Summary: This sermon examines how JOseph and Nicodemus step up to the plate at the death of Jesus. How does such strength come about? That’s what is addressed in this sermon.
March 29, 2006 Matthew 27:55-61
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Faithful Come Out of the Closet in the Darkness of the Evening
When you’ve been up for twenty four hours with a gut wrenching flu; with your body completely wasted and wiped out from a night’s worth of vomiting; and you are reduced to a weak and helpless shell of a person in a matter of hours; it can be a very purifying experience. When you get wiped out - all you want at that point is to feel better. You don’t really care if your hair is disheveled. You don’t bother with niceties or small talk about the weather. When you really feel like garbage - it has a powerful way of making you thankful for the simple things in life. You tremendously enjoy the ability to just eat a piece of bread or sitting in a chair without being in pain. It makes life much simpler and pure. It isn’t the good times that let you shine - it’s the dark times.
Tonight’s lesson takes us to the darkest time of Jesus’ first time on earth. We fast forward past the troubling of the cross - since that will be covered on Good Friday - and look at the time after the cross - to the burial of Christ. This had to be the darkest point - because there was no hope left at this point - not from a human point of view. No matter how sick someone is, as long as they are breathing there’s always some hope of recovery. Jesus had performed unbelievable miracles up to this point - even having raised the dead. But now Jesus was dead. The skies had turned black. Everything seemed lost, as all those witnessing this travesty went away beating their breasts. There was no hope of him coming down from the cross. The deed was done. They couldn’t take back what they had done. For him to raise Himself from the dead - in spite of what He predicted - it simply would seem impossible. What especially must have seemed disheartening was that those who you would expect most to remain strong in this time - the disciples - had deserted Jesus and run away. All that was left were a few weeping women at a distance.
If you look at this from a human point of view - who in their right mind would want to join this religion at this point? Imagine if you were thinking about visiting a church - you’d seen their web sight; talked to their pastor; liked what they had to say; and then finally decided to go to the worship service. Imagine if you then came to the worship, and when you arrived they had a casket up front with a dead body in it. Imagine if there were a bunch of women sitting in the back of the church weeping. What would you do if you walked into such a worship service? The greeters would come to you and say, "we’re sorry to tell you this, but our Savior and God has died. The leaders of our congregation were not able to endure this, so they left. If you would like to stay, our order of worship for today is weeping, crying, and then mourning. Following the sorrowful time and prayer we would like you to purchase a grave sight, and then take the body from the casket and place our dead Savior in the grave." How would you respond? "Whoa, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was looking for something a little more cheery; more optimistic. I thought this was a more lively religion. Maybe I’ll come back later." Even if you told the visitor that this was not a "normal" worship service, how many would come back? The point I’m trying to make is that this death of Christ is the most offensive portion of the Christian religion. With Jesus having given his last breath - from all our senses He appears to have lost. This is the darkest hour.