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He Fills My Tomb

Sermon, Good Friday

March 30, 2018, St Petri

Luke 23:44–47   44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

“Privilege is the power to open doors in my life”, says Joseph of Arimathea.  His Dad taught him this about getting on in life. If you are privileged, then you have power to get on in life. If you are not, then you haven’t. So, you better work at finding some privilege so the doors to the good life remain open for you!

For my Dad, it was not privilege that was the power to open doors but hard work. Hard work was the power to open doors. Same result thought – endless slavery to trying to make it in life – trying to open those doors to privilege. It is all on you and it is a heavy load.

But this man Joseph from Arimathea then came across someone with a completely opposite approach to power and privilege, and therefore a radically different take on being human and living life.

He discovered that Jesus had all power possible but denied all the privilege that goes with it. That got Joseph thinking……  Why does Jesus give up the power and the privilege? Why would anyone do that? Wouldn’t giving up power and privilege or even hard work to earn privilege close doors to a full and good life?

Not according to this suffering and crucified Son of God. It is in the giving up of power and privilege for the sake of the weaker, the different, the doubtful, the rebellious, the disliked, that his vision of life is found.

We might not want to find his vision for our life. We may choose to still go for the power and privilege. But how fleeting can it be? Oh, those poor cricketers who have striven so hard to be the best, only to come badly undone and now cop the disdain of the deeply disappointed.

If we are still chasing the dream of power and privilege over others for its own sake, then we will tend to only be able to be like Joseph of Arimathea – we will only be able to follow Jesus at a distance. Why so? because we will sense that following Jesus closely means being like him – a person who willingly gives up power and privilege for the sake of others.

But friend, today is a day to draw close to him because the ‘others’ he serves in love, is ‘you’. Jesus willingly gives up divine power and sacred privilege for you – so that you can have these today and forever in him. This is so much more dependable, longer lasting, solid and deeply satisfying and fulfilling version of being you.

His cross reveals that it is in the giving up of self-power and privilege that a broken rebellious sinner receives from Jesus more power and privilege than is humanly possible. Close to him you receive the power to pray to God as your own loving parent and ask him to change you, change people and situations in Jesus’ name. By his name pronounced upon you at baptism,  you share the privilege of being forever a son and daughter of the creator of all things.

Luke shows us that Joseph only follows at a distance……until this moment. In this mercy act he gets right up close and personal that Good Friday.

Something must change in him. Is it because he was confronted by an innocent man suffering unjustly whom he knew lived to a totally different beat and he was unsettled to the core. Probably. Are we unsettled by his call to be the same way? We should be.

Being in close proximity to the powerful man now powerless, and this privileged Son of God, stripped bare and publicly shamed by unclean lips makes me wonder.

Do you wonder? Would you wonder enough to draw closer, respond, speak, act, do?

Joseph wondered about this; wonder enough to respond; to get closer; do act, to speak, to even take a significant risk.

Joseph takes a huge risk and asks Pilate for permission to take the dead Messiah’s broken body down from that cursed tree.

On Good Friday, will you take a risk and approach the body still hanging today? As it was for Joseph, so it is for many. People are watching. There is shame by association to Jesus in the offering – more so in Australia today than there has been for the last 50 years.

But, out of sheer wonder and a strange sense of connection and even respect; even love for this Jesus, Joseph handles his dead body and places it in his own grave.

Would you place him your grave – the one you have paid for or will have to eventually pay good money for?

Would you let him be in the place where you were supposed to be buried and remembered? Would you get them to put his name on your grave stone not yours? Would you rather they remember him, not you?

Joseph looks at the tomb he has paid for now filled with Jesus. Jesus is filling up Joseph’s grave.

But what with?

The Centurion overseeing the brutality and shaming tells you.

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

That is what Jesus is filling up your grave with; HIS righteousness. Your grave is now no longer cold and dead but alight and alive……

Indeed, for any sinner who was once dead in body, mind and spirit, the Lord of life fills us up these ‘bodies of death’ (Romans 7) with his divine righteous life.

My dead spirit, mind and body is now by sheer grace of God in this Jesus on the cross, filled with his holy love, light and life.

He gives me his life, his beautiful life with his goodness and kindness and mercy and peace between us.

And he gives me all of this when I was left for dead on the side of the road. I was a rebellious stranger to him – like those thieves and murderers with whom he hung; like those violent ‘yes’ men enacting the carnage without a brain in their heads….except for this one of them

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

IF your death is now filled with his life and your self-righteousness is no longer necessary because you have his righteousness in your body, then you can trust that his grace is really too good for you but still true.

If he fills up my grave with his light and life and peace forever in him, then my privilege comes from his ability to open the doors of heavenly grace to me, not my ability to open doors of power….. and I am changed. I am free from the pursuit of power and privilege.

He is filling the tomb. He will burst it soon. Then you will burst with joy at the privilege he gives.

Jesus, by your imprisonment we are freed.

By your wounds we are healed.

By your death we live.

By your being abandoned we are welcomed into your holy community.

By the taking of all our sin to Golgotha we are clean and holy and pleasing in your eyes.

For this we thank and praise your holy name.


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