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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Easter Every Day

Easter, considered to be the most significant Christian holiday, has come again. Filled with bunny rabbits, oval-shaped chocolates, and wild Easter egg hunts, the occasion holds more than just the short-term blessings of joy and happiness; Easter gives us a chance to celebrate and receive once more, with grateful hearts, the eternal blessings of hope, peace, faith, and love. Two thousand years ago, a Jewish man, the son of a carpenter, hung fragile and exposed on a cross. It may have seemed somewhat insignificant to the onlookers, and even today many groups, communities, and nations believe it to be so. But to the Christian, Easter commemorates the life-changing gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of the world’s Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although this celebration occurs only once a year, Christians all over the world honor Christ’s sacrifice daily. The cross is the core of the Christian faith and Christian living. It not only grants all of us a way into eternal life, but restores our relationship with our Creator. Christians, those who have accepted God’s wonderful gift, now share life with Him every day, abiding in His delightful and sweet presence, alongside Him who is a constant helper, companion, protector, and friend. With the promise of His continual presence and a glorious inheritance, we can know that God has abundantly blessed us both here on earth and in life after death.

For Christians, these truths about God’s promise of blessing hold the energy to transform our lives day by day. Firstly, knowing that God waits for us in Heaven, gives us tremendous hope: hope enough to stand when life knocks us down; hope enough for us to see the light when we feel that the darkness is closing in; hope enough for us to keep walking even when storms are headed our way. Because the cross proclaims that this life is substantially brief and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory to come, we can have joy in all circumstances. Secondly, because God has gifted us with His unceasing presence, we can constantly speak to Him, present our requests to Him, and intercede for others on their behalf. He has promised to hear us. God sees everything and generously supplies all of our needs. He has promised to carry us through every single day.

Therefore, Easter, unlike many other holidays, far transcends its bounds of one week in the springtime year after year. Instead, it permeates each and every second of a believer’s life. Outside of charming Easter decorations, blissful fellowship with family and friends, and overflowing Church services, the true joy to be found in Easter is grasped in the stillness of the mundane, in the repetition of work and routine, and in the times of defeat, struggle, and pain. The cross is worn on millions of pendants, displayed in thousands of windows, and stuck on the bumper of countless vehicles but its reach is far beyond a worldwide festival. It holds the weight, power, and glory to give hope in every situation, to shine light into every circumstance, and to remind us of everlasting love every day.

Written by Jeka

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Giving Up Chocolate is Hard to Do

Easter weekend in the South is always quite an affair. Any proper Southern girl debuts her brand spankin’ new Easter dress, a product of long hours spent online shopping or perusing what the local mall has to offer. As for guys, well, they usually break out the bowties and button-downs in varying shades of pastels. Easter in the South means chocolate (and lots of it – we ain’t ashamed), flowers, Facebook feeds clogged with “Happy Easter!” [insert flower and bunny emojis] or “Easter Sunday with the fam” photos, He is Risen yard signs, and color EVERYWHERE. It’s become quite the cultural event, especially for college students. One hallmark of Easter season is when friends start talking about what they are going to give up for Lent. This is a fairly common occurrence across denominations, even though it originated as part of the Catholic celebration of Easter. For those that genuinely choose to participate in a Lent fast, social media, chocolate, or caffeine are often the targets of this time of “sacrifice.” Some college girls see Lent as the perfect excuse to begin their annual diet.

However, the real reason for Lent is to further one’s relationship with God by attempting to understand, albeit in a minute way, His sacrifice for mankind. Lent mirrors Christ’s fasting during temptation and is a picture of how much He gave up for you and me.  Lent is usually a period of 40 days leading up to Easter; scripturally, 40 day periods served as preparation for something to come.  Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

So what does this have to do with me?

What sacrifices did I make this past Lent season, or can I make in the future, to be a better person? Maybe you’re not into the whole “God” thing. Maybe you find the resurrection of Christ hard to believe.  That’s a certainly understandable and valid viewpoint; nevertheless, one man’s sacrifice for the lives of many ought to inspire me to live in a selfless manner, regardless of my personal religious beliefs (or the lack thereof).  What can I give up to grow as a person, whether I’m catholic, protestant, or couldn’t care less about either one of those lifestyles?

That said, what does this have to do with Southern, college student me?

As I pondered the idea of giving up something for Lent, all the options that came to mind certainly made me cringe a little on the inside. Netflix. Nutella, breakfast of champions. Chick-Fil-A. Starbucks. Social media *GASP*. (Actually, if we’re going to be truthful, it was more like a giant wave of consternation slapping me right in the face. But I digress.) However, I think I was missing the point. Lent and Easter weren’t meant to make life miserable for a period of 40 days so I can remember how miserable Christ must have been. They were meant to remind us that because of Jesus’ incredible, painful, sacrifice, we don’t have to live devoid of hope and purpose and joy. He gave His life so that we don’t have to spend our lives in constant sacrifice, trying to earn acceptance from God or somebody else. Easter and Lent are celebrations of that freedom. So when I give up something as insignificant as collegiate comfort food (as difficult as that may be), I can be reminded of and rejoice in God’s great sacrifice for me. And that, my friends, is the point of Lent – experiencing the joy of His selfless love. This Easter, may you grow into a new and better person, and may you know just how much you are loved.

Ephesians 3:14-19: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Written by Carilee

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The Cleansing of the Brumbies

There I stood, knee deep in mud. Surrounding me were about 50 men and women. Each of us wore a few rubber bands on our wrists. We were all together in the middle of a giant, disgusting mud pit. All of a sudden, a young man standing about twenty feet in front of me yelled through a megaphone, “You gotta get dirty brumbies! Mud should be on more than just your knees!” After he finished speaking I glanced to my left and noticed a fellow in his late thirties rubbing mud into his thick black beard. On my right, a tall woman was massaging mud onto her arms. I decided that although it seemed vile and horrendous to do so, I had better get real dirty as well. To accomplish this I lowered myself down until every part of my body except my head was immersed in mud. I then got up and put mud under my eyes like a football player. Now I was ready. Outside of the mud pit, a lone man stood in front of a wide pathway that cut through a thick forest. Without warning, that man faced the path and screamed, “The brumbies are ready; come and get ‘em!” For a moment, everything was silent. Then the forest came alive with the screams of elementary school children as they charged out from the path towards the mud pit. Without thought for their own cleanliness, the hordes of children waded into the mud and began their attack, attempting to rip the rubber bands off of the wrists of the men and women in the mud pit. From there, chaos ensued. I was quickly tackled into the mud by three children who would stop at nothing to get my rubber bands. I returned their attack by standing up and lightly tossing one of the children into the mud. I don’t really remember much about the next fifteen minutes of that game. All I know is that my rubber bands were eventually stripped from my arms and I ended up covered in mud.

That game is a very popular one at the Pine Cove Christian Camps. As far as I know it does not have an official name, but we workers lovingly referred to it as “brumbies.” Supposedly, the object of the game was for the children to obtain as many of our rubber bands as they possibly could. The real object of the game, however, is to get dirty. Honestly, that is all that brumbies was to the kids. It was nothing more than an excuse to get themselves and the workers as dirty as possible. And they certainly did so. In fact, after that game I was the dirtiest I have ever been in my entire life. I was covered in layer upon layer of mud and it was everywhere. I am pretty sure that you could not see a single patch of skin on me. The mud was so bad that it got into the eyes of some of the stout and manly grown men and made them cry! At no other point in my life have I ever wanted to take a shower more than I did then.

I think that the sheer dirtiness of that game provides a great example of our sin. After I played brumbies I was the dirtiest that I have ever been, but it did not even compare to how disgusting I am because of sin. The entire world is covered in that sin. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That verse excludes no one. The Greek word for “all” in that verse is “pantes,” which means every single one of a category. This means that no one can escape their sin. Every single person deserves an eternity of death and pain.

And yet, there is a way for us to escape that eternal condemnation. How can that be possible? Well, that is where Good Friday comes in. On that day Christ took all of our sins upon himself and offered us forgiveness through the cross.

I can’t imagine the pain that Christ must have gone through at that point. Just envision all of that mud and disgusting slop that covered the bodies of the men and women involved in the brumby game. Now imagine that all of that gross dirtiness covers not just the Pine Cove workers, but also the entire world. Take that disgustingness and multiply it times ten. Then visualize all of that revolting filthiness being poured into a cup. In order for us to be saved, Christ drank that cup on Good Friday.

Paul follows the sad news of Romans 3:23 with the glad tidings that “They [Christians] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” To be justified means to be made right with the law. In order for that to happen, we would have to be perfect. This means that there is absolutely no way that anyone could ever be justified on his/her own. But because of his deep love for us, Jesus Christ laid down his life on Good Friday and made it so that we could be justified through him for free.

good friday

This is a very important thing for us to remember every day, but it is even more important to be reminded of it during Good Friday. Christ loved us so much that he cleansed us of all our brumby slop. My desire for each of you this Good Friday is that you will look back on what Christ did for us and marvel at the beauty of His compassion. I hope you have a Good Friday full of somber remembrance and celebration of Jesus Christ’s unending love for us.

Written by Nathan

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