Celebration of Life
Today’s Reading: John 19:39b-40 (NIV)
39b Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
Joseph and Nicodemus could not bear to leave Christ’s body unattended. Jewish tradition celebrates life in the burial act; it is the recognition of gifts that were ours as a result of the one who has gone on before us. They took on the role of the Chevra Kadisha – the ones who prepare the body for burial. In accordance with Scripture and tradition, Joseph and Nicodemus prepared Christ’s body, not as an act of death, but of new life. As they bathed and wrapped his torn flesh with strips of linen and liquid spice, they performed their act of kindness, with no regard for remuneration. On a day like today, as the people prepared to celebrate the Passover feast, Joseph and Nicodemus took upon themselves an even greater responsibility: they prepared the body of the Father’s sacrificial Lamb for new life.
Jewish tradition compares a dead body to that of a damaged Torah, no longer useful for its intended use; yet, deserving of respect for the purpose which it once served. Remembrance is an important part of the burial process. Prayers are offered up, expressing deep gratitude for the life of the deceased and all the good that has been brought forth as a result of their living. I would have loved to have heard the prayers offered up by Joseph and Nicodemus as they prepared His body for burial.
If it had not been for the kindness of Joseph, there would have been no sacred place to have laid his body. Jesus lived the life of an itinerant; owning only the clothing on his back. The Romans confiscated his outer robe at the cross, which left Christ with no burial garment for his body. What shame this must have brought to the Master’s heart as he clung there upon the cross. The gift of purification, the wrapping of his flesh, is one of the greatest acts of kindness ever offered.
When death comes, we grieve what is lost and hold onto hope for what will be. If you are grieving the death of a loved one today, hold on to the assurance of new life. Celebrate what is coming! Christ died and rose again so that we may experience new life, everlasting life, in His presence. This is our celebration of life.
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding
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