Who came to the dead body of Jesus hanging on the cross at Golgotha on the Day of Preparation?
Who showed up in that shame filled place as the king of Jews hung naked upon the tree of death at the hands of Romans and Jewish authority?
Who would be willing and able to take the burden of care for the human remains?
Who was willing to take this upon themselves?
Two men came forward. One a man of wealth and distinction who, until this moment, had been a secret follower of Jesus, now willing to face all of Roman authority in the approach to Pilate. Bold Joe, Joseph of Arimathea. The other was one of the Jewish rulers, a Pharisee, who had come to Jesus early on on His ministry to ask Him about His mission and in answer was given the gospel message (John 3). Thank you Nic. Nicodemus brought with him all the expensive spices for a proper Jewish burial and Joseph gave up his own freshly cut tomb. For Jesus, at His death, all social honor and all authority of religion is represented by these two men alone. These bold men committed their time, their resources and their positions, on unexpected short notice and confronted the cultural norm and politics, in order to honor Jesus.
Am I willing to commit my time and my resources on short or even long notice so that Jesus is honored in this culture of my own?
Am I willing to commit for this culture, glibly going on its own ways, it’s own paths, unwilling or sleeping through great tragedy or busy in preparation for rituals that have missed their message, and missed their very fulfillment?
There are two more prophecies that are fulfilled that we might believe. John wrote this book to unbelievers so that they might believe. Have you understood the signs? Do you believe? Nothing is taken for granted. It is good to ask, to research to seek out the truth and to check the facts. All is fulfilled.
The Day of Preparation. This is the day we now live in. We are in the days of preparing for Christ’s return. The sacrifice was given. It is finished. The time of the Gentiles will draw to a close. Now we have prep to do for His victorious return. What is that work?
What “dead bodies” of finished work need to be removed from display?
What must be broken from my past so that I can move forward into my future; a future that prepares me for my resurrected Lord?
What do I need to surrender in my attitudes, my actions, my motivations, my thoughts and reasoning to His truth for removal and restoration under His patient and loving creative hand?
I have moved from one state to another. I was still selling the house entering month 11 on the market at the time I wrote this. (Update: it took another 13 months to sell that house and after another 1 1/2 years I have finally bought a home in this new state.) There was still “stuff” in the house. I have moved some of this stuff with me. I need to deal with that stuff. I have been a Christian for 20 plus years. There is still stuff in me that is not like Christ. What do I need to do to complete my move to living fully in Christ from living in self? Both processes seem to take time. Yet when I choose to make the time to face the work and do it, progress is made.
So as I must strip away one last wallpaper of memory, and pay someone for that, I must also strip away hurts and resentments, misunderstandings, beliefs based on misunderstandings and misinterpretations of simply the need to forgive someone or many someone’s and accept the payment already made for all this.
In the new location there is still work to do. I even took time to clean 15 years of accumulated threads out of a chair’s castors. It was like a walk down memory lane as I cut and pulled the tangled threads of my past. Becoming more like Christ is like taking the time to cut and snip and pull at the tangled threads of our understanding of our human experience and replace our thoughts with His thoughts.; my mind with the mind of Christ. Find my belief; dig it out of the closet of my crowded brain. Seek His truth about it. Choose to believe His truth. Renew my mind with his truth and choose to think and act like Him instead. Pray about it, turn to Him. For I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13.
I know that You can do all things and that Your plans are unstoppable. Job 42:2
Now we know that You know everything and that You do not need to wait for questions to be asked. Because of this, we believe that You have come from God. John 16:30
The sour grapes of human life is death itself. Death, the consequence of sin that began in the garden, is in a face off with the garden’s creator. The One who declared the judgment of death for sin is now claiming the judgment on Himself, the guiltless King of the Jews. Upon that clear symbol of God covering us by dying in our place, death will pass us by. I am in a body that will change- no longer to be raked by decay; all because of this moment. Jesus finished the work. He gave up His spirit. He could have held on, changed it all, but He gave it up for me and all mankind.
Lord, help me persevere as You did to the end of this body of decay so that I too may finish my little part of the work You have planned for me. I pray now for the many people I know who are suffering in bodies of decay with illness, loss, and the process of aging or under persecution and threat of death, in prisons of pain. May we all take courage in the hope You have set before us at the cross and may we persevere and finish well for Your glory, and honor You!
What was it like for divinity to be limited by the constraints of using a human body? When exhaustion took Him, is that why He fought in prayer. He IS power. At a word from Him all changes. There is no need for Himself to do a battle. Yet His final walk of pain and shame is Divinity Itself walking out our life. The Creator inhabits His own Creation. We must enter the covenant relationship and put on Christ as Christ, who is God, has put on man. He stepped into bodily limitations to live out the plan of salvation. To lead us home. The great shepherd has come to collect His flock. In Christ, we step into the Lord, leaving behind all sin, we put on Christ. We are changed. What an exchange of identity! Unlike the many stories of trading places, we become One with our Creator. As He always intended us to be – without sin.
There are many examples in the arts. The animator who becomes the animated; a game within a game (the Hunger Games) and life given to Pinocchio, are just a few examples. It is a story as old as creation; it is the Creators story.
Jesus, when I find myself in battle, let me remember You who have already fought all battles for me and may I turn to You and You alone to trust fully in You to meet my every need.
On the to do list of Jesus, He was just about done. He has taken care of his mother’s future needs and so after this, Jesus, knowing all things had already been accomplished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled said “I am thirsty”.
The Creator of the universe thirsts. He longs for something to meet a physical need. He is offered sour wine, i.e. vinegar, on a sponge stuck onto a hyssop branch and extended up to his lips. His last taste in His mouth is that of sour grapes. All that the world had to offer Him in death was sour grapes. What does He do with that?
The plant used to carry the sponge was also used as the brush to dip into the blood of the lamb and paint above the doorpost on that first Passover, where the angel of death passed over the homes of those with these three spots of blood from an unblemished lamb on their door posts. Now, at this moment in history, it is being done in the perfect form with the Lamb of God being sacrificed to save the world from death for all who would believe. And this death is happening at the very moment of the Passover sacrifice.
God orchestrates over time and His timing is perfect. His scope is wider than our imagination. His plan is perfect. Lord I believe, help my unbelief! I walk through the door of the Good Shepherd and I take shelter under His wings. There is no better place to be. Your power and Your might are centered in Your love. Your plan and purpose are for good. I shall trust in You. I shall count on You and You alone to protect me, to guide me, to meet my needs as You, through the sacrifice You made, have provided me with life eternal in Your house, as a member of Your body, whom none can snatch away! My house is Your house. Thus, my needs are Your needs and You promise to provide for all my needs! And of course You are able! It is ALL Yours!
Forgive me when I forget Your covering and I drag You into places of sin. In my human nature, while yet I live and breathe, You are washing me clean. Yet I am still in this imperfect body and still You are making me into Your image! Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Use those times of disobedience to change me, to grow me and to make the process of my correction an example of love and redemption available for all that even my mistakes be used by you to draw others to Christ.
John was there too. What connected him to these women? A shared love for Jesus. And because John was a man, and the culture had to provide and protect widows, and that duty fell to the first-born son, Jesus gives John His mother to care for and look after. Why not to one of His younger half-brothers? Where were they? Only John was there. Jesus left nothing undone. In His dying time on the cross, Jesus looks after his mother. Had she wondered what would become of her or was she too filled with grief as she saw her beloved son suffering even while having some deep inner knowing since His very inception that her life experience was totally different from any other woman before her or after her. I think she knew only grief now and wonder because of her faith in Him as to what would happen next. Did His words bring her comfort or greater grief? Had she had any hope He would not die, these words would have dashed that!
Behold! It’s a powerful word. It is a word that commands attention, a declaration of fact. Mary used it when she surrendered her life to The Lord. Pilate used it when he surrendered Jesus as king to the Jews. Jesus uses it here to surrender His mother’s care to his dear friend John.
What surrender do I need to make in my own life?
Behold! Lay it out to The Lord and let Him plan for me!
Behold! What responsibility do I have that You Lord have laid out for me?
Behold! What responsibility do I need to let go of for God to do His work?
Who showed love and did not leave Jesus alone when he faced this death? Who was there for him in His greatest hour of suffering? Only three women and one man. His mom, His aunt, His dear friend the sister to recently resurrected Lazarus and John. Only these few were eyewitness to the events. A privilege? Yes, but not an enjoyable one. Who are these people and how come they are there?
Mother, Mary. Her own life change as a young woman, aware, warned by angels, and now this. What does it all mean? She had submitted to this herself years ago when told ‘Nothing will be impossible with God ‘ and she agreed with ‘Behold, the bond-slave of The Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.’ And that moment has led now to this moment.
Who is this next Mary? Who is Clopas? Is she a half sister to Mary the mother of Jesus and thus they share the name? Regardless of my confusion over who she is, the key is that she is there for her sister Mary. What is it to be a sister, but to be there for one another in times like these!
A third Mary, Mary Magdalene, sister to Lazarus, repented and redeemed (John 11:2, Luke 7:37-38) she understands resurrections and is probably still filled with awe and her own wonder over the last weeks events. Now, perhaps she is already convinced that Jesus will rise again, but like Jesus who wept at her brother’s grave prior to raising him, this Mary is filled with grief as she again watches death approach another one she loves dearly.
Women, the scorn of men. One is most faithful as a young woman, choosing to surrender to The Lord and face the scorn of her culture as an in-fact innocent but pregnant virgin. On the other extreme, Mary Magdalene who was a sinner used by many men in her town who later in her life had chosen to surrender and repent of what she was truly guilty of, and another Mary who we know little about. Surely, each of us can relate to one of these women! All women are represented in these three who are there for Jesus.
Which woman do I relate most to?
Can I accept the love that Jesus had for me? A love that gives me this same opportunity as the Mary’s had?
Am I willing to be there for Jesus now, in my culture, in my circumstances, in the circumstances of those around me whom I love and respect?
Therefore, Pilate would not change the wording, therefore. I suppose, having this particular duty for a soldier, even though what executioners have to do is grim, the job had perks. They get the spoils just like any soldier of war would get. They evenly divided the clothing among the four of them, except for the tunic made without seams. Woven on the loom in one piece. I wove a bag that way once. Fun and challenging. That would have been a valuable garment. And aside from whatever it speaks about the one who made it for Jesus presumably or bought it for Him, the fact is that they gambled over the piece and in so doing, fulfilled scripture.
These soldiers knew they were hanging a king. Added value. Were they confused? What did they think as they carried out the deed? I don’t expect they were too worried. Was there a larger number of soldiers who marched out with them to the execution? I don’t think so. That is not a detail we know. The concern for rebellion was the night before at the arrest. Now they have seen not only no opposition to the arrest but the events so turned that it seemed all agreed this was a good thing. So they could, the four of them, having just crucified three men, now let the ones who have come to see do their gawking while they get on about the business of waiting for the men to die, and dividing up the spoils.
The events had turned. The ruled people had been trumped by their own rulers and while many were busy with Passover preparations, God’s preparation, as Jesus, hung on the cross. When evil plots to do its work, it will be seen that it often does so behind the cover of distraction. Crowds can be manipulated and controlled. That is what a community organizer does; she figures out ways to mobilize the community to some action already planned out by those powers behind the scenes.
What areas in my world today are being so led?
Is it possible that I too am targeted by manipulation?
How can we as individuals be more aware?
Can I, and will I, choose to walk by the Spirit of Truth and not by the spirit of media and fear and rah-rah-rah?
Lord, make me faithful, keep me honest, filled with love and give me courage to stand for truth against crowd, humbly and willing to surrender all to Your greater long suffering, plan.