Jesus Burial

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.
Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there”
(John 19:38-42)

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment”
(Luke 23:55-56)

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(Picture: Entombment of Christ – Titian – Louvre, Paris)

He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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I Thirst!

“Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it,
put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant,
and lifted it to Jesus’ lips”
(John 19:28-29)

Reflection:
There are three things that stand out in this great passage.

The first is the very real humanity of Jesus. The pain and suffering that He went through was very real. After the hours of hanging on the cross and the terrible exertions of trying to ease the pain and the sense of suffocation His throat would have been parched – and there was still one more thing to do and say.

The next is His aching spiritual thirst. His sense of abandonment by God would have struck Him to the very depths of His spirit – as the waters of Life flowed away from Him and the waters of death rose up inside of Him. He would have longed for the thirst-quenching return of the Holy Spirit whose presence He had enjoyed through His years of ministry.

Finally He still had to drink the cup of suffering down to the very dregs. This was the cup about which He had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now He thirsted for the last few sips so that everything might finally be completed.

“My Father,
if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away
unless I drink it, may your will be done”
(Matthew 26:42)

In body, spirit and will Jesus cried out for relief – not for the suffering to be taken away but that it might be completed. For right to the end He never lost sight of His purpose which was to glorify God by being obedient to and completing His will.

And when you and I twist and turn in an agony of spirit, yearning for the living waters of the Lord to come and wash us, cleanse us, revive us, liberate us and bring new and fulfilling life, remember that there is One who fully knows and understands our pain. At such moments, as we long to shed the old and embrace the new, He is very close to us.

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Look after my Mom

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother,
his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother there,
and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother,
“Dear woman, here is your son,”
and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home”
(John 19:25-27)

Reflection:
Here was Mary the mother of Jesus. She had cared for Him and followed Him. And now, whether she understood all that was taking place or not, she was there for her son. Rudyard Kipling expressed something of such love like this.

“If I were hanged on the highest hill.
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Jesus looking down from the cross saw her there. As His heart went out to her in love He was reminded of the days that lay ahead for her. He did not commit her into the hands of His brothers for they did not yet believe in Him (John 7:5). But seeing the disciple whom He loved also standing there He placed her into the care of John, who immediately took her into his house.

Right to the very end Jesus cared for others above Himself.  And He fulfilled also the commandment in honouring His mother, by giving her the very best that was available to Him.

Such love – a mother for her rejected, despised and humiliated son; and a Son for His lonely and heart-broken mother. For Simeon had said to her,

“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
(Luke 2:35)

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

A moment’s care

“The soldiers also came up and mocked him.
They offered him wine vinegar and said,
“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself”
(Luke 23:36-37)

Reflection:
Again and again the mockery flowed over the Lord. The crowds, the religious leaders and now the soldiers. They had probably seen other kings fall away beneath the onslaught of the Roman legions. Now as the occupying power they had little interest in this so-called king rejected by his people and their religious leaders.

Matthew tells us that “sitting down, they kept watch over Him there.” (Matthew 27:36) There was nothing else for them to do except watch these three suffer and die and ensure that no one attempted to interfere or try to release them.

They would have watched the crowd as well. Perhaps they wondered at the triumphal scorn of the religious leaders, at the group of women huddled together and supporting each other – and particularly the older person in their midst. They would have noticed the cluster of men watching in haggard silence, devastated by some inner agony that may have puzzled them. But after all these were just another three criminals unfortunate enough to have been captured and then dismissed from life.

But these things happen. And as long as they don’t happen to us it doesn’t really matter ……….

However, one of them did give Jesus some of their cheap wine to ease His thirst. And that, much to his surprise, has never been forgotten. It never will be.

Such a strange group of people who reached out to bless Jesus. The woman who bathed His feet with her tears, the woman who poured her precious perfume onto His head and a soldier who gave Him a drink on the cross. Each one doing ‘a beautiful thing’ to Him – and always to be remembered.

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(Picture: James Tissot, 1886-94)

Mocking Jesus

“In the same way the chief priests,
the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.
“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!
He’s the King of Israel!
Let him come down now from the cross,
and we will believe in him.
He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,
 for he said, `I am the Son of God.'”
(Matthew 27:41-43)

Reflection:
Nobody likes being mocked. It is even worse when one is at ones weakest and most vulnerable. And these were terrible taunts.

“He saved others but He can’t save Himself.” Here was an acknowledgement of Jesus great power and authority in healing the sick, casting out demons and even raising the dead. Some of them may have both seen and heard of his raising Lazarus who had already been dead for four days. And they still would not accept the implications of these great acts. And of course Jesus could have saved Himself – but in obedience He chose not to.

“He is the King of Israel.” They knew who He was said to be but they would not look at the possibility of it being true. They just did not want Him or a King like Him. And of course they saw that they had so much to lose in terms of status and privilege and power.

“Let God rescue Him now if He wants Him.” ‘If He wants Him”- This may have been the cruellest barb of them all. It was directed at a pain-wracked man hanging naked and bleeding on the cross – a man who was soon to cry out as He felt Himself forsaken by the very God whom He trusted and served. And of course the religious leaders were trying to justify themselves to each other even then.

Did the religious leaders recognise that they were quoting the prophetic words of Scripture? They should have – which would have made their mockery even more biting and tragic.

“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
(Psalm 22:8)

How easy it is to mock others and in particular the weak and the helpless – and to twist the knives of our sarcasm and scorn with the intention to cause the most pain and rejection. We imagine that somehow it makes us more important and secure.

May God forgive us too.

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