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Holy Week Devotional: Apr 3

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Today’s Texts: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24; 1 Peter 4:1-8; John 19:38-42

A Burial Fit for a King (John 19:38-42)

Crucifixion was an effective deterrent against insurrection in ancient Rome because of its inherent indignity in a culture that operated on the basis of honor and shame. Not only were the criminals hung naked to die a slow and public death, they were also denied a proper burial. By the time the vultures were done picking off the corpses there would hardly be any recognizable human being of which to speak. Such might have been the fate of the crucified Jesus with the sign King of the Jews above his head. Yet Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two formerly “shadow” disciples, chose the most dangerous of times to come into the light and declare their allegiance by asking (bribing?) Pilate for Jesus’ body. They gave Jesus a burial fit for a king – a newly hewn tomb, an exorbitant amount of spices, and proper treatment in full accordance with Jewish customs – unabashedly proclaiming the truth about Jesus, that indeed Jesus was – and still is – King. Their honor of Jesus hearkened back to Mary’s anointing in chapter 12, where Jesus interpreted her action as an act of devotion that foreshadowed his death and burial. In honoring Jesus, Mary faced disapproval and Joseph and Nicodemus risked life and reputation. In the grand scheme of things, even their heroic gestures paled in light of the salvation brought to us by Jesus’ self-giving sacrifice on the cross. What about us? How much are we willing to risk for the sake of Jesus’ honor?

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Diane Chen Diane G. Chen is Associate Professor of New Testament at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. She is a member of Narberth Presbyterian Church.

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