Steve Macchia Blog

Outstretched Arms of Grace: Holy Saturday

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In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.

Holy Week: The Grand Finale

Read John 19: 38-42

Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. With his permission, he came and took Jesus to a tomb that had never been used. Before placing him there, another disciple Nicodemus brought along a mixture of 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. The two men took Jesus’ body and wrapped it with the spices and placed him in and among clean strips of linen. They placed Jesus in the tomb. There his body lay, in a solitary cave with a large stone covering the doorway. Guarded well.  Sealed.  Protected.  Alone.

After the upheaval of the previous day, the shared grief of watching Jesus suffer and die, today is left for quiet mourning and reflection. How had the outstretched arms of love led Jesus to such a lonely place?

We wonder the same ourselves, now two millennia later. The Jesus we watched grows from the infant miraculously born to the virgin, under the watchful tutelage of his carpenter father, and among his siblings in a crude home in Nazareth. His wisdom and stature and favor with God and man expanded exponentially over the years until he was baptized, tested, blessed and sent out to fulfill his mission.

We noted with the gospel writers his calling of the disciples to cease being fishermen to become instead fishers of men. We watched with awe his miraculous turning of water into wine, making right that which was wrong, healing hurting bodies and troubled souls, welcoming children and strangers, teaching in parables, and ushering in the Kingdom of heaven.  We learned from his example of caring for the suffering, advocating for the weak, encouraging the broken-hearted, and restoring blind eyes, closed ears, and forgotten souls. We listened intently to his every word, and our lives are forever changed.

And now we walk with Joseph and Nicodemus to the tomb. And we wait and watch with those who are stunned and doubting, and yet hoping and praying for a miracle. It’s the day after we saw Jesus die so miserably on the cross. We can hardly get the sights out of our minds eye, the smell out of our nostrils, the sadness out of our hearts. It was horrible to stand by helplessly as the victim of such cruelty was our friend, our teacher, our mentor, our guide. We trusted him, walked with him, and now we mourn.

Is it all going to end in this tragic way? We’re no longer all together. We’re stunned and saddened. We’re not sure what’s next. We hope. We pray. We linger. We trust. We rest. We wait.

Behold Jesus in our memories and now in the tomb; believe in the words he once spoke as truth; belong to the ones who hold fast to his promises; and become a member of the family of Jesus who forever sing his praise as the One who came to life miraculously and will rise again miraculously once more. Amen.

For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Were You There?” written by African-American slaves in the late 19th Century:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

 



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