by Bill Spaans:
Luke 23 deals with the trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus. In Luke 23 we read that neither Pilot nor Herod found grounds to crucify Jesus. But the people insisted and ironically, they requested that a convicted prisoner, Barabbas, be released instead. And so, Jesus was crucified!
Today many people are feeling depressed because their comfortable routines have been interrupted by COVID. If that is true for us, imagine the despair of the disciples as they saw Jesus die! Here is the person they had grown to love, and respect, and believe in. He was to be the Messiah. And there he hung, dead, on the cross. Now what?! The disciples, perhaps understandably, gave in to despair.
There were some however, who remained faithful to Jesus, even at the end. These included Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both of whom were Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin. In John’s gospel we read (John 19:38-39):
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.”
There were also several women who faithfully attended to Jesus during His ministry, and they did so even in His death. In Mark 15:40-41 we read:
“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee, these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”
So, what lessons can we draw from the actions of these followers of Jesus? Perhaps there are at least two. First, we need to trust Jesus and remain faithful, even when things look bleak. Joseph and Nicodemus, as members of the Sanhedrin, took a huge risk in asking Pilot for Jesus’ body. They put their own leadership positions within the Jewish community at risk to honour Jesus in His death. We are reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 9:24 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.”
And secondly, we need to remain available to be used by God as opportunities arise. It would have been so easy for the women to go home and give in to their grief. But they stayed and remained available to care for Jesus. And we will read later in Luke 24 that it was to these faithful women that the risen Christ was first revealed.
For Joseph and Nicodemus and the women, the answer to despair was to trust in Jesus and to remain faithful in serving Him. Despite COVID, and an extended period of separation as a congregation, may we be equally faithful. And to God be the glory!