A Friday like no other

For many Jerusalem citizens, it was just another Passover Friday, crowded streets, the hustle and bustle of the temple, possibly another public debacle between the Pharisees and Jesus, and more Roman crucifixions. But for the Jewish rulers, this Passover was the culmination of intense hatred, many failed traps for Jesus, much planning, and 30 pieces of silver invested in Judas.

Jesus, now in Roman custody and being dragged through their judicial system, stands waiting for a verdict. As for the Jewish conspirators, they had worked the early morning crowd into a frenzy at the sixth and final bogus trial. These Jewish rulers managed to apply sufficient leverage upon Pilate to secure the death penalty for innocent Jesus. Weak Pilot washes his hands as if that could relinquish his guilt, releases Barabbas, has Jesus flogged, then hands Him over to be crucified.

Hours later, following three hours of late morning darkness, and having accomplished all that His Father willed, crucified Jesus said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

Now, two men step into the scene that had been in the peripheral up to this point. After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night (John 3), came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:38-42).

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, up to this point, had been influenced by fear of Jesus’ enemies. Especially Nicodemus, as he was a high ranking Jew, a member of the Sanhedrin, and Israel’s lead teacher. He potentially had a great deal to lose if he was found to be a sympathiser of Jesus.

But now, having witnessed the barbaric actions of both the Jewish rulers and Roman governance against the Son of God, these two men’s faith fuels newfound courage. Having been confronted by the day’s extraordinary events, they conclude that Jesus was indeed “the Christ.” Their hearts must have been pounding from a strange mixture of fear, love, grief, and belief, to inspire their boldness to risk an audience with Pilate and being found out by their treacherous fellow Jews.

This was no simple task. Unaided, the two of them had to lift the heavy cross with Jesus’ butchered body still nailed to it, lay it on the ground, and extract the large metal nails from Jesus’ hands and feet. We can only imagine the difficulty of this labour of love, considering that possibly there would have been Roman soldiers posted on watch over the three crosses. If so, no doubt Joseph and Nicodemus would have been abused for their service to their Lord.

Compassionate courage compelled these two men to step outside of their comfort for Jesus. Instead of remaining in the background as earlier, they now step up to do the lonely job, to bury their Lord. Imagine their elation when two mornings later they learn that Jesus is alive! May these qualities be true of each of us.

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