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11th April

Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in the new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:57-61


After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby. John19:38-42

Coronavirus will undoubtedly become the main talking point of future generations when they think about the year 2020. This rampant lung infecting disease has left its mark around the globe. Streets are empty, schools are closed, social distancing has become the norm, and an increase in mental health issues and domestic abuse are only a few of the characteristics of this scary period. We cannot forget either, the thousands who have lost loved ones, often unable to be by their bedside in their closing hours. But there is another aspect to the impact Covid-19 has had on our society. It has highlighted man’s ability to show kindness and thoughtfulness and in some cases selflessness.


And at the end of Matthew 27, we enter an extreme time of crisis. Jesus was dead. His death was beyond his followers’ comprehension, and after crucifying Him, the Roman soldiers had the grizzly task of detaching Jesus’ body from the cross. Sabbath law demanded of course that Jesus’ body had to be buried before the Sabbath, and normally an executed criminal would have been placed in a public plot, because executed criminals were not allowed to be buried in family tombs. But then, Jesus’ family came from Galilee anyway, so they would not have owned a tomb in Jerusalem - so whatever was going to happen to Jesus?


It was then though, that a lone figure from Arimathea took a courageous step onto the stage. This rich member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), had already voiced his objection to the plot against Jesus (Luke 23:51) and he had been a follower of Jesus, but like the closest disciples of Jesus, he could easily have scuttled away as he saw Jesus hanging on the cross. But notice how he was willing to make sure that Jesus had a decent burial, even to the point of sacrificially giving up his own tomb, and tombs like Joseph’s would have been expensive.


We know of course from John’s account that Nicodemus also came alongside Joseph Arimathea. Yes, he was the man who came to Jesus by night, and now he was coming with myrrh and aloes weighing in the region of one hundred pounds, showing his wealth too. These spices would have been placed between the folds of the grave cloths, which Jesus was wrapped in after his body had been thoroughly washed, and then a separate linen cloth would have been wrapped around Jesus’ head. What attention to detail. Of course while all this was going on, Matthew tells us that the two Marys sat opposite the tomb. So we have Joseph of Arimathea sacrificially giving up his tomb. We have Nicodemus providing one hundred pounds of spices, and we have Mary Magdalene and the other Mary waiting by the tomb of Jesus, following His crucifixion.


I can’t imagine the emotions being felt by these four extraordinary people that day. No doubt they were grieving. No doubt they were confused and disappointed but being with Jesus had made such a difference to their lives, and certainly for Joseph and Nicodemus, burying Jesus gave them a way of proclaiming their relationship to Him. Nothing that day was more important to these two men and women than expressing their utter devotion to the Lord, and times of crisis reveal so much about who we really are, and what our priorities are. Times of crisis also show just how strong our attachment to Jesus really is. We are living in days of crisis. How strongly are you expressing your attachment to Christ during these days?

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Enon Baptist Church

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Monkwearmouth

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