Stone Cold Tomb

April 15, 2017 – Holy Saturday
Sealed Tomb
Read:  Mark 15:42 – 47, NIV
Focus: v. 46, NIV

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

There was no fanfare at the death of Jesus. It was just – over. He was just – dead. What more could be said or done – now.  The Master was gone. But wait . . . there was still something to be done. The body needed to be properly buried. Left to the Romans it would likely have been thrown onto the garbage heap and left there for the carrion eaters. Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple, boldly goes to Pilate and asks for the body. Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead. Most lingered on much longer but the work of Jesus was finished – almost. Pilate gets confirmation from the Centurion in charge of the crucifixion and releases Jesus’ body to Joseph. Remember that the Sabbath is about to begin and Joseph has little time so he quickly wraps the body in cloth and places it in a stone tomb, one cut out of rock, and then rolls a large stone in front of the entrance. We are also told that Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joseph saw where they laid Jesus’ body. All have gone now. The only ones to remain would be the soldiers ordered to make the tomb site secure that no one could steal the body away and make spurious claims about it. All who cared are gone. Gone because of the Sabbath but they planned to return when the Sabbath was over.

What about Jesus now? Was everything he did and said for nothing? It sure seems to be the case. His body now lies in a stone tomb – stone cold tomb! It is the end of everything he stood for. It is the end of all His wonderful ministry of compassion. It was the end of three wonderful years of fellowship with the disciple band. It was the end of opportunities for the women who followed Him to minister to His needs. That will have to wait for Sunday when they can come to anoint His body with spices.

This stone-cold tomb holds now all that is left of a once vibrant, loving, compassionate person who spoke clearly against the “establishment” and its tightly held grip on the spiritual needs of the people. All is now quiet as the rest of the world solemnly goes to their homes and their beds and preparations for the Sabbath. The disciples are gone now, scattered in fear. Others speak quietly in the night about the events of that terrible day.

All Jesus has now is a borrowed STONE-COLD TOMB! It is Friday and Sunday is coming when . . .

Day 39 – After These Things

Saturday – March 19, 2016

Day 39 – John 19:31-42 tomb

Focus: vs. 38

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.

Too little, too late. It’s an idiom that means we waited too long to do what needed to be done or we just didn’t do enough in time to effect a positive outcome. Not that long ago we were attempting to help a friend make it to the Omaha airport in time to make her flight to watch her son graduate from his first training in the military. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and a nasty winter storm blew through our area leaving behind a foot of snow and impassable roads on all sides of town. We tried to get out first thing in the morning, the next day, but the roads were just too bad. We turned around and headed back to wait until the plows could do their work. Within minutes of getting the all-clear from the authorities, we took off once again. It was slow-going for the first 50 miles or so but then the roads got better. We moved as fast as we could but the journey was too far and the delays too great. We arrived at the airport 15 minutes after the flight was scheduled to leave. As hard as we tried, we were just too little, too late.

Our scripture for today tells the story of what happens after the death of Jesus. Two men step forward to retrieve the body of Jesus and bury Him. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both members of the Sanhedrin, the body established to govern the affairs of Jews in each city. Both have the distinction of being secret followers of Jesus who didn’t live openly for fear of those leaders around them. They didn’t speak up when Jesus was being condemned and their silence was a betrayal all its own. But seeing Christ on the Cross has a way of emboldening those who were once silent. Perhaps they could have saved the life of Jesus if they had just broken their silence. I can’t imagine their anguish at knowing that what they were now doing, a loving act towards their savior was too little, too late.

Over in Matthew 19, Jesus reminds us that what is impossible for man is possible for God. We had arrived at airport 15 minutes too late. It could take an hour just to get through security so our friend now had to see if it was possible to make another flight and face the possibility that she may not make her destination in time. However, she arrived at the front desk to discover her flight had been delayed. They rushed her through security and she made her flight. What was too little, too late for us was right on time for God.

Joseph and Nicodemus are performing an act of contrition. It was no small thing for Joseph to go to Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus and it was no small thing for Nicodemus to join him with all the embalming fluids and spices. This was an act of love for them and what they were unwilling to do in Jesus’ life they were emboldened to do after His death.

What’s your story? Are you like Nicodemus who, at one point, saw Jesus as nothing more than just a good teacher? Christ’s manner of death changes things and His resurrection changes even more. People come to Jesus at different points in their life – some early, some late. Yet it’s never too little, too late when coming to Jesus. Joseph and Nicodemus betrayed Him with their silence. The thief on the cross next to Him had only hours to live. Paul openly despised Him. The disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested. Some Roman centurions came to believe as He died. Yet, in all these cases, restoration happened. It’s never too late as long as you have a breath in your body. What are you waiting for?

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, I come to You. I fear it’s too late but you remind me that what is impossible for me is possible for God. So I come to You with all my fears and doubts and I ask that You would touch my heart. Take all my failures and turn them into successes for You. Amen.