Some people say that I am a good man. They stop me and shake my hand and say, “You’re one of the good ones.” People even say that I’m righteous, although I will freely admit I am not exactly sure what that means. But I will tell you what people say about me that is true: People say that I am a man looking for the kingdom of god.
That is true. But it’s true about all of us. We all have been looking for the kingdom of God!
You see, I grew up in a small town in Judea, called Arimathea, and just like everyone else, I grew up hearing that the kingdom of our ancestor David was coming and hearing the promise God would restore our fortunes
David! The good king, who united the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, who invaded Mount Zion and established a capital he called Jerusalem, built a wall, conquered our enemies, and gave us peace.
All my life I have been told about King David and heard about how someone would come to restore his kingdom.
I don’t know if you can appreciate this but under David, we were the strongest power in the world. No nation could touch us and everybody knew it. We could not be defeated from the outside by any enemy. But after his time, we we’re so divided we crumbled from inside. Leaders took care of themselves rather than the people. People forgot about the Lord, until we were so weak we were invaded and conquered, so that in my own lifetime when I walk through the streets of Jerusalem, there is an armed Roman soldier on every corner, watching me and watching my people to keep us in line.
So when I heard about Jesus I had to go see! I watched as he spoke to the crowd, as he touched a woman who was sick and miraculously healed her! I stood in the back. No one could know. I am a member of the Sanhedrin – the council of the leaders for the Hebrew people – but when I heard and saw Jesus with my own eyes, a seed of hope was born in me.
I was there in Jerusalem on the day that Jesus rode the donkey into the city. Like everyone else, in my mind I could hear the prophecy of Zechariah: “Lo! Your king comes to you humble and riding on a colt.”
I didn’t tear a palm branch down from the tree like so many others. I didn’t throw my cloak down in the road. I couldn’t risk being seen, but my heart leapt with hope.
I thought: this could be the one who could bring our nation glory again!
That’s what we all thought, and the crowd shouted: “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”
I believed! But the same crowd that sang “Hosanna!” shouted “Crucify, crucify!”
I’m still trying to make sense of the cross and what happened there. I still don’t know what happened, but somehow the tide turned.
I guess, somehow, we realized his kingdom wasn’t going to be the kind of kingdom we thought we wanted.
We wanted him to give glory to us and to our nation. We wanted God to bless us and our community, and Jesus made it clear his vision was larger than that. He wasn’t about just blessing me and my life and that’s what we saw on the cross.
But on the cross we saw his kindness to everyone. We saw his kindness to the thief who asked for forgiveness but also the thief who ridiculed him… and for the soldiers who tortured him and the crowd that laughed at him.
And I don’t think any amount of time could’ve prepared us for the cross. To see his body naked and bloody and his hands pierced through with nails. To see him give up his spirit.
But when Jesus died, my fear died too. And I went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
Somehow, I had come to love him, but I hadn’t told anyone.
I was afraid at what people who say if they knew.
Would I lose my place on the Sanhedrin?
What would they do to my family?
It didn’t matter now.
I had to take his body and take care of it. No place would have been good enough, but some place, I just gave what I had. All I had was an ordinary tomb that was supposed to be used for my own body when that day came, but to give this tomb for his body was the one small thing I thought I could do for him.
So, I came and I took the body and I held it in my arms and I knew, somehow, as I held him and wrapped him in grave clothes, he had brought the thing I had been waiting of my whole life – the kingdom of God. But I also knew that it wasn’t just for me and not even just for my people, but it was for the whole world…
As I held him I realized that’s what Jesus wants from us. I felt that I didn’t have much to give, but I gave what I had.
The small thing I had to give seemed like not nearly enough, but Jesus wants us just the way we are. We do not have to wait to give ourselves to him. Our life and what we have gathered is enough. Sometimes we hold back, thinking: I’ll give something to God when what I have is good enough. God wants to be in relationship with us with all of our brokenness, the messiness, the inconsistency, just the way we are.
God used my small gift – and people mention the tomb I gave when they tell of how Jesus’ Kingdom came early on the first day of the week, when the women came to bring spices and found the stone rolled away.
Let us pray:
O God, whose blessed Son steadfastly set his face to go to the city where he was to suffer and to die; let there be in us the same devotion which was in him. Forgive us for our many evasions of duty. We have held back from fear of what others might think of us. We have valued our security and our comfort over your justice and truth, and our hearts condemn us. But we ask you, O Lord, who are greater than our hearts to have mercy on us. Purge us of the fear that comes from our self-concern and fill us with the compassion of the One who for our sake endured the cross; that we may be saved from selfishness and cowardice; and that dedicating our lives to your service, we may be used by you to help one another and heal the hurt of the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.