Finality in a Burial

Last night I went to the Good Friday service at my church. It was a good service. It essentially consisted of people just reading Scripture about the crucifixion. I try not to get too obsessed with trying to always learn something new in listening to stories of familiarity. Sometimes it is important to simply just sit and remember. However, there was a theme to this story that was highlighted in my mind this year. It was the theme of finality.

Have you ever paid attention to the amount of detail there is in the story? Description is given throughout the narrative. The authors make time to point out where moments of the crucifixion are fulfillments of prophecies. It is easy for us to notice the amount of detail that goes into the story relating to Jesus death, but I think sometimes we forget and skim over the burial phase.

They were grieving. So many followers of Christ were grieving. We forget that. Maybe it is because we assume everyone just turned on Jesus and cried out “crucify him” from the crowd. Not everyone did though. Even though they hid they were still grieving. Nicodemus, a religious leader who came to Jesus in the night to avoid being seen became a follower somewhere along the way. He made a point to help prepare Jesus body for burial.

The resurrection was not expected. This was it. All the lessons, journeys, preaching, miracles, everything had come to an end. This was not a temporary darkness. This was the end. All the hopes and dreams were shattered. All of the joy and delight was gone. They had just gone back to sheep without a shepherd. Confusion was the new guide. Despair was the new comforter.

Jesus said “it is finished” before he died on that cross. I’m sure all of his followers would have agreed with the surface level meaning of that statement. It was indeed finished. Everything was finished. Everything they had given up had been robbed of its purpose. Murder and betrayal had one. This was not a bitter sweet feeling based off of the pain of the loss of a friend, but joy over the payment of their debt. Jesus was dead. The debt was paid for, but burdens and weariness still remained. Sunday was coming, but they saw no reason to expect Sunday. They went into Sunday believing there to be an occupied tomb.

Death was the finality. It was a cold wakeup call to what they believed was the reality of the world, and that reality was that even in the greatest triumphs and joys of life death is still waiting to greet you at the end of the road.

Why is this realization of the sinking finality of deaths Christ important for us to realize today? I think we need to recognize those feelings the followers faced. We know that Sunday is coming tomorrow. We know it is a beautiful Sunday to signify the greatest victory there ever was, but they did not know that, or at least failed to remember it. That is such a beautiful part to the story though. Jesus resurrection was not dependent upon expectation. It was not contingent upon belief. It was not hindered in the face of the belief of the finality of death. Why should we assume any different during our darkest days?

We all face dark times. We all confront obstacles that present themselves with a demeanor of finality in life. Obstacles that seem to stop us from pursuing dreams or desires. Dreams and desires that we believe have been place don our hearts by the God we serve. Some of these are obstacles that make for a difficult period in a marriage. Sometimes they are obstacles that cause pain in the relationship with a friend. Sometimes they are obstacles they steal joy away from ministry. Sometimes they are obstacles they just seem to grow distance in your relationship with Christ. In each of those moments a Sunday is still going to arrive. A reminder that there is only one finality we can know to be true. God wins.


Reblogged: He Did Not Look Like a Savior

Originally posted March 29th, 2013.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 3:5

Hanging on a cross. A man who is exposed, bleeding, and dying. A man who is facing a death of humiliation. A death of a criminal. A sign hangs above him full of sarcasm, “Jesus, King of the Jews”. A man who was chosen to be crucified while allowing the freedom of a murderer. A man who had to do everything he could just to take in another breath. A man who is completely helpless. Here hangs the savior of the world.

He didn’t look like much of a savior. He certainly did not look like any messiah. At least no messiah the world expected. He was not a military leader. He did not possess the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel to freedom like a Moses. He did not reign over Israel into an era of prosperity like a David. Of all the saviors found in the Bible Jesus appears to be the least of the bunch. Let’s face it, this man hanging on a cross does not seem to look like a savior.

What is a savior though? Is a savior one who comes in the form his subjects demand? Does he simply try and meet the needs of those who ask? Maybe a savior is meant to be something more. Perhaps this savior hanging on a cross is more than He appears to be. There is a story behind this man’s life that you may not have known if you were simply passing by. This man claimed to be the son of God. He didn’t look like any son of God we would have imagined though.

The greatest hope of the world did not look like any sort of hope at all. A helpless man hanging on a cross. A man destined to die a painfully excruciating death. Abandoned by his disciples, denied by his closest friends, alone on a cross. No, wait, not entirely alone. Two men are being crucified with him. Two common criminals hang on crosses next to this savior of the world.

One criminal can only see what hangs in front of him. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior to this man. He looked like a helpless criminal on a cross. This common man mocked and ridiculed this Jesus, this “Savior of the world”. This common criminal played a crucial point in the telling of the story. He was pointing out the clear truth of the situation. Jesus did not look like any kind of savior this world needed.

The second man saw something different though. He was another criminal who had earned his punishment on a cross. He recognized something in Jesus. Perhaps he looked past the mere image he saw before him. Perhaps he simply realized some innate truth residing inside the core of his being. No matter the way he came to the truth, the truth he arrived at had the greatest outcome he would ever experience in his life.

It is true Jesus did not have the strength of a Samson. He did not lead Israel into freedom like a Moses. He did not reign on a throne in an era of prosperity like a David. The only thing he had in common with these other men was death. This common criminal noticed the true diversion of the similarities though. He grasped that even in the one common thread between Jesus and these great men there was a huge difference. Samson, Moses, and David all died as sinners. They were some of the greatest heroes of Israel, but they each had huge flaws. Jesus was facing death, but he was facing death as an innocent man. He was facing death as a sinless man.

Jesus did not look like a savior, but he was the very kind of savior the world needed. A savior does not meet the believed needs of those he is saving. A savior meets the core need of others. Jesus was the savior the world needed, but never realized. That was what this common criminal saw. A common criminal who realized the need for a true savior. The kind of savior that was required to look nothing like Samson, Moses, or David. He realized he needed a savior of souls.

You need to understand the need for a savior in order to realize that Jesus was a savior. Without knowing the need you will never fully see Jesus as the perfect savior. He was the perfect savior because he was the perfect sacrifice. He paid our debt for our sin. He brought peace between God and humankind.

Thank God Jesus did not look like a savior.