Human life today as always is intertwined with suffering and death. Our discipleship to Jesus leads us to places of immense, deep suffering in our world — families grieving their lost sons and daughter, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, bereaved by terrorist bombings; young men and women of coloyr gunned down in the street or in detention camps at the borders; impoverished people without food or medical care or employment. It is difficult to accept that all this disorder and injustice can still flourish in our 21st century world. But it puts us in touch with what the first disciples lived through between the crushing despair of Jesus’s death and the stunning revelation that he is risen. Suffering and death still beg for an explanation; the darkness of the tomb and the emptiness of our hearts still hold sway.
Our Scripture passages today read like a litany calling us back to hope. They are our ancestral stories, reminding us of who we are and who God is. The hope they call us to is a hope born of experience, the experiences we have had of God’s action in history. Ours is a God who creates the world out of love and christens it as being “very good”. Ours is a God who steps in at the last moment when all appears to be lost. Ours is a God who chooses a lowly band of Egyptian slaves, urging them forward even when no way appeared to lead through the sea. Ours is a God who has remained faithful, never forsaking, never abandoning the people. In this moment, as we stand before the tomb, our God asks us to remember and to hope. Things are not always as they appear.
When Jesus is placed into the tomb on Good Friday, the assumption of all those present — from his most devoted followers to the opponents who orchestrated his death — is that this is where the story ends. The disciples are in hiding, scattered and fearful, wondering if the fate of their teacher awaits them as well. The opponents are preparing for a return to business as usual, secure in their belief that the threat to their power has been eliminated. But the world is about to be turned upside down. For both the disciples and the powers of this world, nothing will be the same.
At the Easter vigil the entire church waits silently on the cusp of the passage from death into life. Johnny Zokovitch
We should understand, beloved, that the paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new. In its figure it is passing, in its grace it is eternal. It is corruptible in the sacrifice of the lamb, incorruptible in the eternal life of the Lord. It is mortal in his burial in the earth, immortal in his resurrection from the dead.
The Law indeed is old, but the Word is new. The type is transitory, but grace is eternal. The lamb was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible. He was slain as a lamb; he rose again as God. He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, yet he was not a sheep. He was silent as a lamb, yet he was not a lamb. The type has passed away; the reality has come. The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation. The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward him. Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.
The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will contend with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their graves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.
Come, then, all you nations, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.