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Monday
Jul112016

Having Jesus in Your Heart 97

 

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the 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. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. Matthew 27:57-66

 

For death symbolizes not only the extinction of natural life, which is its demise, but also the extinction of spiritual life, which is a state of damnation. Death also symbolizes the extinction of physical loves or lusts of the flesh, which is followed by a renewal of life. Death likewise symbolizes resurrection, because after death a person immediately rises again. Death also symbolizes a state of being ignored, disregarded and rejected by the world. Apocalypse Revealed §866

Now because 'burial' means resurrection, it also means regeneration, since regeneration is the primary resurrection of man, for when regenerated he dies as regards his former self and rises again as regards the new. It is through regeneration that from being a dead man he becomes a living man, and it is from this that the meaning of 'a grave' is derived in the internal sense. Secrets of Heaven §2916

 

 

Joseph acts on behalf of that small group of Jesus’ supporters who are part of the old order, but who know that a new age is dawning. They know the old institution must die, the old story be succeeded by the new. And they know that the change is inevitable and good. And they also know that the process must be attended to. And thus they step up, in the persons of Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, who is said in the Gospel of John to have provided the burial ointment made from myrrh and aloes (see chapter 19). Following Jewish ritual, including the new cloth wrapping and the new tomb, both supplied by Joseph, they symbolically and literally participated in the process of the glorification in which Jesus put off all that was material and finite in order to become God, one with the Father.

The process of transformation, of the new birth, cannot come from nothing. And it cannot proceed using corrupted means. The required necessary and pure elements are symbolized by the new, clean linens in which they wrapped Jesus’ body, and the new tomb in which they put him. They knew the proper rituals, and they knew the spirit of those rituals – that they were facilitating a change in their world. So, while mourning, and perhaps angry and afraid, they did what they knew to be the correct action.

It is significant that the linen cloth would be left behind in an empty tomb. While that will be the subject later, for now it is instructive that we understand that this process includes leaving behind old ideas, beliefs, motivations and delights. This loss is what stops us most of the time from our rebirth, regeneration and spiritual development. It is here in the story to alert us to the fact that even the perfect process, as accomplished by Jesus Christ, involves recognizing this fear and loss, and continuing to practice what our faith tells us is the good action.

The Lord does not ask us to abandon our life in this world. He asks us to use our ideas – even those that arise out of our mere senses – to courageously act from a love of the truth as we know it. We then elevate those beliefs into a higher, purer light. We cooperate with the Lord who is refreshing those ideas with a purer love than had been present. Those ideas then become filled with a deeper, more perceptive love. This ennobles those ideas. They are transformed so that, as we pass into the next stage of our development, and we sadly leave those ideas behind, we have a real sense of how useful they were before, and how they are to be understood now.

A mundane example was the time I visited home, at about 30 years old, and I took the opportunity to climb my favorite evergreen tree. I had spent hours in the top of that tree, relishing the breeze, enrapt by the view, thrilled by the swaying. And now I couldn’t fit my body between the branches! I could see the familiar route I had discovered – the branches were all the same, but now they were much closer together! Well, no. In fact, I was much bigger. I laughed, and I cried.

A significant example is when I had rushed to that same home from 1000 miles away because my father was comatose in the hospital. I visited him, and talked to him, wishing him well. The next day, right at noon, I was the one who answered the phone, and took the message from the doctor to my mother, that he had passed away. Looking back, I get that that was the moment I experienced the loss of an important support, and the acquisition of a new independence. The sensation of loss is an integral aspect of the acceptance of a new stage of being human.

The task before us thus is the careful examination of our beliefs and motivations, looking for those that support our regeneration, our rebirth. When we hear ourselves think or feel something false or selfish, we can feel as though we are being crucified, as there is a torment caused by our new attitude that has now been seen and is rejecting the false and the selfish view. It feels as though we are dying, bereft of that old lifeblood that we are now realizing is being hurtful to ourselves and others.

The ideas that clothe the Lord’s love, even though they become a burial cloth, are to be practiced consistently. As we do so, the Lord transforms them to be ever better manifestations of his love. Sometimes we are anxious because we are losing something that was important to us. Complicating the process is the fact that some ideas manifest our selfishness, materialism, or hedonism, and cannot be so used for our rebirth. The process of distinguishing the difference will be tortuous. And, we should note, that is the effort of living. The Lord will always be alive in the heart of that effort. He will accomplish his assurance that he will abide in our hearts – even through the death of our old self.

 

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