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Nicodemus Part 3 — John 19:38-42

John 19:38-42
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Dear God, this is the story that made me love and appreciate Nicodemus. John seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Nicodemus (and Pilate for that matter, but that is a subject for another prayer journal). John 3 never references anyone being with Jesus and Nicodemus but Jesus, although it’s feasible that John and some other disciples could have been there. But the story in chapter 7 about Nicodemus trying to passively defend Jesus must have been relayed to John by someone else. Perhaps Nicodemus himself after Jesus’s death and resurrection. I assume John and Nicodemus had a personal relationship. Otherwise, why would John be the only Gospel writer to mention him? And why did he go to great pains in chapters 7 and 19 to not only call Nicodemus by name, but intentionally reference his conversation with Jesus in chapter 3?

So now for this story. Why do I like it so much? Mainly because It is Nicodemus at his lowest point, and yet he shows so much love for Jesus. His anger and anguish drives him into action. He loves this man he believed to be your Messiah, and he is going to show it to the world regardless of the consequences. And although we never read his name again after this story, I’m sure this act cost him his place in the temple and in the community. I would bet that this was his last Passover as a Pharisee.

Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.

First, however, let’s talk about Joseph of Arimathea. Luke and Mark tell us that Joseph was a prominent member of the council, but he did not consent to the death sentence Jesus had received. He was a secret disciple of Jesus. Did he and Nicodemus know this about each other all along, or was this something they figured out over the previous 12 hours?

With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.

John is careful to tell us that Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of perfumed ointment with him. I don’t know how this worked, but I would imagine they did the work right there at the foot of the cross. I would think that they would want to put the ointment on the body and wrap it up before they transported it to the tomb. I have this image in my mind of Nicodemus, grief stricken, disillusioned, and angry carrying this ointment in silence. Then he and Joseph take the body and start to handle the bloody mess. Where would you start? Blood would have to be everywhere. Did they clean the body with the ointment? But they did it.

Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.

This is where I want to spend some time with the other Pharisees. This scene is amazing to me. I picture it completely silent except for hushed murmurs between the Pharisees, wondering what Joseph and Nicodemus were doing. And why were they doing it. Then I imagine no words between Joseph and Nicodemus themselves. Just looks. Glances. Tears. Confusion. I would imagine that the Pharisees were furious and there was hell to pay on Sunday–especially after the resurrection. Joseph was highly respected. Did his exhibited love for Jesus make any of them doubt? How about Nicodemus? Did his demonstration of discipleship and belief make them second guess their own beliefs, if only for a moment? Joseph and Nicodemus said more through their actions than they could ever have said through words.

The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

I wonder what it was like that night and the rest of the Sabbath and Passover for both Nicodemus and Joseph. Were they afraid? If not for their lives, for their careers and standing in the community? Did they talk to their wives? Their children? Were their families mad at them, or had they already told them how they felt about Jesus? And what about after the resurrection? Did the two men who had lost their standing in the community as well as, likely, their livelihoods join “The Way?” Did Nicodemus and John become friends. Did Joseph get to know all of the apostles? So many unanswerable questions. But I am certain that they both had to pay a price. The questions is, how big?

Father, I have followed you in the past and been disappointed. Even now, part of my soul is comforted by you through these prayer journals. I find camaraderie with characters like Nicodemus. We are all sojourners on this road. We are community, even though 2,000 years separates our earthly lives. Thank you for that. Thank you for loving me even when I question you and half-heartedly acknowledge my love for you. Thank you for forgiving me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

Nicodemus Part 1
Nicodemus Part 2

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2019 in John, Nicodemus

 

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Emails to God – Overwhelming Situations (Matthew 27:62-66)

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Dear God, I have two things here. First, the Pharisees seem to remember Jesus’ words about rising from the dead better than the disciples. Perhaps the disciples were just distraught out of grief and just couldn’t must the faith. It’s not like the Pharisees had faith. They just didn’t want the disciples to deceive people.

Second, I notice here that Pilate was willing to play along with the Pharisees and indulge them. Perhaps he was afraid of Jesus’ disciples deceiving people. Or maybe he just wanted to get rid of the Pharisees and giving them a couple of guards and a seal was a small price to pay for that.

I guess there’s a third thing I am noticing now that I think about it. I’m not sure if this is right, but the Pharisees were doing all of this on the Sabbath. That sure seems like a lot of work and effort for them to be doing on the Sabbath.

This must have been an overwhelming and confusing time for all of them, including the disciples. Events were happening so fast and they were trying to do as much damage control as possible. I’m sure it was something that everyone involved was only able to sort out after it was all over and they could look back on it.

Father, I have things going on in my life that are confusing to me. From things and situations at work to things and situations at home. My first inclination is to ask you to help me figure all of these things out, but my real request is that you will help me to respond to each thing that comes in front of me today with your power. Help me to hear your still small voice at each moment. Help me to “see the whole board” as much as possible. Even when I don’t realize you are doing it, guide me in each decision I make and save me from bad decisions that might negatively impact me later in life.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Thoughts on Gay Marriage (Matthew 27:27-31)

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Dear God, I wonder why these soldiers had so much venom for Jesus. Were they annoyed by all of the Jews in town for the Passover? Were they simply bigoted against the Jews? Was this just how they normally acted in similar situations?

This makes me think of the issue of gay marriage a little. The topic has come up for me a couple of times this week since North Carolina just had their vote about not legalizing it. As a conservative Christian who has a gay relative (whom I love dearly), I confess that I am often conflicted on this issue. I know what the Bible says about it. I know the Old and New Testament verses. I also know that there are some things in the Bible that are simply no longer good theology (selling your children into slavery, allowing for multiple wives, etc.), so there might be a part of it that is out of step. At the same time, I do think that you feel strongly about our sexual lives. You feel strongly about us avoiding debauchery in all forms.

I talked with a friend this week and asked him what would be worse in your (God’s) eyes: His son goes out on a homosexual date that night and nothing physical happened, or his son goes out on a heterosexual date and has sex with the girl? Frankly, the heterosexual son seems to be much more offensive to you and your desires for us.

But coming back to my point, on the issue of gay marriage, I feel like, as a conservative Christian, I am supposed to oppose it with all of my heart, soul, and strength. But when I look at the issue I wonder what exactly I am opposing. The biggest thing I hear is that it will break down the fabric of the institutional family. Well, frankly, heterosexuals have been doing that for years. Straight families have been undermining the idea of monogamy, commitment, and faithfulness more and more each year. And gay couples can already raise children, so they are already functioning as families. So why is it important that we keep them from sharing health benefits and having hospital visitation rights?

Father, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know a few things. I don’t want to be a lemming who, like these soldiers who were torturing Jesus, just accepts the group’s norms as my own. I want my theology and philosophy to come from you. I also know that I don’t understand your ways. I don’t understand your plan. I don’t understand homosexuality and the idea of nature vs. nurture. Even if it comes about from nurture, wasn’t it you that allowed the person to be nurtured in that way? I do know that I have no stones to throw at anyone because I am certainly not without sin. I do know that I love my  gay relative and my gay friends, and I really don’t care that they are. I know that I want all of my friends and relatives, gay or straight, to love you and simply be open to whatever the Holy Spirit chooses to convict them of—just like I want that for myself. And I know that I love you. I am sorry for where I fail you and fall short of your standards. I pray that you will use me in whatever way you will to accomplish your purposes in the lives of those around me.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Matthew

 

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Emails to God – Pilate’s Diplomatic Efforts (Matthew 27:11-26)

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply,  not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner   chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat,  his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent  man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream  because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar  was starting, he took water and washed his hands  in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,”he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged,  and handed him over to be crucified.

Dear God, I can relate (in only a small way) to what Pilate was experiencing here. He was trying to play diplomat when there was no diplomacy that would work. He was trying to finesse a situation instead of taking it on and just doing what needed to be done.

There is probably at least one time every week when I find myself trying to mediate a problem between two parties (with me representing one of the parties). Just yesterday, I had a situation where another organization in town that supports us was really angry with us and how we had been doing something. They were even threatening to cut us off and not work with us anymore. The surprising thing was that I had no idea there were resentments festering on their end. It all blew up in one moment. I spent a lot of the rest of the day trying to put the relationship back together. They are good people on their end, and it was about miscommunication and some procedures we use, so I think we can fix these things. My point is, I think that is what Pilate was trying to do here. He was trying to diffuse the situation and find a graceful way out for the church leadership, the people, and Jesus. Unfortunately for him, there was a much larger plan at work here and nothing he did would have stopped the train that was going down the track.

Father, there are times when you would have me make peace, and then there are times when your plan does not call for peace. I think the latter times are VERY few and far between, but they do exist. So help me to be an instrument of your peace. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Matthew

 

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