Randy’s father had run a successful mortuary up in Wichita Falls. When Randy got his license, he wanted to branch into new territory and a small town southwest of Dallas looked like the right ground. He built a new funeral home in Midlothian. His dad came down to help. He met a local girl, and I even got to officiate at his wedding. Through the years we’ve done more funerals together than we can count, and I’ve gotten to see his tender heart again and again bring comfort. Assisting those who mourn, tenderly caring for the body before burial, and modeling what it means to have hope beyond the grave—my mortician friend has lived these ideals—ideals modeled by an unexpected friend when Jesus died.
Joseph of Arimathea was not the man we would expect to carefully remove Jesus’ body from the cross. He was a member of the Sanhedrin—the Jewish council that plotted, tried, and then turned Jesus over to Pilate to kill Him. We would expect Joseph to be Jesus’ enemy, instead, he was the friend who took care of Jesus’ burial needs.
“Now look, a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and just man, was from Arimathea, a city in Judea. He was not in agreement with the Sanhedrin’s decision and their actions in condemning Jesus. He continued to anticipate the coming of God’s Kingdom. This is the one who went to Pilate and requested the body of Jesus. He took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a hewed out grave that had never been used. This was all done on Preparation Day as the Sabbath approached.
Now the women, those who had had followed Jesus traveling with Him out of Galilee, observed the grave as they placed Jesus’ body there. Then they left to prepare fragrant spices and perfumed oil. And they rested on the Sabbath in accordance with the commandment.” Luke 23:50-56
Contrary to the Sanhedrin’s belief in the first century, a belief that has persisted among orthodox Jews to this day, Jesus did not reject following the Law of Moses. Joseph of Arimathea was a devout Jew, a member of the highest Jewish Council. He was the one who went and gave Jesus the burial of a rich man just as Isaiah 53:9 had predicted.
The women who most devoutly followed Jesus were Jews, and they carefully obeyed the Sabbath regulations. They delayed their preparation of Jesus’ body and rested on the Sabbath.
In Luke’s Gospel in only hours the dead body of Jesus will rise and be transformed, but Joseph of Arimathea and these women treated the body of their loved one with tenderness and care. Maybe we need to learn from their example.
I’m not so sure that our contemporary rush to cremate the remains, have a quick service, a brief meal, and then get right back into our work and routines gives us time to face the reality of death and the grief, but also the anticipation that God’s Kingdom is still going to come.
LORD, I pray that You will continue to strengthen my friend Randy as he serves families this week. Thanks for the host of young pastors you have brought to Midlothian who are bringing the comfort of the Gospel, of Scripture, and of the future coming of Christ’s Kingdom to the growing numbers moving to our town.
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