Jesus is dead. He has been crucified and given up His Spirit. He’s not asleep or passed out from His wounds; there is no life in His body, no air in His lungs. He is dead. That’s the curtain closer. And yet, while the curtain has closed the story is not over; a new act is about to begin. Jesus’s death is not a period or the ending but a semicolon, a pause, that leads into the next scene. The King is dead, His body is taken from the cross, and preparation for His burial begins. It’s a time for mourning, a time for grieving, a time in which it seems like the disciple’s hopes and dreams for the future have been dashed. Yet even in His death, Jesus continues to draw people to Him and make disciples.
While others may have scattered and fled, two unlikely characters appear and set the stage for what happens next. Joseph, one who followed Jesus secretly for fear of the Jews, and Nicodemus, one who approached Jesus in the night, now step into the mix, ensuring that the King will have a proper burial. These are not star followers; they are men who may be deemed as “not yet ready” disciples as Pastor Travis Roberts pointed out in our series opener. The men came in preparation. They filled the tomb with myrrh and aloes, they wrapped Jesus’s body in the linen, and then they laid Him down, presumably as a final resting place. They came prepared for a burial, it’s true, but their preparation was for something much greater that was to come. They helped set the stage for one of the greatest events that would ever take place, the resurrection. For many, John 19:38-42 is a passage that they might be prone to skip. After reading the details associated with the crucifixion it may be easy to tack on His burial at the end and jump right to the empty tomb. But within these few verses, is an encouragement and a reminder for those who have experienced the power of the resurrection.
Your story is not over until it’s over. This is such an encouragement! As long as we are alive, we have opportunity to live fully and freely in response to the goodness and kindness of God. The two disciples who come into the spotlight from this passage are two men who, at first glance, wouldn’t have been very good disciples. Earlier in his gospel, John recounts Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night and seemingly questioning the truth that Jesus was teaching. Joseph of Arimathea was one who followed but did so in hiding out of fear. Neither of these guys, on first seeing them in Scripture, would appear to be the definition of a disciple and yet, here they are faithfully preparing the stage for something that God would do. For you and I, we should be encouraged that we have a part to play. No matter what has occurred in the past, no matter how much good or bad we have done, no matter how far gone we may feel, as long as we are alive, our story is being written and we have a part to play. Christ invites us to participate in His disciple-making mission for the Father’s glory.
And therein lies the reminder. Christians serve One who has conquered sin and death. We serve one who literally overthrew that which appeared as a finality to us, death. And so while we have a part to play in this story, the reminder is to do so out of the same power that rose Jesus from the dead. The reminder is to live, not in our own strength, but in the strength that God provides. The reminder is that the grave is empty, Christ has overcome, and we now walk in the fullness of His victory, proclaiming Christ to the ends of the earth.