Oh yay! Let’s talk about touching and carrying a cold, beat up, lifeless human body. Awkward, but please read to the end.
The other week at the coffee shop in Spring Grove I overheard the undertaker talking with another local man. The man asked if he was busy with work. That is so weird. I forget what the answer was. But then the man asked if it is hard. He was referring to the emotions of the whole thing, dealing with death, distressed family, etc. The undertaker said it is hard when the person was not supposed to die, and not so bad when the person is older or expected to die.
Hmm. Jesus was not expected to die. In fact, He was expected to triumphantly set up a kingdom to overthrow the current occupation, restore Israel, and reign as king. Then “it happened overnight” you might say.
If Jesus had lived to an old age and had been known only to the few people in Nazareth, it wouldn’t have been so bad. If Jesus had not made claims, taught with authority, and performed miracles then maybe his body could have been treated like any other body that had given in to the curse of death.
Someone had to do something with that body. In step Nicodemus and Joseph, along with eight or nine women. They were going to take down their Master’s body.
I don’t think Joseph grabbed a stepladder from his work truck. No, I think they lifted the scaffold, or post, out of the ground and laid it down. Then they would have had to use some sort of tool to pull the three iron spikes out of the wood and flesh.
Can you imagine actually doing that task?
You look at the hands and you strain to pull the bloody spikes out through the flesh. Those same hands that reached out and touched so many with new life now lay limp and severely torn. As you lean over and reach your arms under Him you think of the many burdens He lifted. The bosom that John and many others leaned on now lay heavy and burdensome in your arms as dead weight. (No pun intended.) His eyes you saw gleam with love, sparkle with joy, and stare with conviction stood hauntingly still in a frozen gaze that looked distantly past you.
Does this scene remind you of anything? Does it by chance remind you of the Jesus Christ of your life?
RESPECT FOR THE DEAD FLESH
Think of the obvious deep respect Joseph, Nicodemus, had for the person of Jesus Christ. It carried over from his life into his death. These men and women were going to break all the rules and give this man’s body a respectable end. Here are the ways they respected it:
- They would not allow Jesus’s body to become cursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:22–23; Galatians 3:13)
- They would not let it up over the Sabbath
- They went, in spite of humiliation, and asked permission to take it down (This was very unusual. The reason solders were posted at the cross was to keep family and friends from taking the bodies down.)
- They used a new tomb. (Those crucified by Rome were never buried. They were left to hang until the birds of the air had their fill. Hence the name “the place of the skull”)
- They purchased expensive fine linen and wrapped the body in it
- They prepared spices with intent to come back and anoint the body after the Sabbath
Think of the respect for a body that was dead. It was just a corpse! And they treated it like royalty?
RESPECT FOR THE LIVING SPIRIT
I have been severely challenged by a parallel to the Spirit of God. Do I treat the Spirit of God with respect?
What do I mean by this?
Do I invite and welcome Him? (by the way, the Holy Spirit is not an “it”) Do I give Him a pure and clean place to dwell? Do I obey Him? Do I fellowship with Him? Do I allow my flesh to move according to His leading?
If I don’t do any of these things, then I am disrespecting the Spirit of God. And so I ask myself: Would I have treated the dead corpse of Jesus with more respect than I now am treating His living Spirit?
IMPORTANT BUT OFTEN MISSED OUTCOME
Did Joseph go back to his business and continue life as normal? Did Nicodemus go back to the Sanhedrin and continue in the temple as before? I believe Joseph, Nicodemus, and the eight or nine women joined the others just as strongly as Peter, Paul, and the other disciples in proclaiming the Gospel.
History records that Nicodemus was martyred sometime in the 1st century. In other words, he wasn’t just handling dead flesh anymore, he was living by and proclaiming the living Spirit of his Messiah!
Many legends are told of Joseph of Arimathea. Many claim that he was imprisoned, miraculously released, testified against the Jewish Sanhedrin, and became a missionary in Britain and helped established churches there.
I am continually amazed at what can happen when a person stops living for the flesh and starts living for the Spirit. (See Romans 8:1-13)
I pray that this is my testimony:
“Look everybody! God was dead to me. I forgot Who He was. I treated His promises as dung. I walked away from Him as a coward. I openly denied that I had anything to do with Him. I shamed His name and caused him grief and pain. Oh but look everyone…that is where I was at. That is where my dead spirit lay in hopelessness. I’m not there anymore! I now embrace all that He is and said and I live in newness of life! I am so excited, I just have to run and tell you, my brothers and sisters! Quickly, come out from your locked room and experience this for yourself!”