Special times of meditation are common in most traditions over the Easter period, so I have put these reflections for Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday together with the help of several friends, including Sally, Harmony and Elizabeth, who reads the text with me.
We have overlaid two of the tracks so that the words and music flow together. The aim has been to draw us right into the centre of certain aspects of the Easter story and to bring the events of Calvary to life in a fresh way this year.
Three different viewpoints are woven into these simple reflections. There is the Lord Jesus Himself, His disciples watching – and then there is us as we both watch events unfolding and, with the benefit of faith and hindsight, receive the power of His grace.
Part 1 – Good Friday: Reflections at the Cross
The second movement of Torelli’s Etienne concerto provides the music for this track.
Imagine yourself in the sandals of a disciple of Jesus, standing on the bare hill outside Jerusalem, watching as your dearest friend is nailed to a tree. You have long walked with Him, and seen Him set His face like flint to follow His Father’s leading into many dangerous situations – but you never imagined it would end like this in this place of public disgrace and torture.
Jesus is shuddering with pain as death triumphs over life. Around you, soldiers are heedlessly throwing dice, gambling for His very clothes as the heavens grow ever darker.
Jesus is looking out over the Jerusalem His Father has loved since David’s day, and which He will go on loving to the end of the age. Can you share His yearning as He gazes out in agony, longing that none be lost, yet grieving that His beloved city had failed to recognise the hour of its visitation!
And so He endures the pain of body, mind, soul and spirit, far beyond anything we can imagine, so that He might prepare a way for all to come to Him and receive mercy, forgiveness and release, and the promise of His presence forever – all obtained through this sacrificial suffering that had been ordained in Heaven from before the foundation of the world.
Hear Him now as He calls your name – not that of a disciple of two thousand years ago, but your name today. Hear Him call you to draw near, to touch His cross, to worship at His feet, knowing that His perfect surrender and subsequent agony has reconciled you to the Father. Come with sorrow and love mingling, gratitude flowing through every cell of your being because mercy flows from this place. He hears all that You give to Him, despite the rage and mocking of those who do not share your love for Him. Come and worship the Son of God who looked at a world locked fast in its sinfulness and said to His Father, “Let Me go there.”
You watch as deep and final convulsions shake the Lord Jesus’s body, and deep darkness falls across the face of the land. And out of the darkness you hear the cry from the cross: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do. Into Your hands I commit My spirit!” You weep, broken and prostrate with grief as His speared and bloodied body is taken down.
Part 2 – Easter Saturday: In the Tomb
The accompanying music is by Henry Purcell.
As Jesus’ body is taken down and laid in a tomb the disciples’ desolation is complete. Everything they had hoped and believed for lies in ruins, cruelly snatched away. Is this how it was all destined to end?
Grief overwhelms me as I gaze on the sealed tomb. The last three years flash before me as I recall all His promises, all the miracles that He did, the supreme love and tenderness He showed to us and to many: truth woven in love that has set captives free; the voice of authority that made the demons tremble. How can He who broke the bread that fed the crowds, spoke to the storms and stilled the waves, and even raised the dead Himself be dead?
Cruel men have extinguished the Light of the World and sealed Him up in darkness, the unyielding rock confining the One who had stirred and fired our hearts but who now lies cold and lifeless. The very air around us is empty and void of life. I will return tomorrow to anoint His body – my last respects to the One who brought such love to us all.
But even though Jesus lies entombed, I marvel at the astonishing things that have marked His death. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom as the King of the Ages breathed His last; the earth shook and the rocks split apart. Some are even saying that tombs have broken open and that the bodies of many holy people have been raised to life. (Matt 27:51-53) Even in death He is touching those around Him – like the centurion whose heart was touched to recognise Him for who He really is.
Part 3 – Heaven prepares to trumpet the resurrection
Torelli’s music seems to suit the Easter theme particularly well. This movement is from one of his Trumpet Sonatas.
When certain scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus to demonstrate a supernatural sign, Jesus made what must have seemed a most surprising comparison between Himself and a prophet who had himself gone through a sort of resurrection experience when a large fish swallowed him before finally vomiting him onto dry land after three agonisingly long days beyond the reach or sight of any man.
Well over half a millennium later, Jesus declared, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt. 12:40)
Reflecting on his experience Jonah cried out:
“To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You, O Lord, brought my life up from the pit.”
Jesus not only ascended on high, He also descended into the lower parts of the earth – though as David rightly prophesied his body would never be abandoned to Hades, and neither would it see decay (Acts 2:31).
So far from being the utter defeat that it appeared to be, this day was rather a time of solemn eager anticipation, undergirded by the invincible strength of God’s awesome promises. His great and mysterious work of salvation was reaching its climax – and the Father was preparing the way for Jesus to burst forth from the grave.
Part 4 – Easter Sunday: The Resurrection
To accompany the glorious news of the Resurrection we are playing the third movement from Torelli’s Etienne concerto.
The shepherds heard the voices of angels singing the night Jesus was born at Bethlehem. Can you hear them now? Can you hear the skies ringing with their praise and worship as He rises from the dead?
As the two Marys made their way to the tomb there was a violent earthquake, as an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and rolled back the stone that had been placed in front of the tomb. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
“He is not here,” the angel declared as he sat astride the stone. “He is risen from the dead, just as He said He would!” (Matt. 28:2-6)
We heard with our ears and we worshipped, our hearts filling as we dared to hope, then overflowing with ever more joy as it all sank in. And then Jesus Himself was there in our midst. “Greetings,” He said. We came to Him, clasped His feet and worshipped Him. “Peace be with you,” Jesus breathed, and our whole being leant into the power of that peace.
Jesus hasn’t let us down – He’s set us free from the grip of grief’s captivity. He is risen from the dead – and all is possible! Never again will we be called unloved, abandoned, lost or rejected. We are redeemed and saved, forgiven and restored: loved with a love that will never let us go. That which we thought we had lost for ever has been returned to us, for death itself has been defeated and the way into the holy of holies made open.
It is finished – and there is nothing we can add to what He has accomplished. It is only for us to yield in surrender and to worship the One whose testimony shakes the heavens and the earth. Through the victory won at Calvary we too will one day be one in spirit with Him as He reunites our spirits with our new heavenly bodies forever.
You were dead, Lord Jesus, and now behold You are alive for ever and ever – and You hold the keys of death and Hades. Thank You, Lord, for the bread and wine – Your body and Your blood – broken and poured out for me.
It is my deepest desire to do all that I do for love of You; to abide in Your resurrection power, and to rise afresh with You each day in all that I am and seek to do, in the power of Your victory.