JOURNEY TO COMPLETION
"There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectations of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking Him down, he wrapped Him in a linen shroud and placed Him in a tomb chiselled into the rock, a tomb never used. It was the day before Sabbath; the Sabbath was about to begin." Luke 23:50-54 (The Message).
Enter Joseph of Arimathea! Luke gives his reader a thumbnail sketch of this man who made a brief appearance in history and will always be associated with the burial of Jesus. He owned a tomb which was yet to become a family crypt. Isaiah had written, centuries before, that Messiah would be buried in a rich man's grave - and this rich man Joseph, in this poignant moment, donated his tomb to Jesus. No doubt it remained unused after the resurrection.
The disciples could not have buried Jesus - they were Galileans and had been unemployed for the past three years. Joseph's action prevented the body of Jesus from receiving the same treatment as all other criminals - cremation in the city garbage dump, the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem which burned perpetually.
Luke does not record the interaction of the Jewish leaders with Pilate over the body of Jesus. He said nothing about the sealing of the tomb and the Roman guard. His description is simple and clear. Joseph requested the body of Jesus, wrapped Him in expensive linen and buried Him in his own tomb.
There is symbolic significance in the mention of the Sabbath, the time of Jesus' death and burial. According to the meaning of the ancient Hebrew language, the Genesis record of creation in not about making something out of nothing, but about bringing order into the shapeless, empty and dark earth and "filling it up" to be man's home.
God rested on the seventh day, not because He was tired but because His work was complete. He blessed (gave it as a gift to mankind to be valued, protected and used for the purpose for which it was given) the Sabbath (meaning rest) and set it apart to fulfil its function which was to be the "full stop" at the end of every week. It was also symbolic of the "completion" of God's work of creating a family for Himself.
God commanded the man and his wife to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with people. Everything He made had the capacity to multiply to complete what He had begun.
In John 19:30, Jesus' last words were, "‘it is finished.'" And He was laid to rest in Joseph's tomb at the beginning of the Sabbath! Just as God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit - all participating in creation) rested when their work was complete, so Jesus rested on the Sabbath because His work of redemption was complete.
But there is another rest into which He invites us. Because of sin, we are incomplete, but in union with Him, we have the potential to become whole again as we journey through life towards completion. There is another "Sabbath" for those who are united with Jesus in submission and obedience.
The writer to the Hebrews explains how the children of Israel, who were on a journey from slavery in Egypt, through the wilderness, to "rest" in their own land, failed to enter because of their unbelief. They were a type of the journey believers are on through this life to the completion of their re-creation into the image of Jesus.
Throughout this life we are in the process of becoming whole again. Every time we respond in obedience to His leading, we reach another landmark on our journey towards completeness. Our final destination is "Shabbat", eternal rest with Him because we have become complete again. God rested, Jesus rested and we will rest at the end of our journey.
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