Little did Joseph imagine, when he constructed this tomb for himself, that it was destined to be honored as the resting-place, for a short time, of the body of him who is “the resurrection and the life!” There is laid, wrapt up in grave-cloths, rendered fragrant by odoriferous spices, the precious, the wounded, the incorruptible body of the Lord of life and glory! … Here we see the depth and greatness of the Savior’s humiliation. Though “Lord of all,” for us and for our salvation, he humbles himself not only to death, but to the grave. Here the voluntary humiliation of Christ for us reached its extreme point. We draw near to the grave of Jesus, to see death conquered. Death was the penalty of sin,and therefore to endure this for us and deliver us from it, Christ descends to the grave. Never did the grave hold such a captive before. But he entered the grave as a conqueror, rather than as a captive.
“Through death he destroyed death.” He encountered death and the grave in their own territories, and having deprived the one of its sting, and robbed the latter of its victory, he came forth triumphant at his resurrection, proclaiming for our consolation, “I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold, I live for evermore; and have the keys of hell and of death!” With what joyful hope, then, may believers in Christ visit the grave of their Lord, and contemplate death as stingless, and the grave as glorious to them! Jesus has converted death into a friend, and sanctified the grave to all that love him. “He who is our life,” says Augustine, “descended hither and bore our death, killing it by the abounding of his life.” As the second death is removed, this death, O Christian, which thou art to pass through, is, I may say, beautified and sweetened; the ugly visage of it becomes amiable, when you look on it in Christ, and in his death: that puts such a pleasing comeliness upon it, that whereas others fly from it with affright, the believers cannot choose but embrace it.
He longs to lay down in that bed of rest, since his Lord lay in it, and hath warmed that cold bed, and purified it with his fragrant body. Happy believer, thus delivered from the fear of death and the grave by the death and burial of thy Redeemer: with what joy mayest thou now look forward to both, and already sing that song of triumph which thou shalt in the last day unite with all the redeemed in singing, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Your servant and brother,
+ Sir Godfrey Gregg
Archbishop and Presiding Prelate
Administrator and Apostolic Head
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