Friday, April 6, 2012

They Buried Him

John 19:38-42 (ESV)
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. [39] Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. [40] So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. [41] Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. [42] So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
So Because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. They laid him there. Jesus , the author of life, buried as we confess in the Apostle’s Creed. What else do you do with a dead body? Burn it? Throw it out to sea? The Jews buried their dead. And now Christ.
Death, it really is what the church is about, what Christ is about, answering that problem. Nothing causes existential angst like death. Facing it. Looking it in the eye. We don’t know what to do with it. Nothing causes pain in life like the death of a loved one. Death, the wages of sin, and it waits for us all.
Ever been at a funeral? Then you’ve probably been at a loss for words too. I show up at them sometimes and wonder, what should I say? I have more trouble when the person who dies hasn’t already been buried with Christ in baptism, so that just as he was risen by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.
The death of loved ones can be hard, even when they have died in the faith. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much you loved them until their dead. You think about all the missed opportunities you had to tell them, you think about the petty grudges you kept, think about how you took them for granted.
And here is Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, they had followed Jesus if but by night. They dared not show their support in life. But they knew he was from God, they needed not like Pilate ask, Where are you from. They knew his works, and knew that only one sent from God could do them. They had placed their hope in him. Watched him from afar, kept their distance from the quarrels between Jesus and their own brothers. Secretly they watched, expected, hoped. Could this be the messiah? And now they are the ones who garner the courage to give him a proper burial. In death.
Joseph it was said sought the kingdom of God, and for this reason he followed Jesus. One wonders if he finally saw it as Jesus hung. If he realized he was just loaning his grave temporarily. One wonders how helpless they felt. They lavish their love on a lifeless body. They buried him.
This is what we confess, but we never stop there. No, he was crucified, died and buried, but this was only the beginning. This death was the end of death. He was buried it was the end of his humiliation. It was the end of everything he came to do. Now he descends to hell to vanquish the devil and declare victory. In three days, in accordance with scripture, that is what the phrase according to scripture means, but I wish they would say it that way, in accordance, in accordance with all the old testament had to say about the messiah. Yes this is why Jesus will so sharply reprimand the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, one wonders if it isn’t Joseph and Nicodemus he approaches, for not realizing that Jesus was the Messiah they were looking for, precisely because all these things had happened.
He was buried, he was buried for you and he was buried for me, so that when we are buried with him in baptism we might be raised with him. We would walk in the newness of life. So that finally we would know some comfort and peace at a grave, know that this is not the end, but it is the way that our savior went, and it is the way we go when we pick up our cross and follow, because his grave would be found empty, and one day ours will too.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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