Posted on January 28, 2015
#90: The End of the Beginning
David Phelps, one of my favorite Christian artists, wrote an amazing song about the good news of Jesus Christ. Its chorus sums up the life of Jesus like this:
He was born of a virgin one holy night
in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star
singing praises to the great I AM.
He walked on the water, healed the lame,
and made the blind to see again,
and for the first time here on earth
we learned that God could be a Friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong
the angry crowd chose Him,
and then He walked down the road and died on the cross
and that was the end—of the beginning!*
Thanks for joining me for today’s study in Mark 15 as we near the end of Knowing Jesus. Get your Bible and let’s share some scripture!
Read Mark 15:42-47, and its parallels in Matthew 27:57-61, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42.
Jesus was dead. Several of the women had been near the cross when He’d surrendered His spirit. The sky went black as Almighty God grieved.
The disciples had heard reports of inexplicable events around Jerusalem this day. One said the temple’s veil into the Holy of Holies had been suddenly rent in two from top to bottom exposing its sacred secrets. Another said graves had opened, releasing many faithful people long dead. All had felt the earth shudder and quake.
Judas was dead too, by his own hand. Matthew had confirmed that rumor.
The remaining Eleven were reeling. What now? Jesus’ body still hung on a cross outside the city. If they tried to claim it, they risked arrest themselves. But if they left Him there, the Romans would dispose of His body in a reeking pit near Calvary—or worse, the Jewish leaders might claim it to trumpet their victory.
Is this how the glorious adventure of the past three years was to end? They huddled in hiding in Jerusalem. Praying. Reviewing all Jesus had said, desperately seeking direction. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting, for what? They didn’t know—but somehow it felt right to stay together and wait.
Meanwhile, the issue of what would happen to Jesus’ body was on the mind of another disciple—a secret follower. Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and influential, a member of the Sanhedrin. He’d accepted Jesus as Christ but kept his faith quiet (Jn. 19:38). Now, however, he took a bold step. Going to Pilate, he asked that the body of Jesus be released into his custody.
Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus had already died. Death by crucifixion could take several days; Jesus had been on the cross for only hours. Pilate sent for the centurion who’d been in charge of Jesus’ execution and asked him to confirm that Jesus was indeed dead. Satisfied, he then gave Joseph permission to take Jesus’ body.
Joseph returned to the hill of Golgotha. “He took down the body, mangled and macerated as it was, and wrapt it in linen as a treasure of great worth. . . . We are here attending the funeral of our Lord Jesus,” commentator Matthew Henry wrote. Joseph’s colleague and (we can assume) fellow believer Nicodemus brought some burial spices and helped with the task.
Then they laid Jesus in a newly cut tomb—one Joseph had planned for his own burial. As a newborn Jesus may have had a poor manger for a bed, but in death He was laid with the rich, a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9.
The Sabbath was soon to begin so Joseph had to hurry, but he knew some of the women were planning to properly complete the burial process on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath was over. He rolled a huge stone into a trench in front of the door (a system designed to hinder grave robbers from plundering the tombs of the wealthy) and sadly walked away.
Joseph had done his best to honor Jesus in what he surely believed was a final act. As he left the tomb he must’ve wondered, as did the Eleven, “What now?”
This wasn’t the end they’d anticipated. A solemn Passover Sabbath was about to begin. The Lord many of them had expected to be crowned king by week’s end was sealed in a garden grave.
They thought this was the end—but it was only the end of the beginning. Be sure to join me next Wednesday for the greatest news ever!
© Diane McLoud 2015
*The End of the Beginning, words and music by David Phelps ©2001 Soulwriter Music Co, Inc., Winkin Music (a division of Spring Hill Music Publishing, adm. by Gaither Copyright Mgt.) Take a few minutes to view David Phelps performing this great song at The End of the Beginning. Prepare to be thrilled!