Saturday, April 4, 2015

Daily Devotion for Lent 2015, Day 40

Daily Devotion for Lent

Saturday, April 4, 2015, Day 40

Mark 15:42-47 (NRSV)

Joseph of Arimathea is an interesting figure.  Mark only tells us that he is a Jewish council member.  Other Gospels indicate that he is a follower of Jesus if only in secret.

Jewish practice as in line with most Middle Eastern practice of the time was to bury the dead within a day of their death.  Jews did not embalm the body and the climate would lend to a quick burial.  To leave the body unburied was abhorrent.  One of the Jewish curses from Deuteronomy 28:26 was:

"Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away."
Unexcavated Burial Cave,
Bet Shearim, Israel
So Joseph goes to great lengths to care for the body of a man condemned by his own council.  Mark mentions that Joseph was waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God.  Did he wonder about some of the things that Jesus said before his death? Was he feeling complicit through his membership on the council?  Could the burial have served as a kind of atonement for Joseph?

The presence of the body for burial may be important for people to say goodbye.  I don't have any problem with "viewings" at the funeral home before a service. However, the difficulty for me is after we share the message of resurrection and new life, many times the funeral home has been instructed to open the coffin for a final viewing before burial.  There is a long procession as ushers direct you forward whether you want to go and look or not.

The family comes last with children and/or spouse.

It seems as if we are stating by this practice, "I know we talked about resurrection and death being defeated but we were just playing with you.  Here's the finality right here before you!"

It doesn't seem to be a good move theologically for us.

As we go about this final day of Lent, we think about death and our own mortal bodies.

But we also have the hope to come.

I hope you'll find a place to worship on Easter Sunday and see that your hope is not in vain.


When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Prayer by Horatio Spafford written after the death of his four daughters by sea. 

Picture by Deror_avi (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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