The Cenotaph

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Category: General Tracts
James Brown

The Cenotaph in Whitehall is the focus of our nation’s annual Service of Remembrance of those who died in defence of our liberties in two world wars, and in conflicts since. The beauty of its design and the inscriptions “The Glorious Dead” below the carved wreaths at each end, have ensured its lasting appeal since it was unveiled in 1920. The Service of Remembrance on Sunday 11th November 2018 will have added poignancy, being one hundred years after the terrible conflict of the First World War came to an end. Our English word Cenotaph is derived from the Latin cenotaphium which in turn derives from two Greek words, kenos – empty, and taphos - a tomb. This word cenotaph therefore has significant meaning to a Christian. An empty tomb! The closing verses of chapter 19 of John’s Gospel describe in moving words the burial of Jesus. We are told, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden”. He had been betrayed in a garden, and He would be buried in another garden. Joseph of Arimathaea took the body of Jesus and with Nicodemus prepared it for burial in the garden tomb. Their sorrowful task was carried through with reverence and dignity. But His burial was not the end of His story. Chapter 20 of that Gospel opens with arrival of Mary Magdalene at the tomb to see that the stone had been taken away. The tomb was empty. It had become a cenotaph. Soon amazement and joy would banish sorrow and gloom as the disciples saw and heard the Risen Christ. The climax of those days came when His disciples beheld as “He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1.9). Soon after this the Apostle Peter declared to a multitude in Jerusalem that, “the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up” (Acts 3.13). The Apostle Paul later wrote that Christ Jesus “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, ……and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.8-11). The fact that Jesus Christ is glorified and exalted is proof of God’s satisfaction with His offering of Himself as a sacrifice for sins. This gives the believer assurance of acceptance with God on the ground of faith in Christ. It has been well expressed in this verse: “Because the sinless Saviour died, My sinful soul is counted free; For God, the Just, is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me.”

Do such words mean anything to you? Have you ever seriously thought about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Consider now, “the word of faith which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10.9). May it be that as the centenary of the Armistice approaches you will discover for yourself the joy of knowing that Christ’s tomb is empty, and gain the assurance of salvation through faith in the Man glorified and exalted to the right hand of God.

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