Holy Week, Saturday

Yesterday we reflected on the brutal murder of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Despite what the people thought they were accomplishing, let’s not forget Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice.

John 10: 17-18, The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

Today, Holy Week Saturday, there is a strange air stirring around us.  Like watching for a tornado or hurricane, the sense of impending doom is thick.  Eerie.  Deafeningly silent.  Because this time two thousand years ago, Christ was dead.

Before the clock ticks forward, I have to back up for a second.  People like to talk about who they would like to meet in Heaven.  I have a few people for sure.  One of them is lesser known than the other high-profile Bible names.  Enter Joseph of Arimathea.  He was rich.  He was a Jew and a member of the Sanhedrin; and he had become a disciple of Christ – a scandalous thing for a Jewish priest to do.

After Jesus died, Joseph approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body to give Him a proper burial on Friday night so as to avoid having His lifeless body hang there on the Sabbath.  Pilate granted his request.

Matthew 27: 59-60 – 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.

When I get to Heaven, I would really like to talk to Joseph.  Think about it, he had accepted Christ as His Savior.  The same Savior whom He was about to bury.  How must it have felt to bury one’s Savior?  The cross was a gruesome scene.  Joseph himself took Jesus down off of it.  That must have been a horrific task.  After the 39 lashes, chunks of skin and meat must have fallen off of Jesus as Joseph navigated His body down from the cross.  How did Joseph release Jesus’ hands and feet from the nails driven through them that sealed them to the cross?  Did he drive the nails back through Jesus’ flesh?  Joseph surely was a bloody mess from handling Jesus’ body.  Did he wash his clothes and wear them again, or did He never wash or wear them again out of respect and as a reminder of what Jesus endured?  Hmm.

When Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in the linen, his hands surely dug into the insides of Jesus that were exposed from the flogging.  Recall that Jesus was unrecognizable – His face deformed from the swelling of His beard being plucked out, flesh missing, His body covered in dirt and blood.  What was it like for Joseph to remove the crown of thorns that had been gouged into Jesus’ head?  There must have been some small sense of satisfaction to undo the ridicule that the people had done to Jesus.  A feeling of justice for a dead man.  Did some of the thorns stick in His head and need to be hand-plucked like a mother removes a splinter from her child – careful, tenderly, in love?  Are you  still reading?  Can we stomach it?  I don’t think I can find words to understand what Joseph was feeling.  Every drop of blood shed, every point of agony Jesus suffered was for Joseph – and for you and me.  Joseph must have felt like an accomplice to the crime, since it was his sin, like everyone else’s, that cost Jesus His innocent life.  I know I do.

Jesus was wrapped and placed in Joseph’s personal tomb.  A boulder was rolled in front of it, symbolizing the finality of it all.  Joseph went away.  Did he go home?  Did he go pray in the temple?  Did he take a long, sobering walk lamenting over the day’s events?  So many, many questions.

I’m not the only one with questions.  Think about the disciples.  Could they be more confused?  Bewildered?  They thought Jesus was going to rebuild Jerusalem and they would be right there as His biggest campaign supporters.  Jesus was gone and so was their hope, dreams, and both their religious and political vision.  The disciples were gone, too.  All of them dispersed in utter confusion and fear.  Were they next?  Would they be hunted down and killed for following Jesus?  Not now.  Not yet.

One person stands out among the fleeing disciples.  Peter.  Always full of words and a dose of emotion, Peter was zealous, impulsive and at times he didn’t know when to stop talking.  Such was not the case at this point.  In fact, he tried hard to blend in and not say a word.  This, the same man who cut off a solider’s ear in haste in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Now, Peter wasn’t doing the talking – unless it was to deny Christ, his Savior – just as Christ had told him he would do.

Luke 22:54-62

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”   “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times. 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly. 
Peter catches a lot of flack for his impulsive actions and chatty tongue.  However, are we much different?  How quick are we to disown Jesus when pushed into a corner?  Peer pressure at work, school, and in the neighborhood can tempt us to blend in like Peter tried to do.  Tough moral choices seep into the private parts of our hearts and whisper to us to follow the road more widely traveled.  Sometimes our faith is called out in front of many people when we are the only person against whatever everyone else is doing that we know is wrong.  Sometimes we are all alone, thinking no one knows but us what we are  contemplating.  Oh, but we are not alone.  God is watching.  He is not sitting on His throne with bulging bloodshot eyes, lightening bolt in hand – ready to strike us down.  He is cheering for us to make the right decision.  He sent His Holy Spirit to guide and direct us down the right path.  Jesus, our High Priest, always intercedes on our behalf.  We have all of Heaven watching and waiting and supporting us in the right thing!  So why do we feel so alone?  Like Peter.

The disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching on raising the temple in three days.  They were looking with their physical eyes at physical structures.  No.  The temple was standing right in front of them – talking to them.  They knew not, and their hopes were dashed.

Have you ever felt that way?  Your world just fell apart, yet you are stuck living in it like be being trapped in a house of mirrors.  I have.  What do we do?  When things are at their very worst, do we accept or deny Christ?  If we look deeper at Peter, later, when Jesus had risen and was reinstating Peter back into the fellowship, Peter said he loved Jesus.  I believed he loved Him all along.  In the moment when Peter was warming himself by the fire, he was scared half to death.  He was in shock, confused, angry, frustrated, and probably sick to his stomach after watching his beloved Savior be snatched in the night like a common criminal.  Still, Peter denied Christ.

Today, let us inventory our hearts and expose the areas that we have denied Christ.  For some, you have never accepted Him.  Will you today?  In the figurative hour of Christ’s death – His body lying in the tomb, do you believe?  After all, we know the ending of the book – Christ indeed rises from the dead.  And we will celebrate that tomorrow with thankful, joyful hearts!  But, if you have never accepted Him as your personal Savior, you will not be at the party.  Easter dinner may be enjoyed, perhaps the Easter Bunny will have hopped to your house, and there may be family to share the day with, but this is your time to make it personal – to make Jesus Christ personal to you and become your Savior.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

How?  Romans 10:9-13, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Perhaps you need to be reinstated?  Once saved, we never lose our salvation.  Nothing and no one can take it away from us, but perhaps you have made decisions that have denied Christ and led your life away from Him.  Christ wants you back.  He misses you.  God and Jesus have never ever stopped loving you.  There is nothing we have done that is beyond their reach.  Today, right now, listen to the One who calls you by name.  Are you wondering if the choices you’ve made have been even too much for God to love you, want you?  Read below the words of Jesus Himself…

Luke 15: 17-24  (Read the entire parable in Luke 15: 11-32)

17 “When (the lost son) came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

   21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[a]

   22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Did you know that in their day, a rich father would have never ran like that?  It was undignified!  When we understand the context of the parable, we are even more amazed at God’s love for us.  God and Jesus are not concerned with human standards – they love you and want you to come back to the family.  Will you?  As a believer, you’ve never stopped being part of the family…but you’ve been terribly missed.  How can you be brought back?

1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Today, we wait in eager anticipation for tomorrow’s celebration.  It’s not too late to join the party.  I pray you will.

Let’s put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes throughout today, feeling the despair they felt.  But, let’s also set our hearts up for a massive celebration that tomorrow will bring – and in fact, already brought two thousand years ago.  I’m smiling already.  But for now, as we lay out church clothes and look over the Easter menu’s shopping list, let’s not overlook what this day was for the disciples and those who believed.  It is bittersweet indeed.

<<Check out the companion song to this blog on my Tunes page!>>

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