Saturday, October 30, 2021

2021.10.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 23:49–56

Read Luke 23:49–56

Questions from the Scripture text: Who were nearby in Luke 23:49? What did these latter do? Who else was there (Luke 23:50)? To what did he belong? What kind of man was he? What hadn’t he done (Luke 23:51)? From where was he? What was he doing (cf. Luke 2:25, Luke 2:38)? To whom did he go (Luke 23:52)? To ask for what? What did he do with the body (Luke 23:53)? Where did he lay it? What day was this (Luke 23:54)? Which day drew near? Who were still doing what (Luke 23:55)? What did they observe? Where did they go (Luke 23:56)? What did they prepare? Then what did they do? According to what? 

In the centurion’s response, we see Rome flip from mocking Christ to honoring Him. In the crowd’s response, we see them flip from mocking Christ to honoring Him. In Joseph of Arimathea’s request and burying, we see him not only in his faithful consistency but also as a representative of the council, now not mocking Christ but honoring Him.

But now we turn to those who have been with Jesus the whole way: “the women who had come with Him from Galilee.” They are described this way in Luke 23:49 and then again in Luke 23:55. In Luke 23:49, they were lumped in with other acquaintances—we may assume at least John (cf. John 19:25–27) and hopefully other disciples. But by Luke 23:55, they are being described by themselves. 

Twice named as having come with Him from Galilee, and the second time by themselves, the point seems to be clear: these women have been with Him from the beginning, and here they are persevering with Him to the end. The apostles had fled at the arrest; the majority of them were at a distance during the crucifixion (Luke 23:49). They’re not even mentioned during the burial (Luke 23:50-55). But these women have stuck with Jesus. There’s a commendable perseverance to the end here. Every believer ought to seek grace from God to finish well, grace to persevere to the end.

But there’s not only perseverance but also diligence. It’s the preparation day (Luke 23:44), but after watching carefully at Christ’s death (Luke 23:49), they continue to observe carefully at His burial. They observe the tomb (Luke 23:55). They observe how His body was laid (verse 55). This implies that they have been following along with Joseph the whole time in Luke 23:50-54. They’re taking it all in, not from idle curiosity, but from an intent to do whatever they can. No doubt, they note that for whatever reason spices and fragrant oils have not been applied. Their diligence to observe identifies an opening for service. There is risk here in being identified with Christ. There is inconvenience and effort in all that needs to be done, late on this preparation day, during the feast—none of which they could have anticipated just 24 hours prior.

To perseverance and diligence, these dear women add extravagant generosity. Perhaps among the other Marys (cf. Luke 24:10) is Mary of Bethany, who had already spent a year’s wages’ worth of spikenard on Jesus; He had said it was to prepare His body for burial (cf. John 12:7). These spices and oils were not inexpensive! Of course, if they had remembered others of Jesus’s words (cf. Luke 24:6–8), they could have spared the expense. He would not be in the grave long enough to make use of the spices and oils. And the prophecy of Psalm 16:10 meant that the usual purpose of such spices and oils wouldn’t apply to the body of the Christ. Still, there is something commendable about their willingness to spend so lavishly upon Him; this was in keeping with what Luke has already said about them (cf. Luke 8:1–3).

Generosity in caring for Christ’s body is one great indicator of genuine perception of Christ’s love for us, and of genuine reciprocal love for Him. These women missed the opportunity to apply spices and fragrant oils to the corpse of Christ, but they would yet have opportunity to be generous to that body of Christ, which He calls “His flesh and His bones” (cf. Ephesians 5:30; 1Timothy 2:9–10; Acts 9:36–39). We too must wait until glory to serve our ascended Lord, but we too may serve His flesh and bones even now in the church.

Finally, in these women, we see a commendable obedience. If ever one might have let herself off easily for neglecting the Sabbath rather than remembering it, or spending it in any old way rather than consecrating it, it might have been one of these women. But they keep the Sabbath, and the Holy Spirit is careful to distinguish for us what drove this Sabbath-keeping. “They rested on the Sabbath” not according to tradition or out of social obligation but “according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). Jesus’s perfect Sabbath keeping was what was counted for them through faith. Jesus’s death on the cross had atoned for all of their Sabbath-breakings. 

But here was a way of responding in love to the Christ Who for them had perfectly lived and atoningly died: to love Him by keeping His commandments. For the Christian, the law of God is the royal law of their King, and the law of liberty of Him Who has delivered them from being ruled by self and sin. We had seen back in Luke 6:5 that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. They are closer to the eternal Lord Who died for them in the public worship on the Sabbath than they would have been attending to His spirit-less human body. And now believers may have the closest intimacy with the risen and ascended Messiah, the Lord from all eternity, as He leads them in public worship Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day.

How are you aiming at enduring to the end with Christ and in His service? In what parts of life might you be more diligent to observe how you may serve the Lord and His body? Where are there opportunities for your generosity unto Him? Which of His commandments presents you the best growth opportunity for loving Him in His own way?

Sample prayer:  Lord Jesus, in Your death for us sinners, God has demonstrated His love. Grant that we would love You because You first loved us. Give us perseverance, diligence, generosity, and obedience. Forgive us for when our dull hearts respond so weakly to Your great love for us. By Your Spirit of adoption, make us to walk in love as beloved children, even as You loved us and gave Yourself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma, through which we also ask this prayer, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

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