After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.– John 19:38-42
As a pastor, death and burial become natural things. They don’t become easy. They are not without pain. But in helping families bury loved ones, you begin to see more clearly the sequence of life. I often tell people, death is not evil. It is something we will all face at some point. It can be hard. It can be tragic. Death is not something we want, but it is something we do not have to fear. It is also something that forms our lives, forms who we are. I often think that families allowing me to be part of their saying goodbye to those they love is the most most formative part of my life. Hearing the life stories of people is always amazing. From the simplest of lives to those who have done incredible accomplishments, they all inform me about life. They inspire me to be a better person. They affirm my faith. They give lessons on what not to do as well as what is possible. Life is a precious thing. Death teaches us to value what we have and who we are.
In our scripture today we meet two disciples who have kept their faith in Jesus a secret until this moment. They have kept quiet out of fear of death. Amazingly as other disciples collapse in faith and confusion, these two step forward and become known. In death they find hope and courage to step up. Tomorrow is Easter. Tomorrow we will celebrate Jesus resurrection, but today we still contemplate Jesus death. Today is the day we let the reality of our earthly loss sink in. We let it sink in, as we recall the miraculous nature of Jesus life. We contemplate Jesus true nature as he walked this earth. Jesus the healer. Jesus the prophet, Jesus the shepherd. Jesus the one who stood up for the widow, the orphan, the demon possessed, the outcast, the unclean. Jesus who affirmed the children. Jesus who ate with sinners. Jesus who fed the multitudes. Jesus who condemned the church of hypocrisy and affirmed a love for all people.
Today is a good day, because we have a savior who has died. Not just so we might live, but so we might live in righteousness. Today we tell the stories of Jesus life, and we pick up our cross and follow. Like Joseph and Nicodemus, may we find the courage to stand up and be counted as disciples. May Jesus death be the moment we stand up and say, count me in. I’m ready to commit my life to Jesus. I’m ready to see justice for all. I’m ready to not just believe, but do the good works that Jesus commanded.
Amen and Amen!
Stay safe. Stay healthy and proclaim the gospel.