Sunday, April 4, 2010

The silent hours

Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:42 (NIV)

Taking palm branches, the great crowd went out to meet Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Five days later following a string of betrayal, arrest, denials, trials, beatings and crucifixion, Jesus' dead, battered and bloody body was taken down from the cross. Without pomp or ceremony, His body was laid in a cold, silent tomb.

I remember like it was yesterday walking away from my daddy's gravesite following his funeral service. The immediate silence weighed heavily on my mother, brothers, sisters and me. In our individual memories, we grappled with the earthly finality marked by our father's death. With God's Word, however, we have the benefit of knowing that when Jesus died on the cross, it didn't end there. I've often thought about some of those who were close to Jesus during the days leading up to His death. What did they experience during the "silent hours" that His body lay in the grave?

There was the little-known man named Malchus, the servant of the high priest. A participant in the arrest of the itinerant preacher, Malchus lost his right ear at the hand of Peter and was miraculously healed by the hand of the alleged criminal he came to arrest. Shocked by the attack, surprised by the healing, did Malchus struggle with the idea that a company of soldiers was ordered, under the cover of night, to arrest a man who would defend and heal an enemy?

What about the centurion in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? According to Bible scholar William Barclay, "The centurions were the finest men in the Roman army." A seasoned veteran who had watched men die, this army officer no doubt had supervised many crucifixions. Yet, this event was different. He witnessed Jesus' response to the injustice that He endured at the hands of His own countrymen, as well as His response to the torture that the centurion and his men inflicted upon Him. He saw the dignity with which Jesus responded to the lynch mob, the mercy He showed toward the people and, finally, creation's response to the Creator's sin-bearing act.

A man of means and a member of the council that had condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea was too afraid to publicly identify with Christ when the Savior was alive. But then he does the unthinkable; he identifies with Him in His death. Joseph goes to Pilate, claims the "criminal's" body, and performs a task both horrible and lovely. Just the physical struggle of removing the Savior's beaten and bloody body would have been a gruesome task. Did Joseph carry the sorrow of regret about what, humanly speaking, might have been had he declared his allegiance to the Savior sooner? Too late for regret, it wasn't too late to care. As he prepared the body of Jesus for burial, Joseph's secret fears gave way to a very public demonstration of love and devotion.

Then there were the women who stood in faithful devotion by the cross of Jesus. Considered no better than possessions and undervalued by their ancient world, Jesus treated these women of Galilee with uncommon honor and dignity, with kindness and care. What emotional roller coaster of feelings did they experience as they waited out of the silent hours in order to return to the tomb to complete the burial process?

We observe on Maundy Thursday in the Lord's Supper Jesus' command to remember. On Good Friday, we recall with heartache Jesus' suffering as He took our sins and died on the cross. We joyfully celebrate on Easter Sunday His victory over sin, death and the devil. Dear friend, during the silent in-between hours as His body lay in the tomb, it is my desire that my heart, and yours, be stirred to devotion as we consider the marvelous healing, overwhelming mercy and grace-filled care that is ours through our Savior's suffering, death and resurrection.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

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