Summary: This is a stewardship message looking at the gift given to Christ by Joseph of Arimathea.
When our daughter, Deborah, was preparing to depart for Odessa in Ukraine last year she had to sign a form telling how she wished to have her remains disposed of if anything happened to her while she was overseas. Pretty heavy stuff for a twenty-one year old. But practical.
What do you do with your body if you are far from home when you die? When we were living in Australia I remember telling Angela that is anything happened to me to have my body cremated and to bring it home in the video camera case to avoid shipping charges. Video cameras were much larger then.
We don’t like to talk about things like that. When I was pastoring in Truro I had a great idea, we made “funeral information” forms available. It covered all the things that would need to be taken care of when a person died. Did they want to be buried or cremated, did they have a preference for who performed the service, what songs were to be sung, favourite scripture passages. I thought it was a great idea, we would keep them on file in the office and when they were needed it would save the family a lot of grief. We handed out 150 and got 4 back. It’s almost as if by talking about it we will make it happen but it’s going to happen whether you fill out the silly form or not.
Last week was Easter and we focused on the death of Christ and on his resurrection, and we often talk about Jesus being laid in the tomb and then the tomb being found empty, but have you ever stopped and thought about the tomb that Jesus was laid in.
Funeral arrangements are never easy but they are more difficult when the death is sudden and unexpected. I wonder at what point it dawned on Mary that something was going to have to be done with the body of her son when he was taken down from the cross. Remember Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem but his home was in Nazareth which was over a hundred kilometres away in a time when there were no trains or plains or hearses for that matter to move the body from point “a” to point “b”
We’ve all seen photos of the sculpture by Michelangelo with Mary holding the body of her son, there was a similar scene in the Passion of the Christ. I wonder what was going through her mind at that point? If she was wondering what was going to happen to her son when she let go?
Actually the scriptures tell us that by that time there was already a solution and as often happen that solution was provided by an individual who made a conscious decision to help. We read the account earlier but to refresh your memory. Matthew 27:57-58 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him.
We don’t know a lot about this man called Joseph. We know from this account that he was from the town of Arimathea, which was a suburb North West of Jerusalem. We know that he was wealthy, and from reading Mark 15:43 . . ,Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. We know that he was part of the Sanhedrin and he that was Kingdom minded. Luke tells us in Luke 23:50-51 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. And from John 19:38 we discover Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. And from that tradition and legend has added some details.
Tradition tells us that Joseph was Mary’s uncle was a tin merchant. Because of his business legend says that had travelled to the mining community of Cornwall England which was renowned for its tin. As a matter of fact some legends even say that he took his Great Nephew Jesus to Cornwall when he was still a child. And that’s why William Blake’s poem says: And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England’s mountains green: And was the holy Lamb of God, On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
Legend continues to say that because of that connection and history that Joseph was later recruited by the apostles to take the gospel to England and that on the journey he took the cup that Jesus had used at the last supper, which of course began the legend of the Holy Grail. But all of that is just legend. But what is it that we actually learn from this story?