue going on like this.”

“My mother really doesn’t like the nursing home. She believes we are all plotting against her. I think my father may have Alzheimer’s.”

“Her baby was born three months premature. My sister has been having chest pains. My brother’s arthritis is about to get the best of him. The doctor said my tumor is malignant and inoperable. I still can’t believe that my wife is gone. I have never felt so alone and so depressed. At times, I just want to go to sleep and never wake up.”

These are the voices of Good Friday, and they echo throughout our world without ceasing, sometimes overwhelming us. Every time we turn around there is something else in our Good Friday world to worry about. There is no escape. It is like being entombed in sepulcher for all of eternity by a large stone that has been sealed shut by soldiers.

So, now let us hear another voice. It is a voice called Easter. It is a voice called resurrection, a voice called hope.

“As the first day of the week was dawning. . .”  (Sounds hopeful already, doesn’t it?) As a new day, a new week was dawning, was beginning anew, fresh, bright, giving a chance to the promise of hope, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat one it.”

In our Good Friday world, oh how we need to hear this voice of Easter— this voice that says that our God who gave God’s all for us on the cross is so awesome, so good, so great, so much bigger than all of the cruelty and evil of the world, that God does not have to lift one finger, but sends an angel to break the seal that entombs all of us who are shrouded by the evil of our Good Friday world.

The Good Friday world says: “Seal it up.” Then our Easter God, without flinching a muscle, sends one meek angel to break the seal—an angel who then sits upon the stone and says the most hopeful words found in the entire Bible: “Do not be afraid; I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

The world says seal it up. The world says things are not going to get any better. The world says the good old days are long gone. The world says that evil will get the best of us. The world says that God is either a fairy tale, is powerless, or has taken some cosmic vacation. The world says death is final.

Then God without lifting a finger breaks the seal and says: “I am always working all things together for the good. Through the breaking of the seal, God says to us that the best days of our lives are always yet to come. Gods says, although we cannot go back to the good old days, good new days are dawning. God says that nothing in this world is final, not even death. God says I can, and I will transform all of your despair into hope, all of your defeats into victory, all of your pain into joy, and even all of your deaths into life.”

The world says: “seal it up; you will never amount to anything. You’re a loser. You are insignificant. You are worthless. You are not a good person. Nobody really cares about you. You are pitiful. No matter how hard you try, sin always has a way of getting the best of you.  Perhaps you’d be better off dead. Seal it up.”

God breaks the seal and says: “I love you and suffered for you and died for you and raised Jesus to life for you, just as you are. There is nothing you could possible do to earn my love. I will always be with you and never away from you. I will always be for you and never against you. I will always stay by your side fighting for you, doing all that I can to wring whatever good can be wrung out of all of your misery.” God says “I will give you an Easter Faith to live victoriously in your Good Friday world.”

“Through eyes and ears of Easter faith you will see my resurrecting presence all around and hear my voice everywhere. You will be able to see it in flowers and in the trees. You will read it in a card sent to you by a friend. You will experience through the smile of a child.”

You can know it through the devotion of a Sunday School teacher. You can experience it through the woman who serves meals in the soup kitchen the needy. You can experience it with the church group who visits the nursing home; see it in the one who volunteers at the hospital; through the family who gives sacrificially and faithfully to the church, through missionaries who have given their lives to serve in third world countries, through encouraging words, handshakes, hugs, through a meal prepared; a lawn mowed, a house painted, a petition signed.

You can hear it through the confessions of faith from two young men being baptized.

God says you can hear it and see it and sense it and know it through people who by my grace are living an Easter Faith in a Good Friday world. You can see it when and wherever justice finally prevails and love ultimately wins.

During this coming week, you will not have to pay close attention to continue to hear the voices of Good Friday. You will quite possibly hear them even before this Easter Sunday ends. My hope and prayer is that as people living an Easter faith, we will continue to raise our Easter voices: voices of hope; voices of justice; voices of equality; voices of peace and love; voices of life; voices of a new day dawning; voices of a tomb whose seal has been broken on this day and forevermore.

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