The burial of Jesus

As I read the account of the burial of Jesus I was impressed by the  bravery of Joseph. It was Joseph alone who approached Pilate after all that had happened. According to Jewish custom Jesus body could not remain on the cross overnight, particularly when the next  day was the Sabbath. The Roman custom, on  the other hand, was to let bodies  of crucified criminals hang in view of all until they rotted away. This was to act as a deterent to others. So Joseph goes to Pilate to ask for the body.  Apparently no family members of Jesus nor any of his close friends, the apostles, had the courage to ask for the body of Jesus. It would be a dangerous time show your allegiance to a crucified criminal. Perhaps Pilate felt guilty in the first place after the warning from his wife. But why would he feel guilty over the death of a mere Jew?  Pilate ordered that the body be given to Joseph. The body was laid in Joseph’s own tomb. The entrance was covered with a heavy disc shaped stone that rolled in an inclined channel cut into the rock making the tomb easy to close but difficult to open, thus preventing grave robbers. The Jewish authorities were fearful that Jesus’ disciples may come and steal the body and then proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. It is amazing that Jesus continues to threaten the Jews even from the grave. Remember those magician shows where the magician go to all attempts to convince the audience that the allusion is in fact magic and believable. Some escape artists rival Houdini in their ability to free themselves from the impossible. I see a similar situation with the burial of Jesus. The Jews go to extreme efforts to prevent the removal of Jesus’ body. So they ask Pilate to place guards on the tomb to ensure that his disciples themselves could not steal the body and then say that Jesus had risen, as he had said he would.  So the tomb was strongly sealed to ensure the body stayed where is was lain. The Jewish rulers took all precautions to prevent any removal of the body. By going to such extremes they were in fact being used by God to prove the truth of the resurrection. This was like God himself eliminating all other possible explanations other than Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Ross  Bloomfield

 

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Psalm 115

Psalm 115 is one of the psalms sung at the Passover and may well have been sung by Jesus and his disciples during their Passover meal. This psalm begins by directing glory to God. It is almost like singing the well-known hymn “To God be the Glory.”

It is the heaven taunts of “Where is their God” which causes the Psalmist to present a defence of Israel’s God. Perhaps the words of this Psalm were with Jesus as he was mocked by the crowds at his crucifixion.

What an argument the Psalmist puts against idolatry. A mere statue crafted from human hands. But a statue that remains mute, deaf, blind and paralysed. The argument could be taken even further. Since the maker is always greater than the things he makes, these idols must be honoured less than the artist who made them. How stupid! How could people worship idols which are less than themselves? A man creates a ‘god’ and then bows down and worships it as his spiritual superior. Did these ancient pagans assign to their ‘gods’ the power to create new life, control the world or to heal the sick?

The Christian response is how could you have a personal relationship with a mere statue? Can a mere man make a statue which would love you enough to die for your sins? That type of idol worship has now been replaced by other more modern forms of idol worship.

The modern response is to say that idol worshippers are as stupid as the idols they worship. In their arrogance they would say such thinking has to be rejected in the 21st century, thinking. No scientific thinking person could accept such thinking.

However during the recent cricket ball tampering scandal, an ABC journalist Stan Grant, headlined “Australia’s cheating scandal is about more than cricket”.

He writes, “In a world of fake news, politicians who lie and bankers who have fleeced customers, why do we expect athletes to be defenders of our collective morality?”

“Sport is not our saviour. It doesn’t exist on some higher plain. It is a reflection of us.”

“Our cricketers are products of our age, where the individual is exalted above society.”

“American political scientist, Patrick Deneen, says our society is ‘caught in a trap of its own making’, where the worship of the individual has created a moral psychic vacuum.”

This is no accident: this is the world we have created.”

Yes I believe the journalist to be right. Now we live in a society without absolute divine morality. As a result we will then live in a society that has rubbery ethics. As our society departs from Christian belief we need to be aware of the subtle ways in which idol worship is becoming part of daily life. So in v8, the psalmist warns that idol manufactures will become like the idols they have created with no promise of eternal life, as will all those who trust in them.

The psalm ends with great encouragement for believers. God will be our help and shield. We who serve the living God will ourselves live on, unlike those who worship lifeless objects.

So in verse 18 we get a promise of the afterlife. It is we who praise the Lord, both now and forever. Even eternity cannot exhaust the reasons why God should be glorified.

Ross Bloomfield

Isaiah 59

Today’s passage was written over 2500 years ago. Yet as I started to read I was impacted by Isaiah’s sense of humour. God’s people wondered if perhaps God did not seem to rescue them from their trials. They wondered if perhaps God had diminished in strength. They wondered if His arms are just too short? They wondered if His ears had become blocked. Perhaps the problem isn’t that God lacks power. He may just lack knowledge or interest in our problems.

But this isn’t the problem at all. Isaiah reminds us that this isn’t the God of the bible. God doesn’t have short arms or are His ears blocked. He can hear us just fine. This is the creator God.

The problem isn’t with God’s power, His knowledge or His interest. The problem is with our sin. Sin does not separate us from the love of God. But sin still can separate.

Sin separates us from fellowship with God, because at least at the moment of our sin, we no longer think alike with God.

Sin separates us from the blessings of God, because at the moment of our sin, we are not trusting God.

Sin separates us from some of the benefits of God’s love. Remember the Prodigal Son was still loved by the father, but didn’t enjoy the benefits of his love when he was in sin.

How easy it is for us to blame our problems on everything except our sin. We will blame God before realising the problem is with us.

But our salvation lies in v20. This could be reworded “I will send My Messiah (The Redeemer) for all humanity, Jesus of Nazareth.”

Then God makes an everlasting covenant with us that the Redeemer will save us from our sins and put His law on our lips and in our hearts, transforming us to be His children forever.

Ross Bloomfield