1998-07-23 - The Stone
The Cross Series, Part 48
Matt 27:57-61 And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given over to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.
The enemies had apparently won.
Jesus was dead at the hands of enemies galore. There were the courts, and whip, and game, and the politics, and the cross itself and the spear. Now death too had come to claim victory. Joseph showed enormous courage in claiming the body of Jesus. It could well have cost him his life.
Pilate was personally sickened and shaken at the politics and the callous disregard for the life of the man who had been a threat to nobody save a few. Even that threat was questionable since it was political in nature. Pilate may have made a point of not letting the Council know who claimed Jesus' body. This is just conjecture on my part. But it was clear that the Governor was fed up with the games the leadership had played and the evil, murderous end of that game that had unfolded. These men had lost standing with Pilate. Favors and compromises would come very hard - a small loss for the enemy.
Pilate was struggling with the things that Jesus had said to him. Would the power Rome had given him truly mean nothing if God had not given it to him? Why did these men hate Jesus with such passion when Jesus forgave the men who nailed His hands and feet? Was He truly a King not of this world? Pilate's heart, mind and spirit were stirred - a loss for the enemy.
It was evening, near sundown and the body had to be buried before the Sabbath began. Joseph had come prepared to accomplish the task of preparing Jesus for burial. A tomb was not an inexpensive matter. Somehow, I imagine Joseph found the sacrifice not difficult to bear. Jesus had freed him from his prison of orthodoxy - another loss for the enemy.
There was Mary Magdalene too. Even though her heart must be breaking, she was still there keeping vigil. The hope that had flamed to life that day Jesus freed her from seven demons was now a small glowing ember in a circle of ash. The stone across the entrance to the tomb was now a new enemy. It kept her from Jesus. It kept her from the only man who had shown her a moment's kindness nearly as far back as her memory would go. Even though her heart was broken, her heart was free - another loss of the enemy.
None of them could see the resurrection. None of them could understand the attempts by Jesus to explain that His death had to be. They knew pain and personal loss in many cases - grief beyond measure. The man they had hope would free them from Rome and usher in a glorious kingdom was dead. He had taken them so far from where they had been, trapped in lives that knew only faint, future promises. But the echoes of the shouts of Hosanna had hardly faded when the path they followed ended in a stone wall at the opening of the tomb.
Still, something held them there in Jerusalem. Mary sat at the tomb, the disciples all made their stealthy ways back to the upper room with many of the others who had followed Jesus. Common sense would have said to flee and put distance between themselves and a death sentence. It may have been loyalty to a Friend Who had indeed given them so much. None of them would ever be the same again. That was hard to see at that moment, just as it is for us at times too.
The disciples were not the only Christians to have struggled through the darkness of doubt. They were simply the first. The victory of the enemies which seemed so firm and final would disappear like the morning mist, but only after a dark, deep night. The immobile enemy of stone would be removed from Mary's path. The stone was beyond Mary's ability to dismiss. She was powerless against it, and the soldiers who would guard the stone. That way, when the stone was rolled away, no one but God could take the credit, or receive the glory.
Lord Jesus - Even in the middle of what seemed a crushing defeat, there were victories. They were hints of the victory that was coming so close and still hiding beyond comprehension. The enemies seemed so real and Your promises seemed so intangible in the face of Your death when the exact opposite was true. When hope was beyond them, or is beyond us we should learn to look for You. At that point, the glory is Yours alone. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.