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A RICH MAN'S TOMB
"At the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." John 19: 41-42 NIV.
Ever built a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle? It's a massive undertaking. First one has to find a table or board big enough to fit the reassembled puzzle and all the loose pieces separated and lying face up. Then one has to find all the edge pieces and put them in their correct places to form the outer frame. Next, one painstakingly studies the picture and the pieces to find the shapes and colours that will fit together to form the picture, either beginning at the outer edge or with some focal point that will fit into the puzzle as one goes along.
As the story of Jesus flowed, things happened in quick succession which replicated the words of the prophets of the Old Testament with uncanny accuracy. It was as though God had in front of Him a picture of the events of Jesus' life, from His conception to His ascension which He had described to the prophets. As event after event happened, He put the puzzle pieces together exactly as the picture showed.
Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 53 contributed the details of part of the completed picture. Joseph's compassionate action provided the pieces which reproduced the picture of His burial perfectly.
"He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth." Isaiah 53:9 NIV.
According to Matthew 27:57-61, Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man who owned an unused tomb near the crucifixion site, which he had prepared for his own burial. Mark added that he was a prominent member of the Jewish Council. What moved him to request the body of Jesus and to use his own tomb in which to bury Him? Was it love, generosity or perhaps even guilt because he had not been open about his faith in Jesus?
Perhaps, as he watched the terrible events, knowing that Jesus was innocent and that He had been killed to mask the wickedness of his fellow religious leaders, he was moved in his heart to rescue Him from the ignominious end of executed criminals - cremation in the city's garbage dump in the Valley of Hinnom.
When he was sure that Jesus was dead, he hurried off to Pilate to ask permission to take charge of the body. Together with Nicodemus who allied himself with Joseph, they claimed His body, carrying out hurried burial rites because it was almost sundown and the beginning of the special Sabbath, and placed it in the tomb.
What does this little detail say to us who read it? It fascinates me that God wrote Jesus' story in His book before He was born. Apart from the fact that it gives me assurance that the Bible really is God's book -- who else can write a biography before it happens and be spot on in every detail? -- it also makes me wonder whether He has written my story as well. If He has, it means that I am not an insignificant nobody in His eyes, but someone worth writing about.
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16b.
Does that mean that I am just a puppet that God pushes around at will? I don't think that's what David meant when he wrote those words. I think he meant that God sees everything from beginning to end. He is able to write our stories before they happen because He can see the whole thing from His perspective. That means that God is very great, greater than that He can see into the future. Past, present and future are all "now" to God. He is already there, at the end of my story just as He is here now where I am on the journey and was present at the beginning.
That also means that although Jesus died at a specific time in history, all the benefits of His death applied from the beginning of time. God's people weren't forgiven because they offered animal sacrifices. That was only a picture to help them to understand that it was the blood of God's Lamb, His Son that cleansed them from sin.
God has taken care of everything that was needed to forgive us and reinstate us as His children. He left nothing to chance and He leaves nothing to chance as far as our lives are concerned. We can trust Him.
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