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Readings

Reading: Matthew 27:57-66

Supplementary Reading: Mark 15:42-64, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42

Devotional

Having decided not to go into the family business as a trawlerman, as the work seemed far too hard for me, my studies were taking me on a path to university and hopefully a career in accountancy. Then God messed up my well-laid plans. Through various circumstances, God started to work on my heart changing my desires from a lucrative profession to a holy calling. I firmly believe these two things are not exclusive, a lucrative career can and should be a holy calling for a follower of Jesus. For me personally, it was clear ‘full-time’ ministry, as we would have called it back then, was the path I would follow. Under guidance from my pastor, upon leaving school I found employment and applied to study theology at college in a couple of years time in preparation for ‘ministry’. For the next two and a half years I lived in expectation of turning up at Bible College in September 1982. This expectation changed how I lived in the intervening period. Sadly, I lost a little interest in my chosen subjects at school designed to gain me a place at university and regretfully did not achieve my predicted grades. Participating in church events trumped the study I needed to do. Starting my first job the plan for my development from a junior cashier in a building society to a branch manager was not on my agenda. The expectation of my future influenced my studies, my promotion, my relationships, my finance, and my priorities and shaped every decision I made.

In the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death, the gospel writers introduce us to a man named Joseph. He originated from Arimathea, a region about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem and fifteen miles east of Joppa, in the hilly region of Ephraim birthplace of Prophet Samuel. From scripture, we learn that although he was a member Jewish Sanhedrin council, he did not participate in the plot to kill Jesus and in fact up until this moment had been a secret disciple of Jesus. But today that cover was broken wide open because as Mark records he was; ‘waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God’.

His actions on ‘Good Friday’ had profound effects on his future life. In going to the governor in late afternoon, to request permission to take down Jesus’ body from the cross, saving him from the further disgrace of hanging on the cross on the Sabbath, he was sacrificing his place on the religious council. Losing his place as one of the respected seventy-one elders who sat on the ‘Great Sanhedrin’ meant the loss of position, power and finance. He along with another Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had met Jesus much earlier, by their courageous obedience, when almost all the other disciples had scattered, were saying goodbye to their careers.

Matthew points out to his Jewish readers Joseph was a ‘rich man’ possibly reminding them of a prophecy made by their Prophet Isaiah in regards to the Messiah; ‘And they made his grave ….with a rich man in his death.’ (Isaiah 53:9) The expectation of God’s Kingdom drastically altered the way Joseph and Nicodemus used their finance in costly obedience. Joseph gave away his own newly carved out tomb and Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of burial spices for Jesus, a truly extravagant act as the norm would have been around five pounds.

It must have been a strange scene as two previously secret disciples of Jesus took the lifeless body of God’s Son down from the cross rather than the eleven who had publicly walked with Him. First, they strapped his body to the cross before wrenching Jesus’ arms and ankles from the spikes, flattened at the top as they were hammered through the body into the wood behind, which was holding him in place. Then Joseph and Nicodemus, watched by the two Marys, lowered the body of their friend, whom they loved and honoured, to the ground and carefully wrapped it and took it to the tomb.

Joseph and Nicodemus lived their lives in costly and courageous obedience to their God because they lived in anticipation and expectation of God’s Kingdom. The same challenge exists for us as Jesus followers in the present. Doing the correct thing for God may bring distress in this life, but it carries eternal rewards in His Kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, you taught us to pray, ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.’ I am looking forward, eagerly anticipating and expecting the day when your eternal kingdom will come to its full reality on your triumphant return. But, I ask you to strengthen me today, to live fully as a citizen of your kingdom now, acknowledging your rule and reign in my life and actions. In expectation of your kingdom help me to live with courageous obedience to your plan no matter the cost. Amen!

Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?

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