April 15, 2017

Boldly Burying the Dead Savior

Matthew 27:57-66

Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus . . . asked for Jesus’ body . . . and placed it in his own new tomb.

—  Matthew 27:57-60

It’s Holy Saturday. Jesus was dead in the grave. He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (John 19:39), both Pharisees. Secretly they’d become followers of Jesus. His disciples had scattered, so these two Pharisees stepped forward. Joseph courageously asked Pilate for Jesus’ body after most of the Pharisees had demanded his crucifixion.

Then Joseph contributed his own newly dug tomb. He and Nicodemus ensured that their crucified master was properly buried. Their generosity reminds us of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (John 12:1-8).

Nicodemus and Joseph acted with no assurance of Jesus’ resurrection, though he had said it would happen. But a new day would soon be dawning! Every disciple’s life from now on would be transformed. History itself would change. But on that Saturday, Jesus’ body lay quite dead in a borrowed grave.

Joseph and Nicodemus buried the Savior as an act of loving devotion. That’s all that every disciple is called to do: live today, obediently and devotedly, in the sure hope that God will make everything new. The dead Savior they boldly buried would soon rise as the Lord of new life!

Lord, it’s hard to see you dead and buried, and it’s harder still to wait for the dawn. Remind us that death is the judgment for sin and that we are sinners. Give us faith that tomorrow will come. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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