Is there any darkness as dark as death? I remember when my father was dying, he did not want the lights turned out in his room. He wished for it to be left on always. Then he could sleep a bit more peacefully. But, of course, in the end, the lights will go out and darkness will come. How often the Scriptures describe our plight, then, as “those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” Death’s shadow stretches over us, chills us, frightens us.
But tonight we celebrate that into that Darkness which we will all have to face, there once went Him who is the Light of Light, and whom no darkness can overcome. Into Death went Life.
Death is separation. The separation of the soul and body, tearing apart that which God created to be together forever. And He went into that: our Lord Jesus. His body, forever joined to His divinity and so incorruptible, was severed from His soul, forever joined to His divinity and so incorruptible. Let there be no shadow of doubt in your mind this night: He really died. So no funny stuff with the candle going out and coming back in. No. That last candle will just be put out. Death is real, and He really experienced for us all, tasted is for us all.
Nor did He taste only death. He also went and slept in our grave. There is the dying of the light when our eyes can no longer see light, but close in death. Then there is the dying of the light when light no longer even shines upon our bodies, but they are closed into the darkness.
My father did not want the light turned off in his room because he knew that death was no far off, and that soon there would be darkness everywhere. He would no longer see and darkness would finally cut off even the light that shone on His body. But do you see why the Lord Jesus does what He does tonight? He brings into the darkness the dazzling light of His divinity, uses his human nature’s death to bring into death itself the very end of death, and so to transform forever how we will look and think about our death.
You’re dying. Me too. Our life will not endure forever. Some of us in this room may be dead within the month, the year, the decade. But we gather tonight to celebrate that we can walk into this darkness now without fear. We gather to celebrate that our Lord Jesus has gone ahead of us, and has transformed this hideous and awful thing, this falling apart of God’s creature. He has made death be “a little sleep.” Just as we need not fear our beds at night, and shutting our eyes and letting the darkness envelop us, so little do we need to fear the coming of the darkness of death and the grave. Why do we not fear sleeping? Because we know that after a time of refreshing slumber, we will rise and see the morning light and be glad.
So is our death and our grave now. Jesus, who accomplished the salvation of mankind on the cross and cried out: “It is finished!” also willed to taste death for us and thus to sanctify our very graves by laying in one Himself. He shows us that we have nothing to fear. Let the darkness come: the end of this world is not darkness, but Light. Not hatred, but Love. Not fear, but Peace. Not despair, but Hope. Tonight, odd as it seems to the world, we celebrate the Triumph of God when Love Incarnate was laid in a tomb.
Lo, Jesus goes into your death, and into your grave and He will meet you there, and bring you from that death and from that grave to a life that never ends, for He is truly the Resurrection and the Life and to Him be the glory and the dominion with His Father and His all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Arise. Let us go to meet the darkness. Amen.