[Calvary Chapel] 1998-04-11 - The Last Night of Hopelessness

John 19:38-42 And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. 39 And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight 40 And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (NAS)

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, the twelve disciples and the close followers of Jesus are living a nightmare they were sure would never come. The morning will bring news and new ideas beyond their current comprehension. The world is about to be forever changed in very powerful and basic ways. But not yet.

  • Jesus' mother has endured the day she has dreaded since the night the angel Gabriel visited her with the news that she would carry the Messiah.

  • Peter has made mighty proclamations and now lives in the terrible shadow of a denial he fears will never be able to be taken back.

  • Young John, the beloved disciple, who has left home to follow Jesus probably against his father's wishes, is heartbroken. He has lost his first mentor to the dance of Herodias' daughter and Herod's promise - John the Baptist was beheaded. He has now lost his dear Master to Rome's crucifix and the Jewish Council's treachery.

  • Thomas is so defeated that even when he hears the news that Jesus is alive he will bitterly refute it, until the risen Lord stands before him to answer his demons of doubt and disbelief.

  • Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons, cannot see through her tears as she and her friends collect the spices they will need to embalm her Master's body. It is the final act of love and thanks she can provide to the One Who had given her so much. Devotionally on target, spiritually way off.

  • The road to Emmaus has yet to be walked by the two travelers who now fitfully sleep in the pain of tremendous disappointment. "We had hoped He was the Messiah …", they would tell the veiled Jesus as they walked together.

  • Joseph of Arimathea had been unable to defend Jesus in the Council meeting, or the trial that condemned Jesus to death. His voice, his arguments and pleas were overruled and ignored. The defeat that Joseph now feels will never leave him, weighs heavily this night.

  • The Roman guard is now posted and the stone across the opening is sealed with the signet of Rome. For any one of the soldiers to fall asleep would mean the execution of all of them. For the seal to be broken was punishable by death as well.

Each one is living with the return of the finality of death and the pain of the loss of a loved one. A friend who had given them each so much hope that to lose it has crushed their spirits deeply. Jesus has spoken of His resurrection as recently as the Passover meal. Even in the face of Lazarus' walking from his tomb at Jesus' command, the idea that the Lord would fulfill His promise seems like fantasy. The flame of hope that had burned so brightly in them all fueled by Jesus has been snuffed out. It is at best a smoking wick who's embers were dark and cooling.

It is a nightmare beyond the comprehension of most of us. But this dark pall that hangs over all the world this night is a phantom. It is a mist that will be burned away by the dawn. Death has already been defeated. The keys to death and Hell itself have been taken from the enemy never to be returned. Jesus cried, "It is finished!", and the death grip that had been held over the human race was crushed in a single stroke. The outcome had been sure since before the clock of time had been started in eternity past, and was now an accomplished fact.

But it is not yet visible to John, Peter, Jesus' mother, Mary, Thomas or any of the others. The flame of hope would soon flash to life again, never to be extinguished. It would be passed down through the ages of time to you and me. The hope we have as we see the events of our day fall, link by link, into place as we see time rushing toward its end is not a passing, transitory thing. It is secure. Even though we may think it dimmed by something we do or say at times, that is only an illusion. The brightness of the flame is unchanged. We will never have to live the night that the disciples did. That all passed when we asked Jesus to be our Messiah. And because we have, tomorrow we celebrate the greatest event in history - His resurrection and visible victory over sin and death. Hallelujah!

Lord Jesus - help us to live and share the victory that You have shared with us who name Your name. Please use this time to tear away the uncertainly and the fears that mask the light of Your mercy and grace in us. We have, in You, what the world craves, if they will only see it. Help us to show them the difference You have made in our lives. Let them see something they want, and need. Amen.

Grace & Peace,

[email mike] jmhoskins@gmail.com