Fine Linen

Last week when I was reading the Easter story, I noticed a few things about Joseph of Arimathea. Scripture tells us that Joseph went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus after the crucifixion so that he could bury it. The text in Mark 15 tell us that Joseph received permission from Pontius Pilate . It then tells us that Joseph “bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen.”

It struck me that Joseph was giving his best to Jesus. He could have bought any kind of material but he bought fine linen, which must have cost him a pretty penny or denarius if you will. I checked the current cost for linen and regular linen will go for about $5.00 a yard. However, fine linen can run you up to ten times that much, i.e. $50.00 a yard. So even by today’s standards, buying fine linen was costly indeed.

Maybe that doesn’t impress you much. Perhaps you’re thinking, “What are several yards of cloth going to cost you, four to five hundred dollars? So? But that is not the extent of Joseph’s generosity, not by a long shot. The text then tells us that Joseph “laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of stone.” We know from the Gospel of Matthew that this was Joseph’s new tomb. No one had been put in there before. Talk about expensive. Can you imagine the cost of having a tomb carved out of rock? Just like today, an endeavor like that would be extremely expensive; and yet Joseph didn’t hesitate to give his tomb to Jesus. By today’s standards the tomb could have cost upwards of $50,000 dollars.

I don’t know about you but before this past weekend, I had never really considered the cost of what Joseph had done. I knew he shown courage when he asked Pilate for Jesus’ body but I had never really thought about his generosity. When I think about what he did and how quickly he made his decisions, I am impressed.

And the takeaway? For me, it is to examine myself and check my own level of generosity. What would I be willing to give to the Lord? Would I hang on to my money or would I be willing to give him my best? Definitely a question I need to think about as I move forward this year! What about you, how is your level of generosity?

Image by D William. Courtesy of Pixabay

Wise Men Still Seek Him

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In a few days, the Christian Church around the world will celebrate Epiphany…the visit of the Wise Men who came to see the child Jesus. We know little about them personally. The Scripture tells us that they came to Jerusalem from the East because they had seen a star in the night sky that told them The King of the Jews had been born. They sought him diligently when they came to Jerusalem, were told he would have been born in Bethlehem, and were guided by the star to the place where he lived. They brought costly gifts to Him; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They fell down and worshipped Him and were later warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem because the reigning King at the time, Herod,  wanted to kill the Child. Over the years, their story has been romanticized. Tradition holds that there were three or four of them and you see them in Nativity scenes and plays during the Christmas Season. But who were they really?

No one knows for sure, but there are a few things we can extrapolate from the story. Because they were called Magi (a Persian word), we assume they may have been from Persia. Magi were near the top of their society because of their education and scientific knowledge. They may have been astrologers or astronomers. They may have been in a position to advise the rulers of the day. They were certainly wealthy and made a trek of perhaps five hundred to a thousand miles to see the Christ child. 

Lovely story, for sure, but what is the take away for us, living in our modern society?

1. They could read the signs in the sky and acted on the knowledge that they had. Can we read the signs around us about the times we are living in and make the necessary adjustments we need to?

2. They were willing to leave their comforts and travel hundreds of miles to seek the King. Are we willing to forgo some of our creature comforts in order to seek the King?

3. Even though they were at the top of their society, they recognized that an even greater person had been born and worshipped Him. Do we let our place in society keep us from following the Lord because we are afraid of what people in our social circle will think of us?

4. They brought costly gifts to the King. Are we willing to give expensive gifts to the King, i.e. our time, talent and treasures?

5. They acted on the guidance they received and were willing to change their plans. Are we acting on the guidance we have received and are we willing to change our plans in order to seek and serve Him?

Even though this is a very short narrative in the Bible (twelve verses in the Book of Matthew), there is a lot we can learn from these Wise Men. If we want to be wise men and women, let us put ourselves in their place and think about the sacrifices they made in order to find the Christ child. Their example should make us willing to serve the Lord in an even greater and more sacrificial way. 

Image by Kevin Phillips. Courtesy of Pixabay.