Choices were made. That is the reality of life; choices are made. Good choices, bad choices and indifferent choices, but life is determined by the choices we make. And often, we don’t understand the consequences that might come as a result of the choices we make. We are simply living in the moment without concern for the future.

American sociologist Robert K. Merton coined the phrase “The Law of unintended consequences,” Which simply means that oftentimes, when we make choices, the consequences aren’t what we planned or even anticipated.

On Friday, I spoke about the choices that were made that ultimately determined the course of the weekend. And how the entire story was coloured by the word but, because after the but comes the truth.

The religious leaders could have accepted Jesus, but they didn’t.

Judas could have served Jesus, but he didn’t.

The crowd could have embraced Jesus, but it didn’t.

Pilate could have freed Jesus, but he didn’t.

The thief could have rejected Jesus, but he didn’t.

I closed the service on Friday by challenging those who were here about the choices they would make concerning Jesus.

Do you remember that ditty from your childhood? Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, and I’m going to eat some worms.

I wonder if Jesus felt like that as he hung on the cross. Some of his last words are found in Matthew 27:46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

So, I would think that if Jesus felt that his Father had abandoned him, he probably felt abandoned, rejected, and perhaps hated by the rest of those in the story. After all, Judas had betrayed him, Peter had denied him, and the rest of his disciples had scattered. John appears again at the cross but only as an observer. The religious leaders had him arrested, Herod mocked him, the crowds ridiculed him and the Romans crucified him.

But, before we move into Easter Sunday, I want to take you back to Friday. Jesus is dead, and with him have died the hopes and dreams of those closest to him. The only person who acknowledged him in the final hours of his life was one of the criminals he was crucified with.

And then someone stepped out of the crowd and said, “I’m with him.”
Let’s pick up the story after Jesus’ death, Luke 23:50-54 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.

Joseph Could Have Chosen to Remain Anonymous, But . . .

We often skip over this part of the story without giving it much thought.
Jesus has died, he’s hanging on the cross, and something has to be done with his body. Most of his disciples have deserted him. His mother was at the cross, but as far as we know, her home was still in Nazareth, which was over 100 km from Jerusalem.
So, there was a practical need that needed to be met, and there was certainly a sense of urgency about it. And that was what to do with Jesus’ body.
Three things could have happened. 1) The Romans were notorious for simply leaving the bodies of executed criminals on the cross as an example for others. Birds of prey would feed upon them, and eventually, they would decay and fall off the cross to be picked at by animals. Some scholars have even speculated that the reason Golgotha was called the Place of the Skull had nothing to do with the shape of the hill and everything to do with the skeletal remains left lying about.
2) That didn’t apply if the person who was executed was Jewish. We read in Deuteronomy 21:22–23 “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.
The Jewish authorities felt that applied as well to those crucified, and so the bodies had to be taken down before sunset. That is why the thieves on either side of Jesus had their legs broken to speed up their deaths.
But it was already determined that Jesus was already dead. But if there was nobody to claim the body, then it was simply disposed of in the garbage dump.
3) A relative or family member could claim the body, and have it buried.
So, from a practical point of view, something had to be done for Jesus’ burial; his body wasn’t just going to bury itself.
I don’t know how many people that day were there who could have done something, but Joseph didn’t wait for them to do something. He did it.

He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He didn’t hope that someone else would do it; he didn’t assume one of the apostles or Jesus’ family would take care of it; he did what had to be done.

In too many cases, “Everyone thought someone would do it, and in the end, no one ended up doing it.”

Understand that this wasn’t a nebulous or theoretical decision on Joseph’s part. When he publicly identified himself with Jesus, it wasn’t the popular thing to do. Those who had followed Jesus for three years were hiding in the shadows, and for good reason. Jesus had been crucified for being a traitor to the Roman Empire and to his religion. And Joseph was basically taking a stand and saying, “I’m with him.”

When you take a stand today to seriously follow Jesus, not just call yourself a Christian because you aren’t a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew, then there will be consequences.

You will have to make decisions that may not be popular with your friends or your family. You may have to make choices that are at odds with your employment. I don’t know the price that you will be called to pay, but there will be a price.

But it wasn’t just a personal cost that Joseph had to pay. There was also a practical cost.

Matthew 27:59-60 Joseph took the (Jesus’) body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.

So, you understand that this wasn’t just a loan; it was a gift. It wasn’t like giving someone a book to read and then getting it back. Like that ever happens. It was the French author and Noble Prize Winner, Anatole France, who said, “Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.” And Edgar Watson Howe, who wrote, “When I get hold of a book I particularly admire, I am so enthusiastic that I loan it to someone who never brings it back.”

That is what is technically called a tangent.

This wasn’t like letting someone use your car for the afternoon. When Joseph put Jesus’ body in the tomb, he no longer had the tomb. He was going to have to go out and buy himself another tomb. I don’t know what the tomb cost, but it cost something, and people weren’t lining up offering their tomb.

Joseph could have remained anonymous, but he didn’t. He stepped out and made the sacrifice that needed to be made. And one of the unintended consequences was that everyone knew where Jesus was buried. Joseph knew, the Romans knew, the religious leaders knew, and Jesus’ friends knew. This leads us to the next point.

Mark 16:1–2 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb.

The Women Could have Chosen to sleep in, but . . .

It had been a crazy week, just seven days before they had seen Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem as the people greeted him, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna, which means Lord save us.

It seemed that three years of ministry, teaching, healing the sick and feeding the hungry were finally paying off.

And then they saw everything seem to fall apart. They saw Jesus arrested, watched the mockery of the trial and then followed him to Golgotha, where they watched the Romans nail Jesus to a cross.

They were there when Joseph asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus, and they were there when his body was taken down from the cross. Let’s pick up the story in Luke 23:55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed.

In John’s account, we are told that Joseph and Nicodemus had already prepared Jesus’ body, using 75 pounds of spices and wrapping the body in a shroud. So, there was no urgency for the ladies.

What they were doing was being done out of love for Jesus. They didn’t have to go to the tomb. They weren’t related to Jesus. They had no family obligation to do what they were doing. And it would have been easy to think of reasons not to do it. To not get up early Sunday morning, not to carry heavy spices through the morning dew, not to have to find someone to open the tomb.

And there were probably other things that needed to be done on the first day of the week: work responsibilities, family responsibilities, just catching up from a crazy week and an even crazier weekend.

The women could have chosen to sleep in, but instead they got up and made their way to the tomb to offer their last expression of love to Jesus.

They chose to do what was right instead of what was easy. This would be a good place to segue into making the choice to get up on Sunday morning for worship, but I will resist the temptation.

And, of course, the unintended consequence was that they were the first to hear about the resurrection, and they were the ones chosen to deliver the good news to the rest of the group.

Let’s keep going with our story, Luke 24:9–12 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Peter Could Have Chosen Not to Believe, But . . .

Imagine how Peter was feeling; not only had he seen his best friend arrested, beaten, and killed, but in the midst of it, he had failed as a friend.

When Jesus asked him to pray in the garden, he fell asleep. When Jesus was arrested, he put everyone in danger by attacking one of the guards. When Jesus was hauled before the high priest, instead of standing by his friend’s side and defending him against the false charges brought against him, Peter slunk away in the darkness to sit by the fire with the servants of the very people who had arrested Jesus.

And then, he did exactly what Jesus said he would do; he denied Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times.

When those at the foot of the cross were named, Peter’s name wasn’t mentioned. When someone had to claim Jesus’ body, Peter was nowhere to be found.

He had failed. Failed as Jesus’ friend and failed as leader of the twelve.

And now Mary was telling him that the tomb was empty, and Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter didn’t have to go to the tomb. He didn’t have to believe. There was no upside. Either Jesus’ body would be there, and Peter would be reminded again of his failure. Or Jesus truly had risen from the dead, and Peter would have to face his friend and explain his failure.

Peter could have chosen to disbelieve, but instead, he rushed to the tomb to see for himself.

And because Peter believed he had discovered that he had been forgiven. Because he believed, he had the chance all over again to profess his love for Jesus.

The unintended consequence was that Peter would go on to fulfil his destiny, lead the early church, and see the small group of frightened men and women start a movement that would literally change the world.

Have you ever felt you had let Jesus down? Have you ever felt that you had failed him and denied him through your words or your actions? Peter’s story is a reminder that the story’s not over yet and that God’s plan for your life can’t be derailed as long as you’re willing to come back and believe in His forgiveness and grace.

But Peter wasn’t alone. Acts 1:6–8 So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Apostles Could Have Chosen to Go Home, But . . .

They had already invested three years of their lives following Jesus, leaving their homes and jobs. Subjecting themselves to ridicule and the threat of violence. And what did they have to show for it? Nothing, zip, nada, nothing.

And now, he was back, asking them to wait. It would have been easy for them to pack things up and go home. Back to their lives and back to their families. Back to fishing boats and tax booths.

The Apostles could have gone home, but instead, we are told that they did just as Jesus asked them to do. They hung around Jerusalem for another ten days, and on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did come, and they were filled with power, and they did go on to be witnesses everywhere.

Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus Could Have Chosen to Say Enough, But . . .

I know that I’m Denn and not Jesus, and Jesus was Jesus and not Denn, but seriously if I had been Jesus, I would have walked away.

It seemed like a good plan. We are told in John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” And for three years, Jesus worked at making that plan a reality. He healed the sick, he fed the hungry, he calmed storms. On Palm Sunday, it seemed that everything had come together according to the plan.

Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem while the crowd cheer. They waved palm branches and laid their cloaks down like a carpet. The cry of the crowd was Hosanna, which means “Lord save us.” They were ready to crown him as their king.

And then everything changed. Five days later, instead of declaring him king, the crowd shouts, “We have no king but Caesar.” Instead of praising him, they curse him. Instead of yelling out Hosanna, they yell, “Crucify him.”

The priests who have committed their lives to serving the father now plot to kill the son. Those closest to him betray him, deny him, scatter, and desert him.

Of the thousands he fed, of the hundreds he healed, of the twelve he spent three years pouring his life into, there are five listed as being at the cross. And one of those was his mother.

When everything was said and done, it would have been easy for Jesus to have said, “I’m done; we gave it our best shot, and apparently, they aren’t interested in being saved.”

But that was Friday, and this is Sunday. And Jesus hasn’t given up on those who denied him, and those who deserted him, and those who rejected him.

Peter, the same Peter who denied Jesus three times, would go on to these words to the early church, 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

When Jesus appeared to the apostles the first time, Thomas wasn’t there, and you know the story, John 20:24–25 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Now don’t go giving Thomas a lot of grief. It was a lot to take in. I know that you wouldn’t have had any problem believing. You obviously have more faith than Thomas. But he struggled with the entire dead person coming back to life thing.

But eight days later, Thomas was there when Jesus appeared to the apostles, and that time, he did believe.

And Jesus told him in John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

You are those who will be blessed when you believe.

Choices will be made. That is the reality of life; choices will be made. Good choices, bad choices, and indifferent choices, but life is determined by the choices we make.

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