In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν, pitched his tent) among us…. No one has ever seen God except the one who is in the bosom of God, the only begotten Son – he has made God known: ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
A very interesting verb: ἐξηγέομαι – to make fully known, reveal in detail. The modern Greek εξήγησις doesn’t match the ancient meaning. Much closer to the ancient meaning is the English word exegesis, which is a word associated with careful, detailed study of Scripture or other important documents. So Jesus is the exegete of the Father.
But how and what did Jesus exegete? Did he give us long descriptions of how God exists? Did he bring us into the life of the Trinity? Did he reveal secrets about God? If Jesus is the exegete of God and if he is the Word of God, we should have expected that he would have given countless lectures and sermons to reveal all that we could ever want to know about God. But he didn’t. And when Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, stood before the high priests and the religious and political authorities, he stood mostly silent. The incarnate Logos of God was silent. Because words were never enough – could never be enough – to exegete God. Jesus showed who God is and what God is by his actions, more than his words. And what he revealed was one central truth about God. God is life. God is life, and the source of life, and the defender of life. At one point Jesus told the religious authorities, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
That does not mean that God abandons the dead and only cares for those who are still breathing. No. He meant that in God’s eyes and God’s heart, there is no death, only life. Whether we walk on earth or are six feet under, we are alive. And we are alive because of this day, this day in Holy Week. Holy Saturday. This is the Sabbath of the Lord. Not a sabbath of rest, but a sabbath of new creation. Christ descended into the realm of death to destroy the power of death. The icon of resurrection is actually an icon of this day, this Sabbath of the Lord.
Jesus gave his life. He did not hoard his life. He gave it, he spread it, just like the sower in the parable. Liberally, recklessly even, he spread his life so that we might have life in his name. And there is no better name by which we can have life.
There are many tombs in the world. The planet is covered by cemeteries and mausoleums. But there is only one tomb from which life flows – the tomb of Christ. We don’t know where Christ was buried. No one ever put a cross to mark its location because it was a cross that put Christ to death. No further cross was needed. The tomb of Christ is everywhere, and life flows from it everywhere. Even in the world that we know, a world that every day seems to find new ways to destroy life, the life of Christ overflows and brings the fullness of God into our lives. This is the message of Christianity.
(The above was spoken as a sermon at the Epitaphios service on Holy Friday evening. The service is actually the Matins of Holy Saturday. The audio file is below.)