Mark 15:42-47

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.

Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. Mark 15:42-47

Jesus died and what happened? One of the soldiers who killed him came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Women who had been following him stayed faithfully with his body while the rest of the disciples fled. And Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent religious leader, asked Pilate if he could care for Jesus’ body.

Can you imagine the courage it took for Joseph to make that request? That isn’t how the Romans operated. A crucifixion was a political statement – no different than a lynching. Its intent was to terrify the populace so that no one would do anything to oppose Roman control. Once crucified, bodies would remain in place until they rotted away or the post was required for the next crucifixion. Yet Joseph asked that Jesus’ body be treated with respect.

Jesus died and immediately several lives were transformed.

We live in a very cynical age. We live in a time when truth itself has been cast aside. We don’t learn many things for ourselves, instead we repeat (Facebook calls it “share”) whatever we are being spoon-fed by the echo chambers of our tribes. We despair at the seeming inability for anyone to change their minds, to see things differently, to engage in serious thinking.

But with God, all things are possible!

It was early in the summer after my freshman year in college. For any number of reasons, most of them emotional projection, I had nothing good to say about religion. I didn’t choose to go to a Lutheran college because it was Lutheran – I went there because their basketball program was terrible and I was convinced I could help it be better. It was a good school and I knew that, if I did well, I could get into any law school that I chose. But God had a different path for me.

Earlier that year, my sister was almost killed in a horrific accident where she was run over by a car. She suffered terribly over the next several months but she was determined to heal. She would pray and sing Christian songs as the nurses cared for the terrible burns that covered much of her body. She went home in December. By the following spring, she had become an inspirational speaker and was invited to talk at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes gathering. She needed a driver and I took her.

That night my life changed forever. I had seen the crowd gathered that day. They all seemed to believe what I thought was a load of crap. But their witness got under my skin. Before I went to sleep that night, I prayed: God, you know I don’t believe in you, but all of those other people seemed like they do. I want what they have. Forgive me of my sins. Do whatever you want to with my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I DO still believe in the power of conversion, of transformation. I DO still believe that God has the power to change peoples’ hearts and minds. If a Roman solider and Joseph of Arimathea could come around, so can anyone! Let go. Let God.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we confess that there is so much that separates us from one another, so much that divides us, so many lies and misinformation that holds us captive. Forgive us. Open our hearts and minds to the power of your love. Take us, as we are, always to your glory and the welfare of your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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