Text: Mark 14-15
Date: Passion/Palm Sunday + 4/1/12
A man named Joseph “asked for the body of Jesus” (15:43). Just another detail of the story of Jesus’ death and burial? So many of the “details” of the story were predicted ages before in the scriptures. As in the Exodus the people of God were released from their captivity to Pharaoh in Egypt, so now in Christ are we freed from the captivity of sin and death. The Passover pointed to the entire scene as Jesus is the paschal lamb of God whose blood is the cleansing of all sin. All the details of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and more are fulfilled. Then the thirty pieces of silver for betrayal and the field of blood; the denial of Peter; Jesus’ arrest, His silent witness before Pilate, the mocking, the spitting, the striking and whipping, the abandonment by all; then the nails, the spear, the parched throat, the blood and finally His death. Then this detail: a man named Joseph “asked for the body of Jesus.” But this one was not foretold or predicted, was no amazing fulfillment of ancient prophecy, just a seemingly random, little detail. Or was it?
On this day according to the prophesy of Zechariah the Lord, “the king” entered His holy city not in proud pomp bringing tokens of give-a-ways and freebees but, the people cheering the scene, in humility bringing what we need the most: righteousness and salvation. The battle He came to engage required no chariots or war horses as against another earthly ruler, but faithfulness and the strength of suffering even to the shedding of His blood. For this was the hour for the defeat of no one and nothing other than Satan, sin and death.
Then, when it was all over, the disciples hiding for fear, came one driven by the conviction of a God-given faith: a man named Joseph; and he “asked for the body of Jesus.” Interesting, isn’t it, that the last man to care for and wrap the body of the Lord Jesus should be a man with the same name as the first man called to swaddle the body of the newborn?
This request was the final sign of a faithful love, the provision of a suitable burial, suitably reflecting Joseph’s faith in the hidden dignity of this one called “the Son of God” even by a Roman centurion.
Our bodies are not meaningless, not shed as so much worthless weight at our death. It is through our bodies, after all, that we have loved and learned and lived. So, the body of Jesus is the means, the medium, and the channel for us for the love and forgiveness and life of God. The eternal Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. It was only by means of the body of Jesus that our sin could be fully atoned for, that our death might be disarmed, that new, eternal life might be provided. So now, like Joseph, we “ask for the body of Jesus,” not in order to bury it again, however, but to receive eternal life, real, physical, eternal life through His body and blood. “Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” And whenever we receive sacramentally the body and blood of Jesus we celebrate the Lord’s eternal life and ours.
In this great and holy week, it is made great and holy by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the life of the world. And we are made great and holy when we “ask for the body of Jesus” to be given to us. No longer hidden in a stained linen shroud, now risen from the dead He fills all things through our flesh as His church which is His body (Eph 1:22-23).