Monday, June 26, 2017

The Cross and Our Commitment

The cross should be life changing for all of us.

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. 39 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.

40 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus' body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 42 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.

For the past three years there have been crowds of people eager to follow Jesus everywhere that he went, just a week ago there were plenty of people that cheered for him as they declared him to be their Messiah, but where is everybody now?

I remember there used to be a powerful group of seventy disciples that Jesus sent out to do a short term mission trip to prepare the way for his ministry. This group gave up their time and left their families and their stuff behind to obey Jesus command to go. They came back from their mission trip with an exciting testimony about the way that God used them but then they are never mentioned again. (Luke 10:1-24)

Even the twelve that spent almost every moment for three years with Jesus. The only one of their group that was at the cross is John. As committed as this group was and as much as they had given up and invested in Jesus and yet now they are gone.

There were so many people in Jesus life everyday, he was being followed and he had thousands asking for his help constantly, but now it's only his mother and a handful of friends that followed him all the way to the cross. (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27)

This small group was probably shocked to learn that two people from Jesus past stepped back into the picture to give Jesus a proper burial. These two guys had encounters with Jesus but they didn't reach a decision until later on and they never came forward and expressed their conviction or show any commitment to Jesus.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both members of the Sanhedrin, three of the gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich, God fearing man that did not vote to condemn Jesus and the book of John tells us that he was a secret disciple who feared the other Jewish leaders. The Book of John is the only book that tells us the part that Nicodemus played in the burial of Jesus.

I don't think that it is an accident that there was an empty tomb available nearby, was Joseph the rich man that the tomb belonged to? Was it possible for Nicodemus to run out to buy all of the myrrh and spices at the last minute when all of the stores would be closed in preparation for Passover?

It seem like these guys planned ahead to work as a team on the burial. Joseph had the burial place which he may have dug for this purpose and he went to ask Pilate if he could have Jesus body while Nicodemus brought the large quantity of spices that were needed for a proper Jewish burial. While every other disciple was hiding out these two guys were coming out of hiding and stepping up their commitment to Jesus.

The work that they set out to do could not be done in secret, they had to get Jesus buried in the daylight before Passover began. They would be found out but they didn't care, they were no longer ashamed to be identified as believers.

We do not know what happened to make them realize that Jesus is who he claimed to be. I have to wonder when these two men got it and decided that Jesus is the Messiah. They did what we all need to do, they showed courage and faith at record levels. These two would have to miss this Passover, they would be considered unclean, neither of them cared because they had found the real Passover Lamb.

We do not know what happened to these two as a result of coming out to honor Jesus. Any show of sympathy for a condemned criminal could bring trouble on yourself. How would Pilate react? What about the other religious leaders? There must have been a price to pay at the office when the rest of the guys found out about the work that these two had done to give Jesus a proper burial. The rest of the religious leaders must have scorned them and they probably lost their jobs and were not allowed in enter the synagogue ever again.
John 12:42-43  Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
Earlier in Jesus ministry he warned His disciples about trying to hide their allegiance to Him. It is remarkable that the first fact recorded after the death of Christ is one that shows us secret disciples that came out of hiding despite the consequences. The same cross that made most people run away was the beginning of a new level of commitment and dedication to Jesus.

Don't assume that a weak brother cannot be used for the Lord's purpose and don't put him down for his struggle. You would think that the weaker brother would be the first one in hiding but they overcame their fear and openly followed Jesus.
Ask yourselves whether you have sometimes held your tongues because you knew that if you spoke people would find out where you came from and what country you belonged to. Ask yourselves, Have you ever accompanied the witness of your lives with the commentary of your confession? Did you ever, anywhere but in a church, stand up and say, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, my Lord’?

When these men came for Christ’s corpse and bore it away, what a sharp pang went through their hearts! How much these two men lost-all those three years of communion with the Master; all His teaching, all the stimulus of His example, all the joy of fellowship with Him! Neglect of duty puts barriers up between you and God.
There isn't any room in the kingdom for secret disciples. You can be a secret sports fan or a secret follower of a particular social or political issue and then come out when the battle is over and squawk loud about your belief in the cause. But where were you during the battle?

The love that died for me should never be repaid with silence. How can we look upon Jesus and realize the evils and terrors that he went through for our sake and keep our love for him silent? I must be willing to share the good news and I must be committed to serve because of how he served the undeserving.