Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Burying Jesus

He was with the rich in his death, but he didn't enjoy their company for too long.

I've often wondered what it would have been like to be present at the crucifixion. Those closest to Jesus scattered, failing to understand what was going on. Would I have gotten it? Could I have grasped how this seed, planted in ground in death, would soon sprout to produce life beyond measure?

In my New Testament class today, we discussed Jesus' death and burial. This time period, the interim between the death and resurrection of the Lord, is the most spiritually empty epoch in the earth's history.

It's no small wonder then that two seekers of God's kingdom were afraid to reveal their affinity for the Lord. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea, members of the Jewish governing body and the wealthy aristocracy respectively, "feared the Jews" and so became secret disciples of Jesus. They must have cared for the gentle rabbi. Their respect led them to pursue a proper burial for him, a rarity for executed criminals. But as I was reading John 19:38-42, I noticed that, while well intentioned, their brand of faith produced some deathly effects. The fear of man puts--and leaves--Jesus in the grave.

The burial of Jesus is the last we hear from Nicodemus and Joseph in the gospels. We'd like to believe that after the resurrection, they turned from their fear and followed Jesus, forfeiting the riches of this world and their social standing for the everlasting glory of Christ. There's no way we can be sure.

But we can learn a lesson from them. No matter how much you respect Jesus internally, being ashamed of him before men will bury the resurrection power within. We must confess with our mouths that he is Lord, or we will never fully taste his salvation and power. The apostles never backed down from a challenge to proclaim the name of Jesus. In fact, they rejoiced because they "were counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name." So it should be with us.

The church today has buried Jesus beneath the sands of fear and timidity. We have become "secret disciples." Our inability to speak out has sealed the stone at the tomb's entrance. Only when we come out of our shells will we release the light of the kingdom of God into the dark world around us.

Are we to become ardent political advocates, protesting at every public event, frantically calling down the wrath of God on the world around us? By no means! But we should make the most of every opportunity we have to preach Christ resurrected, taking hold of the spiritual power and influence that comes from the unashamed proclamation of his Word.

No comments: