This is Day Thirty-Five of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Andrew Dowdeswell.
John 19: 28 – 42:
For all of the joy that is associated with the Easter time, there was a moment in history, a moment in Christ’s life – and therefore should be a moment in which we reflect upon this – where He was indeed dead.
Good Friday is the day in which we, in our modern society, choose to think back on the crucifixion and death of Jesus. But perhaps it should also be a more continuous, consistent thought of ours: that Jesus did indeed suffer the worst death that man could think of, all so that he could take on the sin of the world and bring us forgiveness, righteous in God’s holy sight.
After all, the whole point of crucifixion was to enforce the worst imaginable pain; a slow and agonising death, where your hands would rip through the nails with which they were pierced thanks to the weight of your own body; where your thoughts would be engulfed by the inevitability of impending torture and ultimately death; where your lungs would be stretched to the point where, to breathe, you would have to haul yourself up using your nail-impaled hands just to enjoy a short gasp of air; where death could come in a variety of ways, from asphyxiation to dehydration and animal predation, and in a variety of time scales – some would take days to die.”
This is what Jesus chose to endure. For your sake and for mine.
In today’s passage, we have the example of two men who acknowledged Jesus’ death and responded with their time, their talents and their treasures.
The first man we meet is Joseph of Arimathea. We know very little about this man. He’s Jewish, he is forced to hide his belief in Jesus and he is likely rich. How do we know he’s rich? Well, he owns a tomb, a tomb that he gives to Jesus. And that is a possession that only the elite would be able to afford. He is willing to lay down his possessions, in this case, a tomb, to serve the Lord Jesus. Joesph is a man who recognises and values the death of Jesus, such that he is willing to give to Him.
The second man we meet is Nicodemus, a man who have we come across before. In John 3, it is Nicodemus who questions Jesus and His teachings. Jesus speaks about being born again, about being reborn in the spirit. This confuses Nicodemus to the point that he leaves and we do not hear from again him until this point.
But now, he is indeed a changed man. He, very much like Joseph, lays down the ownership of his possessions, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, a stereotypical, but still highly valued, gift that would be given to someone to cover the dead body.
You see, at this point in time, hopelessness was the prominent feeling amid Jesus’ disciples. And yet, amid such a desperate and dejected time, Joseph and Nicodemus were still willing to give to Jesus.
The end of this story, as we all know, is that Jesus rises in his almighty power, conquering death and breaking the shackles of sin. In that time, it is easy to worship Him. In that time, it is easy to be generous to Him. In that time, it is easy to love Him. But what about when Jesus feels distant, when Jesus feels absent, when He feels dead? Are we then so willing to worship and to offer gifts?
Yes, Jesus did rise. Let us never forget that wonderful truth. But He also died. We often skip over the sombre for the celebratory. Before we get to the resurrection of Easter Sunday, we must reflect on the death of Good Friday. I challenge us: Can we worship during the death of Jesus, as well as the life?
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell