Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. Our Bible reading today is Matthew 27:57-66, and we’ll be focusing on verse 62: “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.” Continuing our theme of ‘Who is Jesus?’ today we’ll be reflecting on Jesus – the One we Prepare for.
The great thing about the Bible is that it always has something new or relevant to say to us…..even when we read very familiar passages. I have read this passage about Joseph of Arimathea placing Jesus’ body in his tomb, rolling the stone in front of the entrance, and then Pilate ordering guards to be placed outside it, many times. However, v62 and the mention of Preparation Day leapt out at me for the first time, as I was reading and praying about this podcast.
As a person I think it is fair to say that I like to be organised. I don’t like leaving things to the last minute. I like writing lists and ticking things off them. I like things to be planned. I don’t like waking up on holiday and thinking ‘Ooh, what shall we do today?” I like to know what we are going to do before I go to bed. I definitely don’t like surprises. When we were dating, Alan flew back from America earlier than expected, and surprised me by picking me up from the train station as I got back from work. I was furious, and spent the walk home berating him, and then walked into my house and harangued my parents for colluding with him.
Whilst many of you are now questioning my sanity, and thinking about the amount of prayer that my poor husband needs, do stay with me……
Some of us will be procrastinators and some of us, like me, will be planners – but all of us are designed by God to be people who prepare.
Let’s unpack that idea a bit more:
In verse 62 we read about something called ‘Preparation Day.’ Preparation Day wasn’t actually one single day in the Jewish calendar, but the name given to the day before any Holy Day or Sabbath. To be able to keep the Sabbath or Holy Day properly, preparation would need to be made beforehand. Preparing in advance, and keeping the day itself free from work and other distractions, meant that on the Sabbath or festival day, Jewish people could engage with the real purpose of that time; and that was to rest and meet with God.
We may already know or understand about the Biblical principle of rest, but have we also understood that God wants us to prepare?
If we spend 6 days of our week with charging from the breakfast table, to the office, to the school run, to the ballet class, to bath time, to bed……then we can end up just falling into Sunday, or Christmas or Easter or Pentecost, and it is hard for these days to be times when we rest and meet with God, because our hearts and minds are focused elsewhere.
Are we unprepared to meet with God because everything that we are involved in or do on the other six days, makes that preparation impossible?
The rhythms, the spiritual disciplines of preparation and rest, marked the Jewish people out as different. And God intended it to be that way. His design and plan was that His people would prepare their hearts and minds to meet with God, and that the way they lived their lives would show others the way to Him.
However, when Jesus was here on earth, the people missed it, they weren’t prepared; they weren’t ready to meet with God Incarnate. The people weren’t prepared to recognise Jesus as the Messiah – their rescuer and their king. Their hearts and minds were too focused on other things to meet with God.
Is the same true of us? Do the rhythms of our lives mark us out as different and show others the way to Jesus?
The run up to Christmas is so busy with so many things to get ready – finding costumes for the school play, making sure the fairy lights work, sourcing secret Santa presents, stuffing the turkey! All this can mean that we just collapse into Christmas, and end up unprepared to meet with God.
As I said at the beginning of the podcast, this would be my natural response. And it may well be yours too.
However, I am so thankful to my friend Liz who taught me how to change my rhythms in the weeks before Christmas, and to take time to prepare for Jesus.
17 years ago I went to an evening that she ran at church about how to keep our hearts and minds focused on preparing for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas, rather than the arrival of presents from Santa. Those 2 hours at church one evening had a profound and lasting impact on me, because God showed me that our lives, our weeks, and our preparation time, in the run up to Christmas should look different from other people’s.
It was then that I learnt about embracing Advent, because Advent is a whole season of preparation.
From the 1st of December, the Ward family change their rhythms and weekly patterns. We eat all our meals by candlelight (Advent is about preparing for Jesus the Light of the World coming to earth). We prepare our minds by reading and remembering the Christmas story. Over the years this has taken on various different forms from dressing Daddy up as the Angel Gabriel, to learning what the animals in the stable say in different languages! We prepare our hearts – this year our focus is on being thankful and praying for every person who sends us a Christmas card.
It’s by no means perfect – the kids still argue, sometimes we have to catch up and do 2 or 3 days all at one time, and obviously the to-do list doesn’t suddenly disappear just because we have set aside an extra 10 minutes of our day to prepare for Jesus.
But it has really helped to focus our hearts and minds on the story of that first Christmas. The night that God had been preparing his people for, for thousands of years.
As the Bible passage today tells us about ‘Preparation Day,’ where can we make time and space in this Advent season to prepare to meet with Jesus?
Heavenly Father, thank you that we are designed to be people who prepare. Help us to prepare our hearts and minds to meet with you this Christmas. Amen
READING: Matthew 27:57-66
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’
‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.