John chapter 19 is one of those places I am tempted to skim. I know the story. I understand it. I believe it.
I am so thankful for it.
But it’s details are a relentless read.
It hurts so much—all that chaos and cruelty.
Such bloodlust stirred on that Preparation Day.
The Friday the Jewish leaders worked frenzied to make all the silence of Saturday possible.
His own people.
Screaming for his death.
They wanted him gone.
They eventually succeed but not before Pilate tried to set Jesus free.
He found no basis for the charges.
He couldn’t believe what all those religious people were asking him to do.
In defense of Caesar? Really? Did anybody buy that?!
Pilate’s disdain for this whole matter seems evidenced in his sign.
“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
There. For all who passed by and viewed the humiliation and cruelty of crucifixion. Pilate proclaimed in his posted sign that this man represented the very Jews who demanded his execution.
The Jewish leaders pester further, after Christ’s death, wanting their mess cleaned up completely so they could offer their next day to the Lord.
The marching mass of religious outrage storming satisfied to their own quiet Sabbaths with tables laid to break bread and pour wine remembering the Giver of All.
It is entirely possible to honor God’s law zealously while completely missing the point.
Just like I’ve read chapter 19 my whole life and missed a most fragrant point.
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus…He was accompanied by Nicodemus. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds.”
The victorious leaders of God’s people slip off to their homes as Friday evening falls, while two of their own set a sepulchre stage for the greatest Sunday morning in all of time.
Two Jewish leaders came to clean up the mess created by their brothers. Their community. Their church.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
With 75 pounds of spices.
As if seeing it for the first time, this gives me such pause. When we travel internationally we spend some days weighing and repacking our bags to meet airline restrictions. Currently we are allowed 50 lbs per bag but in our early days of missionary travel we were allowed 70lbs per bag.
I became very adept at judging the weight of 70lbs. If I could just barely lift it off the floor, we were near 70lbs. I can lift 50lbs with more ease, but 70lbs makes me strain substantially and I could certainly not carry that weight very far at all.
Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of spice. From his home? Or a shop?
He carried all that weight from a distance. Not smallish bags tucked into pockets.
A very heavy load of aromatic scent lugged through town to settle around the broken body of an executed man.
An extravagant and obvious outpouring.
Two wealthy Jewish men, who did not even dare to openly proclaim their adoration of the living man Jesus, now blatantly grieving all the mess of that Friday with their honorable wrapping and setting into place and tidying of the oozing cruelty. They must have had large households and servants, but they did not send others to do this job for them. They made themselves unclean (Numbers 19:11) by doing it themselves.
With 75 pounds of sweet telling spices announcing them as they moved to do so.
“…everyone will know that you are my disciples, if…”
Joseph and Nicodemus, in that defeated and crushing hour, finally stepping up to the plate.
Finally standing pungent into the mess around them exuding testimony.
WE BELONG TO THIS ONE!
Sunday’s dawn hadn’t crept over the horizon yet, but it was winning already.
Two previously secret believers now reeking loud with all their smelly devotion.
Where are your spices?
That moment when it becomes ALL and EVERYTHING and EXORBITANT.
That moment when He steals your whole, whole heart.
When it doesn’t matter if they smell you coming. If they know of your radical passionate love.
In chapter 19 we agonize at the cruelty and we grieve in the sepulcher, but it’s not just Sunday’s dawn that eases us into hope.
Reconciliation and redemption were already streaming as two leaders settled the cloths around Jesus broken body.
The love scent overwhelming.
This chapter will remain very hard to read, but I must hear it and absorb it and smell it anew.
That brand new burial cave holds a treasure.
Meet me there.
Don’t be afraid.
And bring your spices.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Cheryl Cash Missionary Fort Portal, Uganda