This sermon was preached on the 30th of March 2024, Holy Saturday, in the Anglican Parish of Kalamunda-Lesmurdie

Text: Mark 14-15

Today, Holy Saturday, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has been taken down from the Cross, and placed in a tomb.

Saint Matthew tells us:

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who also was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Jesus the Christ lies dead in the tomb. What does this mean?

Christians confess the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And today Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, lies dead. God Incarnate has taken on all that death is, in the realest sense.

As Saint Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, preached on Holy Saturday in 403 AD:

Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear.

When I try to picture that day, I almost imagine it as being in black and white, eery, silent, still. The birds and other creatures ceased to sing, responding to the event of the death of Christ. Perhaps a wind, cold and thin, blew.

Today we are gathered to Flower the Cross. I preached yesterday on the Cross as God’s Throne.

Only God could transform the Cross, an instrument of torture, a human creation, a machine intended to inflict the most humiliating and degrading death upon its victims… into a throne.

It was upon a Cross such as this one that our Lord and Saviour won this victory. And so today we place flowers upon the cross.

Many of us have brought flowers and other plants from our gardens, from places that we love. From places that mean something to us. We have brought things of personal significance, be they roses, bottlebrushes, or humble dandelions. We have brought something of ourselves.

If you haven’t been able to bring flowers: don’t worry, we have provided some.

In a few moments we will carefully, and gently, put these flowers onto the Cross.

Remember that on Holy Saturday, Jesus descended to the dead: and harrowed hell. Jesus extended his pierced hands to every person there. Those who would take it, who would grasp his hand of love, were lifted gently up out of the stillness of death, and into eternal life.

Remember that victory, that reconciliation, that glory.

Remember that it was a victory won for us, too. So that we might too encounter the outstretched hand of Christ, and hold it in ours.

This is your act of veneration and love for Jesus Christ, who lies dead in the tomb.

This is your act of hope, hope and trust in new life to come, in the resurrection, our shared hope as we wait for the dawn.