Since my wife is now overdue and I’m preparing for returning to “newborn time” where we’ll be basically not sleeping for several months, I’m going to start tossing up some considerably shorter “Bible Bites” (as opposed to the 15-20 page papers I tend to write). I’ll maybe grab some stuff from my devotional reading, a short exegetical insight, or maybe a general biblical insight, and toss it up to keep this blog somewhat alive. Don’t worry though, I have several more substantial posts simmering in my drafts folder that I’ll put up whenever they end up being done. So here’s today’s “Bible Bite”.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. – Matthew 27:57-60
When you think of seeing God’s hand at work in your life, you tend to always think of the miraculous: a sick person being healed against all odds, surviving a traffic accident where you should have clearly died, etc. You don’t tend to think of God’s hand in the common. You know, the regular things of life that happen all the time: eating a sandwich, going to work, etc. Yet, God is sovereign over all the common and miraculous occurrences in every life and orchestrates both the miraculous and the common equally, and I’d suggest that we often far undervalue God’s providential orchestration of our lives to bring us to just the right place, at just the right time, with just the right thoughts in our head.
We see this in Jesus’ burial: Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy disciple of Jesus who owned a tomb. When Jesus was dead, Joseph got the body and laid it in the tomb. Amazing, right?
Well, not at first glance.
I mean, people get buried, thousands of times a day, every day. In the ancient near east, people regularly bought tombs. There were also a whole lot of rich people in the ancient near east, and Jesus had more than a few disciples who followed him around (his general followers, not the 12).
But, isn’t it strange that a rich Jew, a man who had a whole lot of other things to do, all of a sudden was willing to ceremonially defile himself and carry a dead body across town on the day of preparation for the sabbath?
Isn’t it strange that when all Jesus’ disciples had left him, this rich man all of a sudden found the courage to take Jesus’ corpse and bury him?
Isn’t it strange that this rich man lived in Arimathea (of all places), and had a tomb within walking distance of Jerusalem?
Isn’t it strange that this specific rich man could somehow get an audience with Pilate on short notice (that’s a man if significant influence)?
Isn’t it strange that this rich man (the one who was supposed to end up in the tomb) ended up placing Jesus (the one man alive who didn’t deserve to be in any tomb) in his tomb? (think 2 Cor. 5:21)
And isn’t it strange that this was all predicted several hundred years before?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth. – Is. 53:9
Think of all the trillions of decisions, deals and choices that had to be made from the time of Isaiah to the time of Joseph of Arimathea in order for Joseph to have all the necessary components in place for him to get the body of Christ and bury it. Stop for a moment and contemplate just all that would be involved to bring your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild to a specific place in history, with a specific attitude, and with the specific resources needed for a task?
Let that simmer.
Consider how much easier it would have been for God if Joseph would have simply found a satchel of money on the side of the road, bought a tomb, and buried Jesus all in the same week? Instead, God orchestrated millions of decisions in the lives of thousands of people in multiple countries over centuries to simply show off exactly how extensively he holds the reigns of the universe.
I’ll ask you again. Amazing, right?
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Man, even my short posts get long!” Unger