My best day this week was Thursday. Yay, the Food Bank (I wore a mask)… I joke about feeling good about being classified as an essential worker, but it’s only half a joke. On Thursday I worked in the office at home till 9, then off to Sumas and didn’t get home till almost 5. I helped pack boxes, move boxes, I delivered ten boxes of food to the B & B, four boxes to the RV Park, 5 other misc. boxes, want to be needed. Along the way I think I encouraged 15-20 people… helped tie down a tarp on a trailer even though I was an hour late Denny! I need to do something….it’s part of the God given DNA, it’s a huge part of our faith, to be the hands and feet of Jesus!... doing good does not earn us salvation, but it is a response and a privilege to be servants of Christ….
The followers of Jesus did not do so well with his death. Leading up to Jesus’ death his disciples fought him, they didn’t want him to die, Peter and the other disciples tried to talk him out of it. His death brought out the worst in them. As he prayed about his death and trusting God the disciples fell asleep. Judas betrayed him and led the way for the soldiers to arrest him. When he was crucified the disciples denied knowing him… talk about back and forth emotions from drawing a sword to protect him and denying even knowing him…!!!! I can only conclude: the qualification for being a disciple of Jesus is schizophrenia… that’s a joke of course, but what is absolutely true is that Jesus loves us even when we are crazy! That’s the good news… forgiveness is real… Jesus death brought out the worst in the disciples but the best in Jesus who welcomes us back even when we drift away.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is so far beyond human capacity to comprehend God did not involve humans at all. The angels were the witnesses. There were no human witnesses. The women discovered him. It was God and God alone that performed the miracle of miracles: Jesus Christ Rose from the dead!
Then there is the burial. That’s todays scripture. Jesus died… that brought out the worst in people. The resurrection is so amazing humans are left out. But the burial of Jesus Christ brings out the best in the followers of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea and some of the women had the incredible privilege of helping to prepare for Jesus burial. He died a dishonorable death crucified on a cross and bringing out the worst in his disciples, but he was laid in a tomb with honor and dignity. The followers of Jesus helped bury him.
Our calling is still to help bury people. I need things to do during the Covid19 pandemic. I want my faith to be active. I want to be used by God to make a difference. I am so grateful that God allows us to serve him by being active for him. Jesus needed help to be buried. Only God can raise people from the dead, but I can help bury those that are lost. Maybe it’s food, maybe it’s a kind word, maybe it’s time, maybe it’s a phone call of encouragement, maybe it’s a prayer of intercession and vision… Thank you Lord for allowing your followers to serve you at your burial.
When a person was crucified, their bodies were not normally buried. Nature disposes of the bodies! Enter Joseph of Arimathea. What are we to think of Joseph? Some of it is guesswork, because we’re only told the bare facts.
Joseph is a mixed bag. The scripture says he’s good and upright, but it also says he was a member of the Jewish counsel that condemned Jesus. Back in Luke 22:71, it sounds like there was a unanimous consent to condemn Jesus, but in Luke 23:51 it says Joseph didn’t agree with the decision. Was he silent when he should have spoken up? We don’t know…. I read one person who speculates that by giving Jesus a tomb, Joseph is redeeming himself… appeasing his guilt for not speaking up.
It will be a forever mystery. The scripture also says Joseph “was waiting for the Kingdom of God.” Joseph knew in his heart Jesus had something important to do with the coming Kingdom even if he didn’t fully understand. Maybe Joseph’s voice was drowned out at the trial, maybe he was afraid and remained silent…but he also knew Jesus was innocent and had confidence in the coming Kingdom of God. Joseph is a mixed back… The good news: conflicted people are invited to help Jesus Christ. I don’t have to have perfect faith to serve God. This mixed bag man honored Jesus with a beautiful burial site. I like the way one writer describes Joseph’s attitude: “His attitude was one of hopeless hope. That may seem a paradox, but if you have a solid basis for your hope, it isn’t really hope” (Bruce Larson).
Hopeless Hope… I don’t have t get what is happening in our world, I only need to believe in Jesus. The world is confused right now, I want to have the same hopeless hope… no special insight as to what God is up to, but like Joseph of Arimethea, I am “waiting for the kingdom of God” to come in greater fullness. I heard a sad story this week from our local community, no details because I don’t want to point a finger at any group, but there is some indication that some Christians who have followed Christ for a very long time are filled with anxiety over Covid19 and uncertainty and questioning their faith. Jesus died, Joseph innately knew Jesus had something to do with the coming Kingdom, and he buried the body of Jesus as a believer. Hopeless hope… an expectant belief even when you don’t have all the answers….
Joseph took the unusual step of asking for the body of Jesus…His silence at the trials of Jesus became a megaphone at the burial. Pilate was conflicted too; I imagine Pilate was grateful for Jesus to have a proper burial…
Luke 23:54-56 are mechanics in preparation for the resurrection… READ. The women tried to help with Jesus burial by honoring with spices… in moments of crisis, we want to do something…in the late 90’s, a couple years after my father died, his sister died in Boise. She was never married so my mother, sister and I went to Boise to arrange for the burial and figure out what to do with her home… We were only there for 4-5 days; her friends were so kind and wanted to do something… we had enough food to feed an army!!!! Jesus needed help to be buried. Joseph and the women wanted to honor Jesus by giving him a proper burial.
I’m guessing Joseph did not consider himself to be a hero… he had the opportunity and the means to ask for the body of Jesus and put the body in a new tomb. I’m guessing Joseph did not do this so he could get credit in the Bible. I doubt the women were looking for credit when they prepared spices for the burial…
There are people who do a thousand things around the church that don’t want their name known… in the community. I’ve delivered a hundred gifts anonymously from one person to another…
The greatest servants are not looking for credit… they just want to serve… think of the unsung heroes that are quietly serving in response to the Corona Virus pandemic right now… food bank, those that make phone calls, write notes, those that pray, those serving one loved one that needs extra help, mask makers, health care workers, first responders... they are the Joseph of Arimathea’s that are quietly serving, but serving because they have a measure of hope. Maybe a hopeless hope. It is an honor to be the hands and feet of Jesus, quietly serving.
Burial is the one area we can serve the Lord, helping to bury those that are hurting and struggling, those that are dying….Jesus has now risen from the dead, he has ascended into heaven, he is coming again, the day of the Lord is still coming when the Kingdom of God will come in fullness. And as we wait, let’s bury those that are struggling, give dignity to the hurting, speak a word of hope to the discouraged. Burial is the greatest role of the church. People are dying all around us figuratively and literally. Only God can raise the dead. Only he can work a miracle. But burial is the one area that followers of Jesus could do something. Joseph and the women honored our Lord in burial with a new tomb and the preparation of spices… a cursed death but an honorable burial.
The greatest behind the scenes work for others is to bury them. To bring dignity when they are hurting and struggling. a place to belong. Think about the people you most appreciate ~~ it is those that helped you through rough days, those that were patient, who listened, who challenged you when you were feeling too sorry for yourself, who just loved you for yourself and brought dignity. One person calls another in the community “my private ray of sunshine.” provide practical help to the helpless, allow others the time they need to grieve, listen when no-one else will…that’s burial. The best church experience: a church family that prays for the struggling, lifts up the confused, gives space to the lost, time to the grieving, an atmosphere of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
I get the question more often right now: is this the end of the world. My answer: I don’t know, I can see how it could be Revelation unfolding, the number of dead is rising, the virus is spreading…. One person sent me a photo of words from Zephaniah with the question, “Doesn’t this sound like today….” READ Zeph. 1:14-18. I don’t know if this is the end… many folks in many ages have wondered. I still fully believe nobody knows the day or the hour… I am NOT a prophet and have no special insight…
but this is what I have often thought: when the end is here, I hope the Lord finds me doing the one thing that his followers are able to do: bury the dead. When Jesus died, there were people that surely thought it was the end of the ages… but his followers buried him with dignity… Jesus died all on his own as some people tried to stop him and others sought to hasten his death… the miracle of the resurrection was entirely of God. But he had help being buried: Joseph asked for this body and honored him with a new tomb. The women prepared spices of the day for his burial….
Enter the work of burial… taking cookies to the isolated… affirm the place in God’s kingdom to sinners… live out our hope with no absolute understanding of when or how the end will come whether it be today or a 1000 more years… but as we wait, I want something to do. We are called to serve. I can’t do much in God’s great Kingdom work. But I can help bury the hurting to give them an opportunity to turn to God and find hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Amen.