The story of the crucifixion is over. It has ended where it started- in a garden. Jesus and his followers ate their last meal in the groves of a garden. His followers returned there with his body to lay him in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. As the shadows lengthened, for Jewish Sabbath and Passover begins at sundown, they left the tomb filled with a precious burden. Jesus is dead.
On Good Friday we celebrate this story completed. This one has come full circle. Jesus’ mission has been completed. He ransomed himself for his followers. None of them were hurt or killed during his arrest and trial. He even made provisions for his mother. And now it is finished. His body has gone back to the garden and there he lies, dead.
God seems to be rather fond of gardens, is he not? You see, the human story began in a Garden as well. It was in a garden, Eden, where God used to walk openly. Yet, somehow, we became distant. We became separated. We all left the garden.
On Good Friday, as twilight darkens the skies around us, we leave Jesus lying dead in the tomb. We know what death is. We’ve seen it before. We know its finality. We know what the dead look like. But of course, we are Christians. We are Christians because we know more about this story: that in two days, we return to this tomb.
Yet let’s not jump ahead so quickly. You see, our human story began in a garden. And while we know the ending of Jesus’ story will, in two days’ time, not be an ending at all, how can we know that about ourselves? Our human story also began in a garden. And we too will certainly die one day. Will our resurrection ever come? It could be days… weeks… months… perhaps never. Do you know for sure that you will rise again, and that you yourself will stand upon the earth and that with your own eyes you will see God? Jesus lies dead. His body is in the tomb. You know what death is. You have never seen anyone rise again after dying have you? This is just a story we tell. What do you possibly know for sure?
On Good Friday, we walk with Mary as she grieves. She knows only Jesus’ death. We watch the apostle who Jesus loved take his mother Mary into his home. Her son is dead. We watch a bereaved community care for each other. That is the reality we know. We stand here in a stripped and bare church. This is our reality right now. Our story started in a garden. Jesus’ story came full circle, back into the garden where it started. It is over now. It is over.
We read together Psalm 22. That is the ending of a story when we leave Jesus in the tomb. God has forsaken us in our time of trouble; yet we call out and seek him. In Psalm 22, God is distant, but because of his other saving deeds, we remember his works. God is far from us. Jesus lies dead. Perhaps that is best.
No. No, for how could we trust in a God who is so distant? How can we trust in a God who forsakes us? How can we trust in a God who is dead? ……………….. There must be something left to the story. There must be some hope. Jesus’ story has come full circle. It began and it has ended in a garden.
Our story has not yet come full circle. Humanity’s story began in a garden walking side by side with God, and humanity is still alive. Our story is not yet over. Perhaps that is our hope. Perhaps there is something still to be told in our story. Perhaps there is a journey yet to be taken, for we have not yet returned to the garden we came from. Perhaps that is our hope. Our story is not yet over.
Jesus lies dead in the tomb. As twilight deepens and night falls, we leave for supper and leave him utterly alone. …………………..
Perhaps we have not yet come full circle after all.
Perhaps God’s plans have not yet been fulfilled.
Perhaps the good news of this day is found in the very darkness and silence. This twilight will pass into night, and night will pass into a grey dawn. And the sun will rise and set on a Holy Saturday. And tomorrow night, a new fire will be struck.
The story has come full circle, from garden to garden. Perhaps the story is not yet over.