Gift giving at our house was never a time for surprises. Our gifts were so predictable we would could have dispensed with wrapping paper altogether. My parents assured me they wanted the same things at every gifting opportunity. For Christmas, my mother received chocolate-covered cherries and a flip calendar refill and my father a new can of Borkum-Riff. At Father’s Day, my sisters and I would collaborate on new white dress shirt. After the presentation of home-made cards and crafts, we would present our gift. He would shake it and feel of it, then carefully, and with great suspense, open the package revealing to no one’s surprise a white Van Heusen dress shirt.
Though it was Sunday, my father would never wear his new shirt on the day it was received. We would implore him to, as a matter of ritual. But he was unmoved. He would lovingly place the unopened shirt in a special draw in his closet and declare, “I will save that one for my funeral.” Why he felt the need to say this, I never knew. He would, of course, eventually wear the shirt. But we never noticed exactly when. As far as we knew, he had indeed saved it for his funeral. But, if so, that would have been his only funeral plan.
My father was not a procrastinator. He was a planner. He loved to plan and organize. Long after my sisters and I moved out, he would mail us detailed agendas of any road trip he might take. He had files of files and lists of lists. He was always a man with a plan. Except, that is, when it came to funeral planning. He had absolutely no interest in thinking about those things. Any suggestion regarding funeral planning was met with swift rebuttal and redirection.
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 – 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 a 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 clear preparation the gospels refer to is the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Victims of crucifixion could be claimed by their family for burial, but 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 Jesus been tossed into a Roman burial pit, many clear and compelling proofs of the resurrection would not have been possible. But in 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 graveclothes that would be abandoned, and 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 on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, April 5, as we examine Luke 23:50-56 and consider amazing importance of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus. For updates on our current plans for worship while practicing social distancing go to our post, COVID 19 Update.