Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Precious, Beaten Body

This post from a couple of years ago seemed fitting to share once again:

It was work for a coroner--horrifying and intriguing. Amazing as the body is, this one was dead. Dead and beaten. What kind of people wash, manipulate and care for the dead?

Joseph of Arimathea for one.  Nicodemus for another.  And their service to the dead, unrecognizable body of Christ touches me in a way I'm not sure I can communicate.

As I re-read the account of Joseph asking Pilate for Jesus' body (Matthew 27:50-61), I was impressed with his affluence, influence and confidence. God knew him hundreds, thousands, even eons, of years in advance. He predicted this rescue hundreds of years beforehand (Isaiah 53:9). Incredible. 

The next day, I was still thinking about the process of taking Jesus' body off the cross and caring for it.  I wondered what Jesus' body looked like after being scourged, spat upon, struck, beaten and crucified? What would it have taken to lift, transport, or wash it?  According to Jewish tradition, the body would be held vertical by one person as another poured water and worked from the top down, cleansing and washing. Jesus' body, unlike most, would have been difficult to piece together and cover. It would have required great care and tedious wrapping. As an expression of devotion and generosity, Nicodemus brought one hundred pounds of spices to apply to Jesus' body (John 19:39).
It was would have been messy. Dirty. Uncomfortable. Wet. Cold. Uncertain. Frightening.  Had they  done this before?  Doubtful. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Simon likely had servants to complete unpleasant tasks. And as far as Jesus was concerned, certainly no one other than Mary had cared so intimately for the Son of God. I've never dwelt on the thought for obvious reasons, but it is there.
As we approach Good Friday, we realize the wonder of God's love exceeds the physical wounds of the crucifixion.  The separation of eternal God from eternal God is inconceivable.  The wrath of untouchable God poured out on a spotless Savior is unbearable.  The power of the resurrection is insurmountable.  But God did.  God has. God is.

And in light of who Jesus is and what's He's done for me, I can't help but wonder if, through His Spirit and by His Word, God has equipped His people to minister to His Body when it is beaten and afflicted and sore and wounded and weeping?  To the persecuted church, the deserted mother, the fallen pastor, the imprisoned brother, the neglected child, the hungry beggar, the discouraged teacher....  May God enable and empower us to be in the right place at just the right time.  And may we be willing to roll up our sleeves and get dirty as we love and minister to the wounded Body of Christ and He loves them through us.  It's all about Jesus.

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
"Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:34-46).

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