Whose Bones Are Buried Beneath the Cross?
I wrote this article for Liberate as a Good Friday meditation. You can view the article by clicking on this link or read it in its entirety below. A blessed Good Friday to all of you.
Let’s take a walk together. And as we do, I’ll tell you a mystery.
We’re heading to a cemetery; I hope you don’t mind. It’s of a different variety, this cemetery, for it consists of a single grave. But a vast grave it is. It had to be. See it there? Stretching from here all the way over there. God only knows how many people are entombed therein.
Look over to your right, at the edge of the grave, and you’ll see a headstone. Let’s walk closer. The surface is weathered from millennia of exposure to the elements. But look closely. There’s still a name barely legible, chiseled into the granite. Can you read it? What does it say? Yes, that’s right. There’s only one name there: Adam.
How can there be only one name over such a mass grave? I promised you a mystery; I will disclose part of it now. This is not only Adam’s grave. It is yours also. And mine. Here are the remains of humanity. When our father died, we perished in him and with him. The corpse of our sad race was blanketed here beneath the sands of sin and the dirt of death.
How did we get here? Turn around and walk with me backwards into a world freshly made. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, all through the week, God’s been preparing our world, down to the finest detail. And now it’s day six, a Friday, and a very good Friday it is. For today creation will reach its zenith as the children for whom the Father crafted the whole cosmos will be formed. See them standing there, bearing God’s image, alive and free and beautiful on the Friday of their creation.
I promised you a mystery; I will disclose more of it now. This king and queen, our father and mother, and we in them, stood beneath the branches of the tree of knowledge. Our hands reached up to pluck the fruit forbidden to man. We filled our mouths and Eden spat us out. We devoured fruit and digested death. The Friday of our creation was followed by the day of our decimation, and we made the grave our home. “In Adam all die,” the apostle says (1 Cor 15:22). Thus this grave, in earthen tones, paints the picture of Friday’s good work undone.
But our journey is far from over. Walk back with me to that mass grave, that headstone, and look now what has been erected over the top of that morbid mound. See it there? Look at that tree whose trunk is sunk into the soil of our tomb. Look at those two naked branches painted red with the blood of the Lamb. Look at him who is nailed as a criminal but reigns as a king. And look at your calendar and tell me what day it is. It is the sixth day, is it not? It is a Friday, the Friday we call good.
I promised you a mystery; I will disclose all of it now. That man you see on the tree—he is the re-Genesis of the world. He has come to remake us alive and free and beautiful on the Friday of his crucifixion. In this new beginning it is finished, all is finished. The mass grave beneath the cross unburies its dead. The blood of God, dripping on this earth, is the key that unlocks the chains that bind us. Adam, made on Friday, is remade on Friday, and we in him. “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men,” (Rom 5:18). Good Friday’s good work is done by him who came to undo the work of sin and death.
This place is named Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” From ancient times the church understood this not as a hill shaped like a skull but, according to legend, it was the place of Adam’s skull. That is, Golgotha is the grave of the first Adam over which the tree of the second Adam’s cross was erected. Upon the skull of Adam, and all of us in him and with him, the Spirit has placed blood and flesh and skin once more, breathed into us his breath, and placed upon our newly formed brows the crown of victory and life.
This massive Golgotha grave in which Adam and Eve, you and me, and all humanity were once buried has in fact been emptied. Dig, dig as deep as you like, and you will find no bones. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” (2 Cor 5:19). The tree of the cross, erected over the old Adam’s grave on Good Friday, was the new tree of life, upon which reigned the new Adam, to give us new fruit that makes us a new creation. The corpse of our sad race, once blanketed here beneath the sands of sin and the dirt of death, has been raised when Christ was raised. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses,” our Father “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-6).
On this day all is good again, for on the sixth day, a Friday, the God who made the first Adam, recreated us all in the second Adam. Is it a good Friday? No, it is a very, very, good Friday. Welcome to the new world, a new beginning—in him who makes all things new (Rev 21:5).
What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!