Greetings, everyone! Welcome to Friday’s edition of EDiBS, and God’s peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m Paul Stark, I’m your Bible study partner for the next 8-10 minutes as we explore God’s Word together, and though I’ve said this to you on many occasions, I’m always grateful to say it again: I consider this ministry that we share to be one of the great privileges of my life. I’m so happy for the opportunity to share the Scriptures with you each day. I have such joy in my heart to know that the Lord works in our lives through the power of His Word, and that we’re all in the process of being changed…of being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Finally, I’m so happy — as I always am — that you’ve come along to be part of today’s study time. Thank you for being part of this very special family of faith that we call EDiBS!
As most of you know, we’ve been going through the gospel according to John over the past several months, and today as we begin nearing the close of John’s narrative, we find ourselves coming to the end of John 19. Let’s pray together as we begin.
Father, we praise you for your goodness to us, and we call out to you today as your blessed and beloved children. Thank you for your steadfast love, and thank you for the way you have shown that love – through the sacrifice of your only Son. Please bless the study of your Word today — in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
As we get started today, we come to a quiet moment, but one which comes only through the courage of a man named Joseph. Our focus: a brave request.
38 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.
Here in America, matters of death and burial tend to be very sanitized. After someone dies, the body is generally taken to the mortuary, and the mortician prepares it in accordance with the family’s wishes. It’s all done privately, clinically, out of the public eye...even apart from the surviving family members. A trusted funeral director will be sure to treat the remains with care and sensitivity, and he or she will ensure that all is made ready for the service. When people come to the funeral, they typically see their friend or loved one prepared for burial in fine clothing, displayed in a beautiful casket, surrounded by flowers and the playing of soft music. Even for those who are cremated or who have closed-casket services, everything is designed with an aesthetic sensibility. In part, it’s our culture’s way of dignifying the final passing of its people.
Verse 38: In today’s reading, we find much the same thing going on as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus reverently take the body of Jesus and lay it in a tomb. Beginning in verse 38, Joseph, whom you will remember is actually a member of the High Council and one who argued against the plot to arrest and kill Jesus, goes to Pilate and asks for the remains of the Lord. This is an incredibly bold move on his part, because as we can see from the text, though he was a believer in Jesus as the Christ he had up to this point kept it a secret for fear of retribution from his fellow leaders. I’ve always imagined that in the aftermath of the crucifixion, in the aftermath of such a display of man’s inhumanity to man, Joseph was gripped by two striking emotions: anger and disgust over what his colleagues had done, and overwhelming love and compassion for the One who had been killed. Whatever the case may be, what we do know is this: in taking charge of the situation and having Jesus’ body remanded to him, Joseph from that point on was a public, not private, disciple.
Verse 39: Incidentally, we can say the same thing about Nicodemus, can’t we. Nicodemus, the main character in John 3, the one who came to Jesus at night, the one whose spiritual questions prompted the most well-known words ever spoken by our Savior in John 3:16. Nicodemus by his actions here places himself in the same category as Joseph. What was secret and quiet and private within the confines of his own heart is now a public declaration, an unashamed identification with the One in whom he has been born again. Does he have a lot to lose if his faith is found out? Certainly so, in the temporal sense. But Nicodemus, and Joseph with him, have experienced a crossing over in their lives; a crossing over from death to life, from darkness to light. And whatever they might have in their earthly existence – money, fame, power, authority – is something now easily given up if need be for the sake of knowing Jesus and being known by others as His followers.
Verses 40-42: So it is that we see these two men do what no one else is prepared to do; what, perhaps, no one else has the courage to do. They take Jesus’ body and endeavor to give Him the dignity of a proper Jewish burial. If they do not undertake this task, our Lord’s body will simply be thrown into an open pit, a mass grave where the bodies of other criminals are thrown following crucifixion. This cannot be, and it is unthinkable to them that such insult would be added to what has already occurred. Taking the spices and the aloes that Nicodemus has brought, they go through the process of preparing, then wrapping the body of our Lord. As you might imagine, this job is not an easy one. Don’t miss the emotional component in play as they take a body beaten beyond recognition, torn and bruised and oozing blood, and make it ready for burial. The time is also short at this point; they have only a little while to complete their act of devotion because of the day of Preparation. So they make haste, and when they are finished they place Jesus’ body in a brand new tomb, one never used - and as we learn from other Gospel accounts, it is actually Joseph’s own tomb, the place he had prepared for his own use.
As we wrap things up for the day, I love the reverence and the devotion so evident in this passage, don’t you? Such quiet courage; such a choice to do right, no matter what the cost may be. And yet it gives me pause as well. Why? Two reasons: first, this text throws cold water on the people out there who say Jesus didn’t really die. If the soldier running his spear through Jesus’ side wasn’t enough for you, then what are you going to do with the scene before us here? Our Lord has just been wrapped in linen with 75 pounds of aloe and spices and laid in a tomb. Don’t buy the swoon theory. It’s simply not tenable. The second reason that this text gives me pause is the irony of it all. Such careful preparation on the part of Joseph and Nicodemus! Such love motivating their actions! Such sacrifice! And yes, what another great fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy! And yet in just a few days, their efforts here will be shown to be needless. Because Jesus will rise, and as never before, these two men and hundreds of others will be surprised by a joy they didn’t know could exist. We’ll get into that in our next several sessions, so I do hope that you’ll stay with us as we finish things out. Have a terrific day, take care, and may the joy of our Lord Jesus be a continual impact on your life! I’ll see you soon.