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John

19:30-42

 

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness- his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth- that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken." And again another Scripture says, "They will look on him whom they have pierced."

 

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
(ESV)

Share the Suffering

Tuesday of Pentecost 24

5 November 2013

In Christ, God suffered that we might be freed from suffering. He who was not capable of suffering suffered that we who were capable of suffering might become impassible. Here is one of the great benefits of the incarnation. The impassible Christ takes passable human flesh and suffers death for us. The Bible is replete with the testimony of the sufferings of Christ, beginning in Gn 3:15 where the Messiah is said to have His heal bruised by the deceiver. But all this is promised and done that we humans might be freed from suffering and the fear of death. This is why heaven, in that lovely childlike description, is the place where there are no more tears (Rev 21:4). Suffering has all been left behind in Christ.

 

When we take up the suffering of Christ in our own lives then we are freed from our own suffering. Christ's suffering is a freeing suffering, one in which we participate by faith; vicariously. He suffered once for all (Heb 10:10; 1Pt 3:18). We hand over our suffering to Him and He hands His suffering over to us. His suffering is complete, and thus we are living in the benefit of it, not in its commission. His suffering has been placed upon us as a gift.

 

Today the church commemorates Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was a reluctant disciple, who kept his relationship with Jesus a secret until His death. Only when Jesus was dead did Joseph "out himself" by going to Pontius Pilate requesting permission to entomb the body of the Christ. Joseph is like many of us, we are late or reluctant confessors of Christ. Yet Joseph could not be deterred from this strange gesture acting out in faith when the game appeared to be up. Jesus is dead and apparently the hope of His disciples with Him. Why confess at that end? Perhaps Joseph simply decided that he had to treat the body of this Man who was so badly treated by others with reverence at the end. Maybe he had just had enough. I think there is more to it than that. I believe that Joseph saw with a decisive finality that everything that Jesus preached had come to its proper conclusion in the suffering and death of this suffering Servant. He who suffered so demanded proper treatment in death.

 

Joseph became wrapped up in the life of Jesus by becoming a faithful pieta in the tableaux below the cross. Picture it. He struggled to remove the spikes first from His feet and then he supported the lifeless body while others, perhaps servants, wrenched the vicious nails from his blessed hands. The body of the Lord slumped over his shoulder as he descended the crude ladder leaning against the cross. The blood, now congealed, stained this rich man's robe. What had once promised defilement in the old law (Num 9:6-7), now brought life through the suffering of this Man. Defilement over. Below the cross the weight of this body lay in the lap of Joseph; its filth making clean the once reluctant confessor. In grief, he rocks the striped and beaten body of the Christ. All Joseph's reluctance is blooded away in the suffering of Christ. Ours too. We share in His suffering through His blood.

 

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus

 

"God the Word was made man not to render the impassible nature passible, but on the passible nature, by means of the passion, to bestow the benefit of impassibility. And the Lord Himself in the holy Gospels at one time says 'I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again, no man takes it from me but I lay it down of myself;' 'That I may take it again' (Jn 10:17-18). And again 'Therefore my Father loves me because I lay down my life for the sheep,' (Jn 10:17 and 15) and again 'Now is my soul troubled' (Jn 12:27) 'my soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death' (Mt 26:38) and of His body He says 'The bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world' (Jn 6:51), and when He delivered the divine mysteries and broke the sign and distributed it, He added 'This is my body which is being broken for you for the remission of sins' (1Co 11:24; Matt 26:28) and again 'This is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins' (Mt 26:28), and again 'Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you' (Jn 6:53) and 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life' 'in himself' he adds (Jn 6:54). Innumerable passages of the same character may be quoted, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, pointing out the assumption both of the body and of the soul, and that they are descended from Abraham and David. Joseph of Arimathea when he came to Pilate begged the body of Jesus, and the fourfold authority of the holy Gospels tells us how he received the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and committed it to the tomb.

 

"I do, indeed, sorrow and lament that I am compelled by the attacks of error to adduce against men supposed to be of one and the same faith with myself the arguments which I have already urged against the victims of the plague of Marcion--of whom, by God's grace, I have converted more than ten thousand, and brought them to holy Baptism. What child of the church ever had any doubts on these points?"

 

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, Letter to the Monks of Constantinople  
 
Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, grant that we may with thankful hearts receive Your great mercies and express our gratitude, not only with our lips but also in our lives as we give ourselves to Your service and walk before You in holiness and righteousness. Deliver us from sin and error, from the frailties of the flesh, the allurements of this present age, and the temptations of the devil. Give us faith that works in love, hope that never disappoints, kindness that never fails, confidence in You that never wavers, patience that does not grow weary, and courage always to be ready to confess Christ, that we may live in Your mercy and die in Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For the family of Diane Garner, whom our Lord Jesus Christ called to be with Him in heaven, that they might grieve as those who believe in freedom from suffering for those who die in the faith

 

For the Church and her pastors; for teachers, deaconesses, and other church workers, that the Lord Jesus would empower them to preach His suffering to those who are suffering

 

For Gerald Tackett, that he would be strengthened in both body and soul
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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