Monday, March 29, 2010

Expectant Easter Living


This morning as I was reading about Holy Week in The Message, one sentence jumped off the page at me. It was Mark 15:43, where Mark describes the man who was courageous enough to go to Pilate and ask to bury the body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. “He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.”

Living expectantly. Wow! What would that look like, I began to ask myself.

For starters, what did it look like for Joseph on that Good Friday so long ago? We don’t know a great deal about this Joseph. But as we piece together the various Gospel accounts (he appears in all four narratives), we learn these facts. He was a wealthy man who was a respected member of the Sanhedrin. He is described as a “good and righteous” man who did not go along with the decision to crucify Jesus. (Luke 23:50-51) John tells us that he had been a secret follower of Jesus because he was afraid of the Jews. (John 19:38)

Yet now Joseph goes to Pilate and makes a bold request. One that could get him in trouble with the Romans because criminals executed for high treason (as Jesus ostensibly was) were not given the right to a proper burial. One that would certainly get him in big trouble with the Jews, jeopardizing his place and standing in the religious community. He wants the body of Jesus released to him, so he can bury him lovingly and respectfully in his own tomb.

What gave him the courage to do this? Was it partly at least because he lived expectantly? Because he was “on the lookout for the Kingdom of God”?

Joseph, it seems, was searching for God, even though as a member of the high Jewish council he could have complacently felt as though he already knew everything there was to know about God. Or, if he wasn’t actively searching for God until Jesus came on the scene, at least he was open to seeing Him when He came along.

It makes me wonder how expectantly I am living. Am I “on the lookout” for God? Am I asking Him to show up in my life and show me more of Himself? More of who He is calling me to be and what He is calling me to do—as a wife, as a mother and grandmother, as a neighbor, as a teacher and Mom to Mom leader, as a follower of Jesus?

And am I willing to be surprised by how He appears and what He says? So often God doesn’t show up in the ways we most expect. Joseph of Arimathea, wealthy man in the community and respected member of the Sanhedrin, surely could not have expected the Messiah to show up as carpenter from Galilee (Nazareth, of all places!) who turned everything upside down by healing the sick and raising the dead and upturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple — and got the Jewish rulers so frenzied in their fury that they wanted him crucified!

Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, our preacher spoke of the varying expectations that people in the Palm Sunday crowd had of Jesus. And he asked a penetrating question, one that echoes in my heart on this Monday morning: “What kind of Jesus are you expecting? What kind of Jesus do you have — one Who submits to what you want Him to do? Or One to Whom you need to submit?”

It’s an important question this Easter. It’s an important question every day of our lives, actually. Because Jesus often shows up in places and in ways we least expect. Just ask Joseph the next day after he had buried Him. Or ask Peter or John or those first women at the tomb. They surely had not expected their Messiah, their Lord, to die on a cross. And once they had buried Jesus, what did they expect? Probably not what they got on Easter morning! But (praise God) He showed up anyway — and changed the course of history (and our lives!) from that moment on!

Expectant Easter living. What would that look like for us, for you and for me, this Easter? I’m not entirely sure. I just know I’d like to try it. I’d like to ask God to show me Himself in new ways. I’d like to be open to surprises. I’d like to be willing to act on what He tells me to do — to follow Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing, to go with Him through the dark times toward the joy that comes in the morning.

“She was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.” Expectant Easter blessings to you this Holy Week!

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