• SATS

Updated: Apr 13

Readings: Job 14: 4-14; 1 Peter 4: 1-8; John 19: 38-42 (Sermon Text)

Topic: The Account of Jesus’ Burial in the Gospel of John

Theme: The Significant Roles of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in John’s Account of

Jesus’ Burial

by The Rev. Fr. Alvin Mendoza

April 11, 2020

I. Introduction

Jesus’ Suffering, Death on the Cross, Burial and Resurrection Form part of

the Church’s Faith Confession

We give thanks to God our Father through His Son Jesus Christ for allowing us this wonderful opportunity to celebrate simultaneously from our different communities via livestreaming at this point in our Paschal Triduum notwithstanding the danger posed against our lives by COVID-19. To me, this experience of being able to celebrate or worship together simultaneously thru the use of modern technology especially in this difficult times clearly shows that nothing indeed can hinder or “separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

That the Lord Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried and on the third day rose again, form part of the basic tenets of the Christian faith enshrined in the Apostle’s Creed as well as the Nicene Creed which we normally recite during our daily devotions and Eucharistic celebrations on Sundays respectively. Likewise, the same creedal statements are found in the 39 Articles of Religion as part of the magisterium of Churches in the Anglican Communion (as the case may be). The faith that we confess and the good news that we proclaim as we livestream for the commemoration of Jesus’ Suffering, Death on the Cross, Burial and Resurrection are absolutely held in “accordance with the Scriptures.”

II. The Roles of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

Our gospel reading this morning recounts to us John’s story of Jesus’ burial immediately following the latter’s death on the cross. It is a story quite unique to John as compared with the common or shared story presented in the synoptic accounts. Notably, John’s account of Jesus’ burial is focused on the significant roles of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus whom he both described or implied to be: (one) secret disciples or perhaps, silent supporters of Jesus; (two) members of the Sanhedrin; (three) wealthy, well educated, respected and influential members of the society of their time; and, (four) apparent models of rebirth or persons who were supposed to have been born again on account of their encounter with Jesus.

Most biblical scholars agree that these men concealed their association with Jesus for fear of being ridiculed by fellow Jews. Joseph of Arimathea for example, may have considered it embarrassing if not outrightly shameful to be seen by fellow members of the Council in the company of Jesus who frequently mingles and even eats with tax collectors and sinners not to mention Jesus’ apparent negative reputation (at least to the Pharisees) as a “blasphemer,” “violator” of the Sabbath and a “transgressor” in Israel. Most likely on his part, Nicodemus opted to visit Jesus at night for similar reasons. No wonder, these gentlemen were “nowhere” to be found or perhaps chose to be absent the entire time while Jesus was facing trial by the Sanhedrin. Be that as it may, it is equally interesting to note how Jesus’ death on the cross eventually drew these apparent closet disciples even more closer to him and consequently changed their perspectives in the process.

Being members of the council, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are pretty much aware that the Jewish customary law is very specific concerning the body of someone who has been crucified, not to be left hanging on the cross overnight, etc. They knew also that Jesus’ body must be removed and prepared for burial asap since the Sabbath is about to begin few hours following his death on the cross. Otherwise, the land would be compromised or desecrated according to Deuteronomy 21: 22-23. But who shall take the responsibility? All but one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples have already fled earlier for fear of their lives. And the few women who were there from the very beginning were simply caught unprepared for the situation. Given this scenario Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus knew right away that they had to act quickly. They must take the Lord’s body and lay it down to its resting place. (If they don’t who else will?)

John tells us that Joseph of Arimathea succeeded in seeking Pilate’s permission to take Jesus’ body for burial and after removing Jesus body from the cross, Nicodemus also came with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds, and together they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in linen cloths according to the burial custom of the Jews (19: 38-40). Additionally, John also reveals that Jesus was eventually laid down to rest in a new tomb (apparently owned by Joseph of Arimathea himself) located in the garden in the same place where Jesus was crucified (19: 40-41).

The roles of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus over Jesus’ burial are worth noting here:

1. With courage and strong determination inspired by their love of Jesus they were

able to overcome their fears. Joseph knew it was not easy to get Pilate’s permission

to take Jesus’ body without running the risk of losing his life. Under Roman rule,

bodies of those who have been crucified are normally left on their crosses to be torn

to pieces by animals and birds. Joseph’s wealth and strong influence may just have

won him his purpose. Like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus also threw his fears aside

at the death of Jesus and openly assisted him in burying Jesus. His new found faith

must have given him the courage to face the consequences of following Jesus and

spend a relatively handsome amount so as to give Jesus a burial worthy of a royalty.

2. The linen cloths (bought by Joseph of Arimathea) coupled with a mixture of

myrrh and aloes weighing 100 pounds (brought by Nicodemus) bespeak of the kind

of burial afforded to a king. One can just imagine how meaningful such a gesture that

was be passed on to the Christian generations.

3. The location of the new tomb upon which Jesus’ body was laid is said to be a

garden in the same place where the crucifixion took place. Some Biblical experts

see the mention of a garden for Jesus’ entombment a veiled reference to

the Garden of Genesis where the first humans were created in God’s image and where

sin entered into human affairs. Thus, while the fall of Adam took place in a garden,

the second Adam (Jesus) freed us from the results of Adam’s sin also in a garden.

III. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea: Apparent Models of Rebirth?

In conclusion, I would like to think that the story of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus viewed thru the lens of John’s account of Jesus’ burial serve as concrete model of rebirth into a new life in Christ, or, if I may, concrete models of being born again. I say this not because I am assuming their baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, but because of the fact that they were drawn together to be born again by and through the transforming power of Jesus’ death on the cross. John tells us for example of their transformation from being fearsome to persons of resolute courage and conviction in order to give Jesus an acceptable burial; from being a closet disciple to a true disciple willing to lose their friends, position and even willing to risk their very lives for the sake of Christ. Can we probably say the same thing to the thief whom Jesus promised to be with him in paradise? Or, to Mary whom Jesus told to behold her son? What about the beloved disciple whom Jesus asked to behold his mother? I can only surmise… One thing is fairly certain though- Jesus hope to draw all men to himself when he is lifted up (crucified) has come true with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The same thing is coming true I believe, even to us today every time we gather to proclaim Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in the breaking of the bread and prayer. There is one more thing necessary to complete the picture though. And that is to look forward to the resurrection as a culmination as well as vindication of all the things that we have come to confess ad proclaim for the whole duration of our Holy Week Celebration.

In the Name of God the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Updated: Apr 13

Text: Isa. 52:13-53:12; Heb. 10:1-25; John 18:1-1

by Rev. Delia A. Ayabo

April 10, 2020

In our Church tradition, today is marked as Good Friday. How can one describe such a day? Good Friday is a day our Lord was crucified. It is a day we remember Jesus willingly suffered and died at Calvary. It is a day that features Christ’s brutal beating, heartless scourging and humiliation. What we see by our naked eyes would be a great tragedy on the part of the man Jesus. Yet, the church claims that the cruel passion and death of Jesus on the cross was not a tragedy but an act of divine redemption for humankind. The church asserts on the merits and testimony of the resurrection of Jesus a vindication and adjudication of all his claims of divinity and kingship from which He was charged of a heinous crime deserving death on the cross. Hence, by his death He has made the power of death null and void and by his resurrection He has provided death immunity for everyone who believes.

How does the passion and death of Jesus expose to us the corrupt practices of a human made judicial system in the execution of justice? The four gospel writers narrated that Jesus was brought to trial under the two most influential and best institutions that the world came to know—Judaism and Roman Empire. Judaism advocates monotheism (i.e. a belief in one God) and concern for the poor, the orphans, and the oppressed. On this note, we would expect its good system of justice. The Roman Empire likewise has prided itself for its pax romana (i.e. peace is experienced everywhere throughout the empire wide). Against this backdrop, we would anticipate the due process of law in the trial proceedings of Jesus. Accordingly, the four gospel writers recounted that Jesus went through at least six trial proceedings—three times under the Jewish religious court and three times under the Roman justice system.

Let us take a look at the timeline of the trials of Jesus:

First, the Gospel of John reported that Jesus was brought to Annas, the ex-high priest, at night following his arrest for legal interrogation (John 18:13-23). This deserves a comment. Annas, being an ex-high priest should have not interfered or sneaked in to hear Jesus’ case, make a voice and a decision. At any rate, if it was an official legal hearing then that was an example of the so called “kangaroo court” because it happened at night. Why this should happen at night? Could this mean because Annas’ heart was clouded with darkness that he wanted to become the first arbiter of darkness? After all, if we translate this in our time, any court hearing that allows and entertains outsider that is either person or money to make a voice or dictate a court decision would be a living testament of Annas legacy.

Second, the four gospel writers reported that Jesus was brought to Caiaphas, the incumbent high priest while it was still dark (Matt 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24). The timeline raises a question that makes it unlawful. The four gospel writers reported that Caiaphas did not hear the case but made a death verdict on Jesus. This is an example of the mockery of justice. Being a high priest, he should have provided a lawyer for Jesus or allowed him to defend himself. Sadly, in our time, there are modern Caiaphases among the arbiters of the land. This account of Jesus will remain a living protest to all court proceedings and judges who continue to practice Caiaphas system of justice.

Third, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke reported that Jesus was brought to the Sanhedrin very early morning of Friday (Matt 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71). The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish judicial body of the land during the time of Jesus. It is equivalent to the Supreme Court at present. They did legally hear the case of Jesus but it was a one-sided court proceeding. It is sad to note that this religious governing body only provided witnesses to accuse and make lies against Jesus. They accused Jesus of blasphemy by calling himself equal with Yahweh and for claiming to be both the Messiah and the Son of God and therefore deserve the penalty of death.

Fourth, the four gospel writers reported that Jesus was brought to Pilate for interrogation (Matt 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1b-5; Luke 23:1-6; John 18:28-38). The scenario was something a public trial but it was done under the Roman justice because the arbiter this time was the governor Pontius Pilate. We are told that Jesus was accused of usurping the sole kingship of the emperor that is by calling himself a King. Pilate questioned Jesus, but found no reason to condemn him. He knew that Jesus was innocent and yet he charged him. Interestingly in this court public setting, Pilate portrays to us an example of an arbiter who listens and allows outsider voices to decide for himself instead of executing the Roman legal system. The outside voices “Crucify him, crucify him!” was his control and he has the ace if only he was not pressured and intimidated and upheld the rule of law. Once again, any court proceeding that would depend on the outside dictations would be a by-product of Pilate school of law. At any rate, the experience of Jesus would remain a timeless protest for every corruption of justice anywhere and at anytime.

Fifth, the Gospel of Luke reported that Jesus was brought to Herod to make his own verdict of Jesus (Luke 23:7-12). We are told that Herod made fun of Jesus by means of torture and mockery, by punching, whipping, and vesting him with robes to impersonate a king for them and to make fun of Jesus. This is clear, by virtue of Herod’s position to execute justice in his jurisdiction; he did not only mock Jesus but deliberately distorted the Roman justice system of peace and order. I could not think of a court hearing where torture and mockery are part if it is not a court of the wild animals. It is interesting to note in this scenario that Jesus was never knocked down by the heavy fists of the soldiers and nothing told that He did complain or cry in pain (cf. Isa 53:7). I could not imagine but to make a comment on the statue of Jesus we made of him on the church’ crosses. Could He not be a big person of a well-built body to be able to absorb the impact of the soldier’s fists? On the other hand, that He did not cry or complain I believe because He was thinking of the salvation of humankind including you and me. Yes, the cross is the reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

Sixth, the four gospel writers reported that Jesus was brought to Pilate for the second time (Matt 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:9-19:16). Pilate failed to uphold the due process of law by yielding to the outside voices of dictation when he said: “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law” (John 18:31). He compromised the rule of law to the dictation of the crowd making the trial proceeding unfair and biased. So Pilate issued the death sentence of Jesus by way of Roman crucifixion. Hence, Pilate has authored a court of compromise between the rule of law and the powerful voices outside the trial proceedings that continue to resurface in the history of the human made judicial system of the world. Personally, I have so many rhetorical questions in all the trial proceedings especially those arbitrated by Pilate because it was there that Jesus has a very slim chance to prove himself innocent even if he would still die to fulfill the scripture prophecy. The voices calling for crucifixion and Pilate’s compromise of the rule of law I would understand. It is the part of the spectators that I have few questions and comments that would have reshaped the story of the passion and death of Jesus differently. I was looking for someone from the crowd to have come forward and told Pilate: Excuse me sir, I was blind and now I see, I was lame and now I walk, I was sick and now I’m healed, I was dead and now alive or someone like prophet Amos had come out and said: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream” (Amos 5:24). But that was missing and deserved negative reaction but then we may be in some ways or many ways like them in our witnesses of Jesus. In view of all the suffering that Jesus had to bear in order to nail the sins of the world on the cross for our purification, it would behoove everyone to lean on the cross of Jesus especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic. By this I mean, we allow the cross of Jesus to shape and fashion our attitude and renew our minds to understand the heights and depths of his purposes in us that together in our fight for COVID-19, we shall walk by faith that the light of Christ may be seen in our acts of love and deeds of faith to all the frontliners and COVID-19 victims.

By way of application, the trial proceedings of Jesus expose to us the reality of injustices in all human or ordain form of justice. And it always sends a protest and a reminder to every abuse and violation of the rule of law especially in all court settings. Above all, the passion and death of Jesus has made that faithful Friday holy and good. It is because up on the cross while the clock was counting on his last few breath with unmatched love, Jesus pronounced forgiveness to all: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34) portrays the purity of Jesus’ heart. It is a prayerful petition asking the Father to officiate forgiveness on his behalf. Forgiveness capitalizes on the power of love and this reminds us of Jesus’ advocacy and standard of love, love your enemy. When Jesus Christ said, forgive them, He had in mind all those moments ago, betrayed him, arrested him, accused him falsely, insulted him, mocked him, and condemned him to death and those who abandoned him and many more. Hence the day was marked with the power of forgiveness.

Without prejudice to the other last words of Jesus, He said: “It is finished” (John 19:28) which is a translation of a Greek word “tetelestai” and it is a word used to express victory over an opponent or something of a great achievement so to speak. That Jesus mouthed out this statement would mean that his passion and death sentence were part of his earth bound mission for human redemption. In other words, Jesus has completed and finished God’s mission to make redemption a reality for all people. It is this word “tetelestai” among other factors that shades light on the wisdom of the passion and the cross. It will give us an idea that what happened on that Friday was not a tragedy but victory over the shadow master and its evil minions. And finally He said: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This seventh word of Jesus would also give us some ideas about the divine status of Jesus. He was the only person who knew when to give up his last breath and where He is going. This last word reminds us of eternal truth that it is only in the hands of God that we can find safety.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Updated: Apr 13

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

by The Rev. Dr. Ben Ngaya-an

April 10, 2020

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to God our Lord, our Strength, and our Redeemer. Amen.

In the context of Covid-19 pandemic which has already taken a lot of lives around the world, it may seem very timely to talk about the promised paradise in the second last words of Jesus Christ. However, if we consider the general understanding of paradise as a place where good people will go when they die, then this may not be the best time to talk about it otherwise we might end up romanticizing the situation. Besides, it seems, to me, too morbid to even talk about it when people are trying their best to survive this pandemic. That being the case, I intend to comment briefly on the very nature of Jesus as reflected in his words and then say more about “the hopeful thief.”

The second last words of Jesus and the circumstance in which they were uttered speaks clearly of how selfless Jesus was. Right up to the very end of his earthly life, he was thinking about the need of other people. He has been consistently doing this since he humbled himself and took up our human nature on Christmas day until today when he carried our sins up on the cross. He has revealed the perfect image of His Father, our God, being a Loving God. It is on the basis of our acknowledgement of the divinity of Jesus that we must understand his unapparelled self-emptying nature. This must help us realize that, although we do need to exhort every Christian to emulate the self-effacing nature of Jesus especially in this time of crisis, we should do it with utmost caution in order not to put unnecessary pressure on our frontliners. They are but humans like us who are vulnerable to negative emotions like fear and anxiety. After all, one of the major themes of the season of lent is acknowledging our human limitedness in order to hope for divine intervention. This leads me to the next topic which is about “the hopeful thief.”

The daily surge in the number of confirmed cases in the country are making many people dread the uncertain future. In relation, many are deeply concerned about the possibility that the existing medical facilities will be overloaded very soon. We could go on with the long list of varying sources of anxiety to different people especially those in the margins of our society but I think you have been fed up already with these kinds of news. It suffices maybe to identify what seems to me the worst scenario and that is when many people start losing hope even on humanity as a result of hearing cases of self-preservation at the expense of other people, discrimination of the vulnerable people including our frontliners, and other behaviors that can be considered more animalistic than human.

It is in this context that we need to learn from the “hopeful thief” who saw even in the situation of eminent death an opportunity to utter a hopeful petition: “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” To which the good Lord responded with comforting words: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Generally, many Christians would interpret this scene to suggest a very neat linear progression from knowledge of the consequence of sin, then fear of the Lord, then faith, and then hope. This is a tendency when we think that one could not desire for what he/she does not know and could not hope for what he/she does not believe. This view is certainly true to many people but I am now old enough to realize that life is not always like that. We all have our individual journeys. This makes me even entertain the possibility that the thief may have been God-fearing while a thief and hopeful while not having the clearest understanding of God’s nature, and that he did not need to have the strongest faith to ask a favor from Jesus, and that he only needed a single ray of hope to blurt out what he wanted at that very moment. In short, even in the midst of spiritual confusion, the thief miraculously gained his composure and rebuked the other thief and prayed the best prayer he may have uttered throughout his entire life.

May this be our source of inspiration, as we continue with our individual spiritual struggles brought about by this pandemic. Certainly, it is with a hopeful spirit that people, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity, can do wonderful things in the midst of crisis. It is through our hopeful spirit that we can focus more on the heroism of many people who are unexpectedly coming forward to offer helping hands. Most of all, it is due to hope that we usually find ourselves praying the best prayers that we could ever compose in our lifetime. And, hopefully, we will have peace of mind even in the midst of this pandemic. And, when that happens, life would be in the state of paradise. For paradise could mean the reign of the peace of God which surpasses all understanding not only in the life to come but also in our lives here and now.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

© 2020 by St Andrew's Theological Seminary all rights preserved.