A LENTEN ADVENTURE for 2024: He Chose The Nails - Part 10, The Gift of The Grave Clothes

A LENTEN ADVENTURE for 2024: He Chose The Nails - Part 10, The Gift of The Grave Clothes



Dear friends:  the reflection today is a long one – I ask you to be patient and persevere –believe me when I say it is worth it to read and meditate on it …

When someone gets together with their family or their friends, what do they talk about?  Why are those topics chosen for conversation?

Have you ever talked about grave clothes?  What do you think about the idea?  Interesting?  Fun?  Nobody likes to talk about grave clothes.  Nobody talks about it.  “Have you ever spiced up dinner-table chat with the question, ‘What are you planning to wear in your casket?’”  (ML)

“The apostle John, however, was an exception.  Ask him, and he’d tell you how he came to see burial garments as a symbol of triumph.  He didn’t always see them that way.  A tangible reminder of the death of his best friend, Jesus, they used to seem like a symbol of tragedy. But on the first Easter Sunday, God took the clothing of death and made it a symbol of life.” (ML) 

“Could He do the same for you?  We all face tragedy.  What’s more, we’ve all received the symbols of tragedy.  Yours might be a telegram from the war department, an ID bracelet from the hospital, a scar, or a court subpoena … We don’t like these symbols, nor do we want these symbols.  Like wrecked cars in a junkyard, they clutter up our hearts with memories of bad days.” (ML)

“Could God use such things for something good?   How far can we go with verses like this one: ‘In everything God works for the good of those who love him.’ (Rom 8:28)?  Does ‘everything’  include tumors and tests and tempers and terminations?  John would answer yes.  John would tell you that God can turn any tragedy into a triumph, if only you will wait and watch.” (ML)

Read John 19:38-42.

“Reluctant during Christ’s life but courageous at His death, Joseph and Nicodemus came to serve Jesus. They came to bury Him.  They ascended the hill bearing the burial clothing.   Pilate had given his permission.  Joseph of Arimathea had given a tomb.  Nicodemus had brought the spices and linen. John states that Nicodemus brought seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes.  The amount is worth noting, for such a quantity of burial ointments was typically used only for kings.  John also comments on the linens because to him they were a picture of Friday’s tragedy. 

Could there have been a greater tragedy for John than a dead Jesus?  Three years earlier John had turned his back on his career and cast his lot with this Nazarene carpenter.  Earlier in the week John had enjoyed a ticker-tape parade as Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem.  Oh, how quickly things had turned!  The people who had called Him king on Sunday called for His death the following Friday.  These linens were a tangible reminder that His friend and His future were wrapped in cloth and sealed behind a rock.” (ML)  

“John didn’t know on that Friday what you and I know now.  He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph.  John would later confess that he ‘did not yet understand from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).

That’s why what He did on Saturday is so important.  

We don’t know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share.  All we know is this: when Sunday came, John was still present.  When Mary Magdalene came looking for Him, she found Him.

Jesus was dead. The Master’s body was lifeless.  John’s friend and future were buried. But John had not left.  Why?  Was he waiting for the resurrection?  No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still.  He wasn’t expecting a Sunday surprise.  Then why was he here?  You’d think he would have left.  Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn’t come after him?  … Why didn’t John get out of town?  … Perhaps he was taking care of Jesus’ mother.”  (ML)  Could it be that he didn’t have energy to go, and for the moment just wanted to be with the other disciples, remembering a life that had ended?   

“Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.  To others, Jesus was a miracle worker.  To others, Jesus was a master teacher.  To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel.  But to John, He was all of these and more.  To John, Jesus was a friend.   You don’t abandon a friend – not even when that friend is dead.  John stayed close to Jesus. 

He had a habit of doing this.  He was close to Jesus in the upper room (Juan 13:23).  He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).  He was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion (John 19:25-27), and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial. Did he understand Jesus?  No.  Was he glad Jesus did what He did?  No. But did he leave Jesus?  No.

What about you?  When you’re in John’s position, what do you do?   When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react?  When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do?  Do you leave God – or do you linger near Him?  John chose to linger.  And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle.” (ML)

Read John 20:1-10.

“What did he [John] see [on that resurrection Sunday]?  He saw ‘strips of linen cloth’.  He saw the ‘cloth that had been around Jesus’ head … folded up and laid in a different place from the strips of linen.’  … The original Greek provides a helpful insight here.  John employs a term that means ‘rolled up,’ ‘still in their folds.’   These burial wraps had not been ripped off and thrown down.  They were still in their original state!  The linens were undisturbed.  The grave clothes were still rolled and folded.  How could this be?  If friends had removed the body, would they not have taken the clothes with it?  If foes had taken the body, would they not have done the same?  If not, if for some reason friends or foes had unwrapped the body, would they have been so careful as to dispose of the clothing in such an orderly fashion?  Of course not!  But if neither friend nor foe took the body, who did?  This was John’s question, and this question led to John’s discovery.  ‘He saw and believed.’ (John 20:8)

Through the rags of death, John saw the power of life.  Odd, don’t you think, that God would use something as sad as a burial wrap to change a life?  But God is given to such practices … a tool of death is a symbol of His love.   Should we be surprised that He takes the wrapping of death and makes them the picture of life? 

Which takes us back to the question.  Could God do something similar in your life? Could he take what today is a token of tragedy and turn it into a symbol of triumph?  … If God can change John’s life through a tragedy, could it be he will use a tragedy to change yours?  As hard as it may be to believe, you could be only a Saturday away from a resurrection.” (ML)