Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Kingdom, Power, and Glory of Christ

Easter Vigil
April 3, 2010
Luke 23:49-56

There’s something strange about talking about the Kingdom of Christ, His power, His glory, in connection with His burial. They don’t seem to fit together. Being buried means you’re dead. It means you’ve come to the end. It means you’re no longer overseeing your kingdom, you’re out of power and the next guy gets to take over. There may be glory in how you’re remembered, but you don’t get to bask in it because you’re underneath the ground.

But not with Christ. It is precisely in His death and burial that Jesus comes into His Kingdom. God’s power is made manifestly superior to every other power when Jesus suffers, dies, and is buried. The glory of God is most brilliant in the death of Jesus Christ and being buried in a tomb.

The hours between Jesus’ life coming to an end on the cross at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and His coming to life again sometime during the early hours on Sunday morning are somewhat mysterious to us. What kind of state was Jesus in? Was He unaware of what was going on, as with any dead person in a grave? Or, because He is God, was He fully aware?

In the Creed we confess that Jesus descended into hell. This was after He was buried. He died on the cross, was taken down, and laid in a tomb. His descent into hell was the exercising of His power, a display of His glory, and the proclamation to Satan on his own turf that Jesus’ Kingdom is eternal. That He has the victory. That Satan is defeated, that even death cannot hold Jesus.

Luke tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the council, the group of religious leaders that brought Jesus down, and yet, he had not consented to their decision and action. Luke also tells us that he was looking for the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Well, He was looking in the right place. Jesus hanging on the cross, His life having left Him, didn’t look very powerful. He didn’t seem glorious. His Kingdom appeared to have come to an end.

But Joseph went to the only place where the kingdom, power, and glory of God is manifest—Jesus. Even dead. Even buried in a tomb. Joseph may have sought the Kingdom of God as coming in this one, in Jesus who was condemned and brought to death by his very own religious colleagues. Now as he approached Pilate he was simply giving Jesus the honor and respect He deserved. Jesus would at least have an honorable burial.

What Joseph didn’t realize is that in looking for the kingdom of God and then in going to take care of the body of Jesus he had actually come in to the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ resurrection in three days would make that clear to him.

While Jesus had hung on the cross He cried out “It is finished.” To everyone there it was a sad way to end the whole affair. But not to Christ. What He was crying out was a cry of victory. It is finished. Salvation has been accomplished. His suffering was now over, His sacrifice completed. Now came the Kingdom, the power, and the glory.

Joseph of Arimathea had looked in the right place after all. On this night, in the time between the observance of our Lord’s crucifixion and our celebration of His Resurrection, let us look to the same place. Our Lord. God in the flesh, born, suffering, dying, buried, and risen. There we see the Kingdom, the power, and the glory. Our praying of the Lord’s Prayer ends with this. In other words, with Christ. When He comes into His Kingdom on the Last Day we will realize it in the fullness of glory. Amen.


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