Stripping the Dead
Good Stewards of God’s Grace
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.
The Burial of Jesus
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
There wasn’t much in terms of clothing to strip from the body of Jesus when they took Him down from the cross. Some might say that He had stripped away the last bit of humanity from Himself by then, but I’m not so sure. I’m not sure that “humanity” and “flesh” mean the same thing. Was there even anything left to take from Jesus?
I think that the resurrection may have begun, even if only as a tiny seed, the moment Jesus breathed His last and died on the cross. Many of those crucified with Him were buried in mass graves and lost to time. Yet while He was still on the cross, two influential men, Joseph and Nicodemus, begged for His body and buried it with dignity in a tomb meant for the wealthy. The first thing Jesus got back after His death were His friends who had abandoned Him for fear of losing their own lives. Then He got back a small measure of dignity.
What was stripped from His body then and there was the injustice and humiliation He had received earlier that day. The spittle from the crowd and the blood from His gaping wounds was washed. The inhumanity bestowed upon Him was replaced with the basic human dignity of a child of God. Too little, too late? Not for the Son of God.
The same kindness shown this day, by these men and women, would be replayed again Easter morning, where their next attempts to give Jesus a measure of basic human dignity would be met with frustration at first, and the jubilation. Those who persecuted Christ will run and hide at His return, but those who, even seemingly too late, allowed the power of the resurrection to begin in them as they repented and showed even a small measure of love towards the savior they had deserted, will find their sins covered over and the love of Christ shining anew in their lives. Resurrection starts small, but like that mustard seed of the kingdom, grows into a vast bush that houses all the birds of the air.
What small seed of grace has God planted in you this season?
What inhumanity do you need to strip away in order for that seed to sprout and grow?
- (Mt 27:57–61; Mk 15:42–47; Lk 23:50–56) ↩