Thursday of the Week of Lent III
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher. (Matthew 27:57-61)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 48; Psalm 63; Matthew 27:57–66
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2B8e5CY
Without sounding too morbid and dark, I will share with you that, from my earliest memory, I have always touched the body of the deceased at a funeral. The first, I think, was my Grandpa Bud Wendel. He died when I was six years old. By that age, I had heard the story of Easter but found it hard to believe. I reached out my hand and touched my grandpa. He was cold and rigid, not at all like my Grandpa Bud. At that young age, I attended church every Sunday, so I had heard the good news of new life and resurrection, although I was ill prepared to understand and believe. Dead is dead. A six-year-old can see that.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary must have felt the same way as they saw Jesus taken down from the cross, laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and the great stone rolled in front of the opening. Dead is dead. They sat opposite the sepulcher, not because they expected a resurrection, but because they never expected to see their beloved Lord and Master again. They sat, forlorn, opposite the tomb, because sealed in that tomb was their every hope and positive expectation for the future, buried with Jesus behind the great stone.
Had the tomb remained sealed, had Jesus not been raised, where would we be today? Lost in our sin? Without hope for the future? We would be facing death as the last word, with no light at the end of the tunnel, because the wages of sin is death, as we read recently.
Our passage today ends not with the hope and promise of resurrection, but with the sealing of the tomb and the setting of the guard. Easter Sunday is still some time off. But we do not live as people who have no hope. St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Because Jesus lives, we live every day with the hope that comes from having celebrated Easter. When we grieve, we grieve as those who know that Christ is risen, indeed! And because He is risen, we, too, will rise from death.
Observing a holy Lent does not mean we ignore the reality of Easter and act as if it never happened. We see Jesus laid in the tomb and the stone set in place, but we cling to the promise of Easter—even as we stand by the casket of our loved one.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the hope and promise of resurrection every day! Amen.
Lenten Response: Have you planned your funeral? It can be a joyful, hopeful experience!
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.