IT TOOK COURAGE

Lee’s on a roll!  Here’s another good one!  Keep ’em coming brother…we love it! -anita

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It Took Courage

 As I’ve been reviewing John’s account of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, two men stood out to me. Men not of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

 Both of these men had high ranking in society during the time of Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, and is mentioned in three places in the Gospel of John. Joseph, according to Mark in verse 15:43, was “a prominent member of the Council (the Sanhedrin).” Matthew noted that Joseph was wealthy.

 Interestingly, the gospel of Mark explains that Joseph “gathered up courage” (NAS) and went in to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus. Obviously, given that Joseph moved in circles which very much wanted Jesus dead, he risked great disapproval and even hostility from that group for being associated with Jesus. One commentator I read noted that Joseph even risked “ceremonial defilement in handling a dead body,” a task typically left to lesser members of that society.

Nicodemus came to join Joseph bringing with him a large quantity of expensive myrrh and aloes to place on Jesus’ body. Myrrh was quite costly and was used primarily as a fragrance in perfume but also to hide the odor of decomposing flesh after death. One commentator said, “Joseph and Nicodemus’ act of love and respect for the body of Jesus was for them dangerous, costly, and without personal gain.” Clearly, for these men to even gain access to Jesus’ body required them to take His body down from the Cross in a very visible and public place, before all to see.

It apparently was Roman custom to allow those crucified as seditious criminals to remain on their cross for vultures to consume. Jewish custom, however, dictated that one crucified must be taken down before night fall and buried or it would curse the land [Deut 21:22-23].  To help keep peace, the Romans allowed Jewish custom to be followed and thus, agreed to the desire to remove Jesus’ body from the Cross. As a side note, it was custom for the Jews to bury criminals in a common grave outside the city.

 What I find most compelling is that our Lord was buried properly, with expensive spices, in a garden in a rich man’s new grave to satisfy prophecy [Isaiah 53:9].  Jesus as a man lived a life of complete poverty, never owning more than the clothes on His back, yet, due to the actions of these two men, Jesus’ body was treated as one of high estate. As another commentator put it in an article I just read: “Though Jesus had suffered much humiliation, the honor shown in His burial marks the beginning of a shift to a more exalted state for our Lord.” One justly deserved for One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

-Lee Pierce