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Silent no longer

Nicodemus remained silent before Jesus died, but, along with Joseph of Arimathea, he broke his silence.

Stephen G. Helwig

Have you ever been there? In a hospital room? Next to a hospice bed? Have you ever been there when someone died? What about the death and burial of Jesus? Come along and imagine with me what Nicodemus might have remembered . . .

Mary, Jesus’ mother, was there. She had been there when Jesus—her son—died. A few other devoted and caring women were there. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was there. The centurion was there. They all had their own reactions. Gasps. Sighs. Beating their breasts. Shaking their heads. Holding each other. Consoling each other.

Have you ever been there when they had to take the body from the room or when they had to close the casket for the final time? No one wants to do that. No one wants to be the person who is assigned that task. But Joseph of Arimathea and I knew it was time. In fact, time was short, and there was much to do. We had to act quickly. We needed to get into the city and ask Pilate for permission to take the body.

We had to wait as the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals and as they pierced the side of Jesus’ body. We waited as Pilate summoned the centurion to make sure that Jesus was dead. Then we headed back to Calvary with our spices and the linen.

We had to figure out a practical yet respectful way to carefully remove his body from the cross. Imagine for a moment what that must have been like for me as I held my Lord’s dead body in my arms. We washed his body before we wrapped it in the linens with all those spices. Then we carried it to a nearby garden and placed it inside the tomb that had been cut out of the rock. Finally we had to roll a stone in front of that tomb to seal it off—all in a matter of hours.

It was so sad, so disappointing, so frustrating for me . . . because it took the death of Jesus for me to become bold enough to express my faith in him. For too long I was afraid to be known as one of Jesus’ followers. Why? For what? My reputation? My office? It was Jesus who had told me nearly three years earlier that unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. But I didn’t understand.

I was one of Israel’s teachers, and I didn’t understand. But then Jesus told me this: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14,15).

On Good Friday I saw Jesus lifted up. I would be silent no longer. I would confess my faith in him by giving him a respectful and dignified burial.

Do not be silent; do not wait to confess your faith in him. Jesus died. Jesus was buried. I witnessed that firsthand. But I can also tell you that Jesus rose from the dead.

Tell that to yourself. Tell that to others. Jesus is alive. Our debt has been paid. Our sin is washed away. Our guilt is covered. Tell yourself—tell others—what Jesus told me: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Author: Stephen G. Helwig
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

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