There was once a great king, clothed in splendor and crowned with glory. From high up on his royal seat, he looked lovingly at the assembled crowd before him, gathered to attend him. The people gazed up at his crown, at his purple robes, at his outstretched arms. He had come for them from a far country, through many perils, and much opposition. But his face was set. Their long-awaited king was determined to rescue his people from the darkness that had overwhelmed them. He had laid out his battle plan to his closest friends, but they didn’t understand. “No chance of success,” they said. Even his closest friends doubted him.
Perhaps they were right. The great king, clothed in splendor and crowned with glory, squinted through the blood dripping down his face. Each breath was labored and shallow, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. The rough wood of the cross rubbed ruthlessly on the flesh of his back, torn by shards of bone and metal. As he lifted his eyes up to heaven, the crown of thorns dug cruelly into the back of his head. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he shrieked. His voice fell flat on the wind, and was answered by silence. As he breathed his last, a thick darkness smothered the land.
That Friday was the day the King died. His costly battle plan had succeeded, and his people were free, though they didn’t feel it in their hearts.
But there was an ancient myth, a legend stretching back to the farthest reaches of history. This people’s story reverberated with the echoes of the defeat of Death by a great king.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
If Death was to be defeated by the King, and the occasion marked by such festive joy, why did the king have to die?
The king’s body was taken off the cross, wrapped in linen, and spiced with myrrh. Perhaps his friends remembered the stories of his birth, wrapped in a swaddling cloth and receiving kingly gifts of spices. He left the world as he had entered it. Meek, and full of honor.
They laid his noble body thus arrayed in a virgin tomb. Nicodemus was there, who the king had told of a second birth. He had been confused, but now he understood. He was almost excited, on this somber day! The king, who had sprung from the virgin’s womb, would be born again in the power of the Spirit from a virgin tomb.