The Burial of Jesus

By the time Joseph made his way from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha, the crowds had dispersed. Most of the throngs of violent protesters and adoring followers left when the sky went dark earlier in the afternoon; those who had endured that bizarre experience scattered when the earthquake came.

Now there just seemed to be Romans milling around the crosses. Even the group of men and women who had followed Jesus so closely for the past two years were nowhere to be seen. Rumor had it that it was one of those 12 men who had betrayed their leader to the mob. Not that Joseph had any judgment to pass. After all, nobody knew he, too, was a disciple. At least, not yet; after what he was about to do, there would be no doubting his loyalties.

The mercenaries had already removed the bodies of the other criminals from their crosses; they would be thrown in mass graves and left to rot. Unless somebody intervened, Jesus’ body would meet the same fate. Even if the disciples hadn’t abandoned their Rabbi, Joseph knew the poor fishermen lacked the means to pay for a proper Jewish burial. Even Joseph, one of the wealthiest members of the Sanhedrin, could not pull together that kind of money on short notice. His personal tomb would have to suffice for his Master.

At the right cross, Joseph was startled to discover a familiar figure kneeling cautiously over the broken body of Jesus.

“Nicodemus?”

The Sanhedrin councilman looked up. He smiled. “Hello, Joseph. Have you come to do the same thing I’m here to do?”

Joseph scrambled to produce Pilate’s sealed letter releasing the body to him. “I have permission to lay him in my own tomb. It’s just across the garden. Roman guards have been ordered to help seal the cave and ensure nothing… happens.”

Nicodemus smiled again. “My friend, I’m not here to stop you.”

For the first time, Joseph noticed the loaded cart behind Nicodemus. Even over the stench of death he thought he could smell a hint of myrrh and aloe—spices used for Jewish burial.

A forgotten memory suddenly flashed to mind: one of the first times the Jewish council had attempted to arrest Jesus. When the Sanhedrin ridiculed the temple police for marveling at Jesus instead of putting him to death, only one member had risen to his defense. “Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?” Nicodemus had asked. Joseph felt shame to also remember that at the time he had been among those who mocked Nicodemus for his boldness and support of the Nazarene.

“I would appreciate your help,” Joseph admitted. Wordlessly, the two men began to adorn Jesus’ body in Joseph’s burial cloths and Nicodemus’ fragrances. Both men were rich, powerful scholars who could recite the Law from memory, but their hands fumbled with the material and clumsily spilled the expensive spices.

When they appeared to be finished, Joseph stepped back to evaluate their work. “Is it good enough?” he asked.

Nicodemus arched his brow. “Do you imagine that anything we do for him could ever be good enough?”

Together, the men gingerly laid Jesus on Nicodemus’ cart, and Joseph led the way to the tomb. “Nicodemus,” he inquired, “Did you ever speak to him personally? I never did myself…I was too afraid.”

“Once,” Nicodemus answered. “I went to him at night, in secret. I, too, was afraid.”

Joseph was impressed. “You had a private audience with Jesus?”

“An audience!” Nicodemus scoffed. “I got a strong personal lecturing from the Rabbi. I came to him a prideful fool, and I left still a fool, but a humble one for sure. He told me that I had to be born again—not of the flesh but of the Spirit—that because Yahweh so dearly loves the world, he gave his son, and those who believe in the son will live forever.” He shook his head. “I was a fool, I tell you.”

Live forever? Joseph glanced down at the lifeless form in the cart. If only Jesus had lived forever! “You must have thought he was crazy,” he said to Nicodemus.

The man plucked a purple iris from along the path and tucked it in his cloak. “That’s what I wanted to believe. I wanted him to be crazy so that I might be sane, so that the fabric of my life would not unravel at the seams. Everything he taught runs against the current of the Sanhedrin’s teachings, yet it was in being swept up by his river of truth that I really was born of the Spirit. No, Joseph, I knew from the day I spoke with him that Jesus was not crazy, and it terrified me more than the fear of others.”

Joseph could relate. He recalled the moment he first felt a stirring within his soul, a flicker of light and hope that told him without a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was not a blasphemer. And as beautiful as it was, it had terrified him, too.

“This must be your tomb,” Nicodemus observed, “unless Pilate sends his personal guard to pay respects to all the dead.”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Joseph realized his most personal experience with Jesus had already come to an end. They had arrived at the tomb, and the Romans were waiting to seal the entrance.

He and Nicodemus lifted their Rabbi from the cart and took him inside. Laying the body on the cold stone gave Joseph an indescribable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was grateful to have a fellow disciple at his side. “Do you really believe he was God?” Joseph intended the question to be personal but found himself speaking the words aloud.

Nicodemus removed the iris from his cloak and laid it down—not on Jesus’ body as would be proper tribute—but next to his hand, as if he thought the Rabbi might like to pick it up and smell it. “Do I believe he was God?” Nicodemus smiled for the third time that night, and even in the dimly lit tomb, the joy on his face was radiant. “Jesus is God.”

Written by Savanna

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Am I in the Right Place?: Finding Satisfaction in Service

Service.

If you’re a student at Dallas Baptist University, that word made you either jump to attention or roll your eyes. On top of the constant mantra of “servant leadership” that appears in every class (literally, in every syllabus), the most common DBU scholarship requires a certain number of service hours to be performed every semester. The idea of service is reinforced so often that we sometimes feel like we never stop serving.

When I was a freshman, I, like everyone else on that coveted scholarship, was required to pick a service off a list of approved locations and roll with it for an entire semester. Little Catherine took one look at that list (which rivaled War and Peace for length), was immediately overwhelmed, and quickly devolved to looking specifically for service projects involving children. I had been working with kids in my home church ever since I outgrew childcare myself, so I figured that was the best choice. I picked the first one that promised transportation and showed up with as little pomp and circumstance as possible.

It was alright the first week. I went back a few more times, then got some friends (who had put off service hours as long as possible) to go with me.

Nothing changed for two-and-a-half years. Everything was exactly the same… except, that is, for my morale and attitude.

Maybe I’m more adventurous than I thought I was. Maybe I lost my touch. Maybe the kids’ stories made me too sad. Whatever it was, by the middle of my junior year, I was so discouraged that I actually didn’t get enough hours because I skipped service so many weeks. I’m one of those students who doesn’t skip class unless I physically cannot get there (yes, I’ve gone to work with a migraine), so that only made the discouragement worse.

The Bible encourages us over and over to not give up: “Do not be afraid, and do not be discouraged,” Joshua 1:9 says in one example, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). It’s hard to be discouraged when you can see God working in your life or in the life of someone you’re serving. Yet there I was, watching God work through my friends while I watched on the sidelines. It wasn’t the way things were supposed to be, but I felt like I was in the wrong for feeling this way.

This jumble of emotions and worries was what came out of my mouth one day while I was cooking dinner and conversing with a friend. Somehow, he understood enough of that spiel to offer me an alternative, and because I was short on hours, feeling guilty about it, and curious about the idea of working with adults, I jumped on it.

If you want fuller details on what happened after that, read my previous blog on the subject here. For now, suffice it to say that I discovered I’m much more at home in homeless ministry than children’s ministry (ironic, no?), and I’ve been soaring above my service-hours requirement ever since.

Here’s the thing, folks: attitude is everything when you go to serve in the name of Christ, but there’s more to it than that. Look at Romans 12:3-8, which points out that since “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us,” everyone should use his or her specific gift to accomplish what God has sent him or her to do, not try to do something that is meant for someone else. With a new season of life came a new purpose, and I wish I had discovered that earlier.

Maybe you’re in a place of confusion today. Maybe you’re not getting the same joy out of a service you used to love. Maybe you feel like God is calling you somewhere “not here.” Listen, friend: Commitment is good, healthy even, but if God is telling you that you are needed elsewhere, listen to Him. The most amazing things happen when God tells you to leave everything you know and you obey.

Your heart isn’t always right; the human heart is fallen, and Satan loves to trick us into thinking we’re listening to God when we’re really listening to ourselves. But if you’re trying your best to have a good attitude toward service and you still come home feeling like you’re wasting time, it may be that God has a different place for you.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain,” reads 1 Timothy 6:6—gain for the Kingdom of God. Be content in your service, and you will find that it comes a whole lot easier.

Written by Catherine

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Glorifying God During Spring Break

It’s about halfway through the spring semester of college, and boy does it feel like it. Assignments are piling up, deadlines are getting closer and closer, and it feels like the strenuous work of college life will never end. As soon as we start losing all hope and contemplating what life would be like if we dropped out and joined the circus, a light appears at the end of a long, dark tunnel: spring break.

A whole week without studying, piercing rings of alarm clocks, or stressful emails from professors reminding you of upcoming assignments… well, as long as you aren’t taking a mini. When I think of spring break, I think of going home to my family in Arkansas, sleeping in every morning, and relishing in the glory of my mom doing my laundry and cooking my meals. As relaxing and peaceful as that may sound, it got me thinking; how would I be glorifying God while laying around being a slug all day?

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” I think we all must take this verse to heart this spring break; let us not lie idle, but see the opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God during this week of rest. Though there is no school work to keep us occupied, there are still plenty of opportunities to stay active and get involved in our communities. From volunteering for a worthy cause to dedicating time to a loved one who needs a supportive companion, there are endless possibilities to glorify God this spring break.

Almost every community offers volunteer opportunities like feeding the homeless at a shelter, reading to children at an orphanage, or partaking in fellowship with the elderly at a retirement home. If not, there are still ways that we can be a servant leaders in our communities independent of an organization. Every community can benefit from volunteers picking up trash on roadsides, holding yard sales that benefit a local cause, or paying for the car behind you in a drive-thru.

It is important to remember the purpose for these good works during spring break. No matter how you spend your week off, don’t forget the will of the Lord. In all of your triumphs, give Him the glory. Use your week of rest as an opportunity to teach your community for the One who set you free. Take advantage of this time that the Lord has given you, and let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.

Written by Lindsey

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Take Care of Your Characters

Have you ever been writing a story and get the worst writer’s block? Maybe you simply can’t figure out where the plot should go or why your characters are even in the situation in the first place. If you’ve had this experience, don’t worry. You are not alone. (If you haven’t, then I am jealous of your talent.) A good method to use when you get writer’s block is to focus on your characters. The plot is definitely the main element of a story, but the characters have a huge impact on where the plot is going.

If you’re like me, then you can get caught up in all the plot details like how Person A and Person B will finally fall in love and be together or how the hero will climb out of the hopeless situation he’s been thrown into. These, along with many other types of plot details, rely on characters. If you can figure out what you want your character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations to be, then you can figure out where your story is going.

One thing I like to do in order to keep everything organized in my brain and give me a visual aid is make character sheets. I compile a list of all the things I would want to know about my character. And this isn’t limited to a simple description like eye color, hair style, body type, and clothing. Although appearances can give certain clues to the identities of people, they do not tell the entire story. You can also list personality traits. What mood are they in most of the time? Give both the good and bad side of their character. Also, list some other random facts about them. What annoys your character to the nth degree? What can they simply not resist? What is their sense of humor like? What are their greatest fears? Do they have any deep, dark secrets? All of these attributes can affect your characters’ actions and therefore guide the plot of your story in a specific direction.

If you’ve got all this stuff down already, then maybe it’s time for a plot twist of some sort; you may need something unexpected to happen. Well, this may sound harsh, but to do this, you’ll probably need to put your character through a little (or a lot) of turmoil. But don’t be afraid to be mean to your characters. A lot of the time, the most influential moment in a novel or short story is when something negatively impacts the characters, especially the main protagonist. If they take something for granted, take it away, whether it be an object or a person. It will cause them to either change routes or test their commitment to a certain path. Maybe they have a belief or a certain someone or something they believe in. Make them doubt it. Make them confused. They may choose to seek out another truth or maybe they will overcome it and have a new, stronger faith. Remember their worst fears? Use them. They could fall in defeat or overcome it.

I used a couple of these methods when I was in one of my creative slumps as I was writing one of my fantasy stories. I specifically turned to my protagonist’s loved ones. My young, orphaned heroine had recently begun to form a positive and growing relationship with her newfound father figure and mentor, and she couldn’t have felt happier or safer with him. The plot grew to a standstill because the protagonist felt too safe and had no reason to move forward in her quest, so I decided that this was the time the villain should strike and take away this new safety from my heroine. I didn’t exactly kill the beloved mentor off, but I left barely enough hope for the heroine to hold onto so that she would have the motivation to continue her quest and fulfill her destiny in my story. Saving him and the goal of her quest became the same, so if she believed that she could save her mentor, then she would have the motivation to fulfill her destiny in completing her quest.

You can use these concepts and techniques to both develop your characters’ identities and push the story forward. Thinking about your characters, their actions, their beliefs, their fears will help aim the plot of your story in a certain direction. Without your characters, there would be no story.

Written by Taylor Hayes

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