A New Tomb
by Kristen Schiffman
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“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.”
For my New Year’s resolution I like to think big. You know the type: ‘I will lose three thousand pounds before Valentine’s Day and keep it off all year long’; ‘I will donate the excess fat lost to a lipstick company willing to work with inner city children’; ‘I will not only date someone who enjoys rainbows and still can be an outlaw but marry him as well’; ‘I will own a Summer Home on the Riviera’. Sounds more like a wish list to many, but such wonderful dreams…don’t you think?
Actually, in all seriousness, I’ve created a fool-proof resolution guide. First of all stop calling them resolutions. I prefer ‘New Year Goals’. More inviting. Second, make a short list. Start with areas you know you need work in (i.e. dating, eating, sleeping, and working out). Now scratch off all of those and continue on. Make a new short list. One that is more fun and has at the very least five goals.
For example my list last year actually included ‘own a complete pink luggage set’. Consider it done, baby. Item checked off! Now go on and create four more that are fun and non-threatening just like that one. My theory is if you accomplish one of the five than you‘ve just lived a year worth remembering.
I wonder what Christ thinks about our need for new-ness and our drive to accomplish more and more with every passing year. While He was here on earth he didn’t have much in the way of new possessions. Right up until His death, Jesus was making gardens His living room and hillsides His classroom. The one nice thing Jesus did have - a garment woven in one piece from top to bottom- was gambled over as He was redeeming humanity upon the Cross.
Enter Joseph: ‘Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.’ Joseph chooses an interesting time to make his allegiance to Christ known- at His death. “With Pilate's permission, Joseph came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 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.” (See John 19)
Joseph gave Jesus a new tomb. His own tomb. A tomb that had been carved out of the rock with his own blistered hands. After placing Christ into the new tomb Joseph rolled a large stone over the opening and went away.
Let’s not miss what the Word is speaking to us even on this day. Joseph gave to Jesus the place where He was to be buried. I have to wonder what Joseph thought about as he worked on the construction of his family tomb. How could one not wonder about their life and what would follow in their death? Did Joseph, at the time of his rock cutting, wonder where the promised Messiah was? And if he would see Him in his lifetime?
Can you imagine? Joseph giving to Jesus his own new tomb. A place reserved for death. Finality. A home of mourning. A grave built for Joseph’s own personal loss. And yet he gave it over to Christ. So that our Jesus might have a place to be rightfully, according to Jewish custom, buried.
I wonder what new tombs we carved for ourselves over the last year. With our own hands what places set up for death have we created? What thoughts or hurts have we carried to caves? What rocks have we been cutting with finality in mind? You tell me, where have you resigned to collapse?
Matthew 27:60 tells us Joseph situated Christ in the new tomb, rolled a stone over it and went away. Verse 61 goes on to say Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat across from the tomb. Because of religious regulation the women were forced to leave the tomb for one day but the moment they could the women returned.
And do you know what they found? The women went with mourning in their hearts and left rejoicing! They brought with them devastation and were met with heavenly restoration. Christ had risen! He had gone on ahead of them and He gloriously revealed Himself.
I wonder where Joseph was. What would his reaction have been had he stayed as the women? What if he had not let fear rule his heart? I believe he would have been consumed with the praise of beholding Christ’s death-defying glory. But no matter Joseph’s location on this Easter day - we can be sure one truth rang aloud to him once he heard the news: His new tomb was the first to see New Life.
Let us this year hand over to Christ any new tombs we have carved and let us wait at the foot of the cave. Let us mourn. And cry out. And ask for Christ’s resurrection power to be known. We have this promise of New Life - you give Christ your newly carved places reserved for death and I assure you He will restore and revive to the point of Glorious Revelation. And worshipped filled adoration. Let’s give Him what we have this year…ever last bit of us; right down into the depths of who we are. I challenge us this year to take our new tombs, before climbing into them ourselves, and hand them over to Christ. This is the power of His death: the promise of Righteous Life! Embrace it and wait as the women. You will not be disappointed.
Scripture from The Message
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