DayBreaks for 3/27/16 – Rolling Stones and Broken Things
In the city of Jerusalem is a first century tomb that clearly demonstrates the type of tomb that must have been Joseph of Arimathea’s family crypt. I took the photo in January when we visited this site as the very last location on our Israel tour. The sun was setting and it was chill but there was an excitement about what I was seeing.
I know that this wasn’t the tomb of Jesus…it is believed, as I recall, to have been related in some way to the family of a priest in the first century, though I could have a flawed memory. It doesn’t matter, really…but the tomb ignited my imagination as I contemplated what happened both inside and outside a similar tomb in that same city about 2000 years ago. Though now stuck with mud and the detritus of centuries, the stone will no longer roll to the right to close the entrance to the tomb that is below the archway. But in my mind’s eye, I imagined what it must have been like when that stone outside of Jesus’ tomb began to move.
A few days earlier, a man from Nazareth had been crucified and his body wrapped and stuck into a tomb like this one. But by the Sunday following, he wasn’t there any more. As Christians, we believe he rose. But why was he in the tomb in the first place? Let me share with you a devotion that one of the worship leaders at our church, Laura Story Elvington, wrote this week:
““And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard…” – Mark 12:1
“Though Scripture doesn’t give us a play by play of every moment between Palm Sunday and Easter, we are given some insight into what Jesus’ last days on this earth looked like. Every word He speaks is heavy with significance, knowing that these are His last words spoken to crowds, His last meals shared with friends and, in this case, His last parable shared in the temple.
“As this story unfolds, we learn that there was a vineyard, and its owner leased it to tenants to work while he was away. When harvest season came, the owner sent a servant to collect some fruit, which was his rightful due as the owner, but the tenants beat the servant and mistreated him. So the owner sent another servant, and then another, one was severely beaten and the other was killed. “Finally, the owner sent his beloved son, saying “Surely they will respect my son”. But the tenants plotted, saying, “This is his heir. Let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” So the tenants killed the owner’s son. So what is the owner to do now? Jesus tells the captivated crowd that, “the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
“Now why did Jesus tell this story? The religious leaders who heard it, felt as though Jesus was speaking about them. They had been given God’s people to care for, yet their greatest concern was their own religiosity. Its also served to foreshadow the atrocity that the Pharisees would perform only days later. But there was another audience present that day the “others.” The commoners. The crowd. Basically, you and me. They listened to Jesus’s teaching, wondering if it could be true. Could the Kingdom of God be given to the not-so-spiritual? “Could the poor have a share in His vineyard? Could those with no status or no title be named the new heirs of such a treasure?
“This is the story of the gospel, told only days before being enacted with real blood, real nails and real thorns. Jesus died, truly paying it all, so that we could gain it all. This is amazing grace: that we, whose sin nailed Him to the tree, also partake in the glory that awaited Him.
“My three year old, Josie, and I were walking on the beach a few days ago, collecting shells to take home to her friends. After digging around and finding some real gems, I noticed that the ones she chose were only fragments, and nothing anyone would want to receive as a gift. “You can have these that I’ve found”, I said to her. “They are much prettier.” But she just smiled and replied, “I like the broken ones.” I smiled.
“This is the beauty of the gospel: God doesn’t owe us the vineyard. And we don’t deserve the vineyard. But, Praise God, we get the vineyard. Why? Because He likes the broken ones.
“Father thank you for the treasure given to us through the finished work of Christ, and making us joint heirs with him. You have made the broken wholly beautiful.”