April 10, 2020 by Matt Wooden
Dates don’t always carry the historical weight we think they will in the moment. Franklin Roosevelt’s condemnation of December 7 to the annals of infamy fades a bit with each passing year. There will come a time when the mention of the date September 11 will not carry a corresponding memory, an implicit sadness.
Perhaps the most enduring date in American history, July 4, was in reality a pretty dull day in Philadelphia. Colonies had voted for independence two days earlier. John Adams predicted July 2, not the fourth, would be the date that future generations would celebrate forever, from sea to shining sea. The dates, the days that truly split the human story into “before and after,” are invented, forgotten, and reinvented through time. Today, though, is one of the rare days that refuses to be dimmed by the passing of years. Good Friday, and Easter to come, like the torn curtain and the splitting of the earth itself (Matthew 27:51-54), break history into two distinct acts: the reign of death and the reign of life.
Matthew 27 is a cavalcade of the darkest of human nature: betrayal and guilt-ridden suicide (27:3-5), blood money (6-10), miscarriage of justice (15-23), cowardice (24-25), torture and humiliation (26-31), greed and mockery (34-44), and ultimately unjust execution (45-50). It is a crescendo of evil, all of its focus and volume directed at the one on the cross, the only one in history that had proven impenetrable to its noise. As Jesus succumbs to death, though, the unexpected happens. Like a virus unable to secure a host, death finds no hold in the sinless Jesus. The bodies of those who put their hope in him while living are unbound from death (27:52-53), becoming the first witnesses of history’s new era, a new crescendo of life that culminates in Jesus’ own resurrection (28:1-10) and the joy of those implications for his followers. Like the saints whose graves became empty holes, their eternal lives had begun.
Christians find their identity in both acts of history. We are part of the sound and fury of Matthew 27’s first fifty verses, the joyful dead and raised of verses 52 and 53, and among the disciples gathered on the mountain in Galilee in 28:16. When we are tempted to forget or reinvent these days (28:11-15) or our belief is tempered with doubt (28:17), let’s take comfort in God’s great gift to us in this era of life, the words of Jesus: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20).
It is this Jesus who invites each of us to participate in this new age of life, a river flowing into eternity. I think this song speaks to his desire for us and comfort to us. I hope it will be a reminder of his care for you and comfort for you as we confront our weakness and embrace his abundant life in this season.