Holy Saturday Contemplations from Blessed Johann Gerhard

The Death and Burial of Jacob a type of the Death and Burial of Christ

 

In Gen. 50 it is reported of the patriarch Jacob that, after he had placed his feet together on his deathbed and died, his son Joseph had him anointed by his servants, the physicians. He also saw to it that Jacob had an honorable and magnificent funeral. In [the death of] Jacob is a type of our Lord Christ, the true Protector or Conqueror. He, on the timber-trunk of the cross (which was His sickbed), carefully put His feet together, handed over His spirit to His heavenly Father, and calmly and quietly died. After His death He experienced this honor: that one of His spiritual sons or disciples, Joseph of Arimathea (along with Nicodemus) prepared an honorable and splendid burial for Him. (306)


Our life is our “Day of Preparation”

 

Just as Christ died before the end of the Day of Preparation, which was the day of His suffering, so also God the Lord sometimes deals with Christ’s members. He hastens them out of this life’s “Day of Preparation,” which is a day of constant suffering, and brings them to rest so that they keep the Sabbath or Day of Rest in their little sleeping-chamber and thereafter, by the power of Christ’s resurrection, once again arise with Him to Life. Isa. 26: Go forth My people into your chamber and lock the door after you; hide yourself for a brief moment until the [storm of] wrath blows over. (307)

funeral


On Christian burial

 

Just as Christ was honorably and grandly buried, so is it also proper that the members of Christ be honorably buried in the earth, because their bodies have been instruments and temples of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor. 6, and also because they, like noble kernels [little seeds] of wheat, shall again blossom forth into eternal life, Isa. 66, John 12, and become like unto the transfigured body of Christ, Phi. 3. (310)


Christ’s Rest from the Work of New Creation; Burying the “Old Man”

 

71Ac5RpaBKL._SL1300_When God the Lord created heaven and earth, He rested on the seventh day, Gen. 2. Thus, since Christ had now accomplished the redemption of the human race on the cross and had won for us the new creation, the rebirth to eternal life, behold, He thus also wanted to keep His Sabbath in the grave. Christ had not worked quite as hard in the first creation as He did in this second creation, or redemption of mankind. [In the first creation] everything was created through the Word; here Christ had to endure extreme and burdensome suffering. For that reason He indeed rightly rested in the grave. And with this rest in the grave, Christ obtained for us [great benefits]: God the Lord can rest in us and we in Him, so that after death our bodies may rest in the grave and our souls may rest in God’s hands, and so that some day we may be able to enter with body and soul into eternal rest. Thus also says Isa. 53: Christ was buried like a godless person. That is, as One who in our place was a condemned, accursed man, He took with Him into the grave all our sin and godless nature and there let them be buried and covered up so that they never again should be placed into the light before the divine Countenance, Psa. 90— if only we, with true faith, trust in His death, His burial, and His resurrection. He also died as a rich Person, that is, through His death He made us rich, for the Hebrew text may indeed be interpreted: He buried the godless nature of mankind in His grave; and since He daily suffered and died throughout His entire Life, He has, as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 15, by His continual suffering thereby made us rich and achieved for us a rich redemption. We should also remember hereby that our graves are by nature full of dead bones and filth, Mat. 23. Our hearts are fearful about our lying down in such a grave. However, here comes Christ and touches our graves with His Holy Body (which also in the midst of death remained a Temple of the living God). With this touch He turns graves into a resting-place for those who will not always remain dead, but instead shall come forth again to Life. Did not a man come back to life when he touched the dead bones of Elisha, 2 Kings 13. Even more so, should not our graves— touched with the holy body of Christ— be so sanctified and adorned that they no longer are “a box for a body,” but rather “a sleeping room for the living”? Christ left behind for us here on earth His burial clothes and His grave, so that we by true faith in a spiritual manner may wrap ourselves in them and bury ourselves in it and thus, by the power of His death, His burial, and His resurrection, go forth into eternal life.

 

However, just because we have heard that Christ took our godless nature with Him into the grave and buried it therein, we should nevertheless be on guard that we do not deliberately scratch [dig] it up again. That happens whenever we (against conscience and the witness of our heart) consent to sin and unashamedly [blatantly] continue in it. Not only that, but our Old Man must daily be hastily interred with Christ and be buried, as St. Paul admonishes us, Rom. 6: Through Baptism we are indeed buried with Christ into death. And immediately following: We know that our Old Man was crucified along with Christ, so that the sinful body ceases to exist. If our New Man is to arise with Christ and walk in a new life, then obviously our old Adam must die in us daily through contrition and repentance, and his evil lusts must be hastily buried. Truly, anyone who does not then kill the evil lusts and bury the Old Man with Christ, such a person has nothing about which to rejoice in the burial of Christ. Indeed, if there is only a half- hearted attempt in this life to bury the Old Man, he will continually jump back to the forefront and rule in us. Here we must sigh (groan): God does not want to attribute to us our sin and transgression. He wants to help us cover them and suffocate them and finally also to bring us to complete holiness through the resurrection. (313-315)

 

(All selections from Johann Gerhard’s An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1663), trans. Elmer M. Hohle, Repristination Press: Malone, TX, 1998/9; all emphases original)

 

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