On Easter, we celebrate the heart of our faith, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. Why is it so important? How does this narrative bridge the gulf between Human Sin and Divine Grace? And, why does this Act of God from two Millennia ago matter to us today?
Let us pray…
Lord God, we lift up this morning’s message. May it touch our hearts, may it speak clearly to our souls. We know that your Word and your love have bridged the huge chasm that separates us from you, and affirmed that all of us are your beloved children. Speak to us now, Lord. Help us to know you in the ways you have wanted us to know you since the beginning. Amen.
Three years ago, I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the place at the heart of the events of Easter. As you enter that Church, to your right and up a flight of stairs, is the shrine of the Crucifixion. To the left, what would be behind me and deeper into the church, is the Shrine of the Tomb. So, on one side is the place where our Sin brought about the death of our Savior; and on the other is the spot where he was resurrected by the Grace of God.
Man’s Sin sent Jesus to his death, and God’s Grace brought him back, but what ties the two together?
The answer is in front of you, unavoidable as you enter the Church: the Stone of Unction.
It is a simple stone, unadorned, surrounded by a few lamps, and just long and wide enough for a body. On the wall behind it is a modern mural that depicts the event that took place at this spot, where Joseph of Arimathea and the Pharisee named Nicodemus laid Jesus’ body after taking it down from the Cross.
“Unction” means “anointing,” and it is here on this stone that they washed Jesus’ body, anointed it with oil, and prepared it for burial.
Why is this important? Why did the designers of this Church orient it such that this spot is right in front of you as you enter the church? And, why is the building laid out such that you must pass by it a second time as you go from Calvary to the Tomb? In other words, why does it matter?
Let’s start by imagining what would have happened if Joseph and Nicodemus had not taken Jesus ‘ body down from the Cross.