Few things in my childhood inspired procrastination like completing a project for the Science fair. I always had good ideas and a clear plan of attack, but I could never seem to get started. If I had started working when I started worrying, I would have finished with months to spare. But I just kept putting it off. The tyranny of the blank page and the inertia of beginnings is a very strong emotional force. A procrastinator at rest tends to remain at rest. As the weeks ticked by, anxiety would grow until a mid-February meltdown called my father into action. When it came to our projects, my father was a master logistician. He would map out a plan and a schedule and put the wheels into motion. With his own projects, however, it was a different story. He would often quote Scarlett O’Hara – “Tomorrow — I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
That is what he said to me, when I suggested it might be important to make funeral plans. He had absolutely no interest in thinking about those things. The inertia of beginnings is at its strongest when it comes to making funeral plans. But as a pastor I have noticed how helpful advanced funeral planning is for a grieving family. From decisions about burial places and furnishings, to the logistics of services, down to the music and readings you want used – all these things give you the opportunity to make sure what matters most is shared with those who matter most as they grieve. The thoughts shared at the funeral set the trajectory of grief and establish hope beyond the grave – hope that this is not the end, but only the end of the beginning — hope that there is more to come.
At first glance, it seems that Jesus’ burial arrangements were anything but planned. The only preparation the gospels speak of is the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Victims of crucifixion could be claimed for burial only by their family. If not, they were thrown unceremoniously into unmarked graves. The circumstances of Jesus death made it virtually impossible for his family to claim his body. But as Good Friday ebbs away toward the Sabbath, events unfold which reveal that Jesus’ Heavenly Father had providentially made remarkable plans for his funeral, plans foretold hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote, “And they made his grave … with a rich man in his death.” (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus burial established a remarkable trajectory of hope for all who believe in him. Had he been tossed into a Roman burial pit, many compelling proofs of the resurrection would have been lost. But by God’s advanced funeral planning for His Only Begotten Son, he is buried in a prominent place, in a grave secure from unseen access, in a new, unused tomb, wrapped in grave-clothes that would be abandoned, in a tomb sealed and guarded tenaciously by his enemies. God works through the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and the cowardice of the religious leaders to assure us that Christ is risen indeed. Every detail of Jesus’ burial furnishes forensic proof of the resurrection and assures us of our own redemption.
Join us this Lord’s Day, April 14, as we examine Matthew 27:57-66 and consider the significance of the death and burial of Jesus. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.