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Mark 276 - Gift Equation


Esquire, June/July 2015


So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.


Mark 15:46


Whenever I give gifts, my heart and mind go through a detailed equation calculation. It’s a four-part equation where I think about these things.


  1. How well I know them?

  2. How much I think about them?

  3. How have they treated me and those I care for?

  4. How much I want to please them?


Now this list might make me look like a cold, calculating kind of guy. If we were to go back in time, you might think that I used a slide rule to figure this out (for those of you old enough to remember such things.) Or a scientific calculator. Or at least a spreadsheet that’s full of formulas.


But I sometimes wonder if I’m alone in my pre-gift calculation routine. If we’re honest, we all think about these things to one degree or another. We think about the person we’re giving the gift to. What they need. How they might use it. Will they like it.


It’s like the present that Penny gave to Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory[1]. To you and me, giving a used napkin sounds more like an insult than a gift. But this particular napkin had been used by Leonard Nimoy, Sheldon’s childhood hero.


You see, it’s not so much about what the giver thinks about the gift. Or the gift itself. What’s most important is what the receiver will get. What they think about it. How they can use it.


Jesus is physically dead, and his corpse needs to be taken care of. Joseph and Nicodemus are about to perform many unmanly acts of kindness. They purchase a large, clean linen cloth, strips of linen, and about 75 pounds of a spice mixture made up of myrrh and aloes. After Joseph takes Jesus down from the cross[2], they took everything they bought and prepared Jesus’ corpse for burial[3]. They then put Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb, rolling a large stone to cover and protect it[4].


This kind of work was normally reserved for the lowest of the low. Touching and carrying a dead body was thought to make you unclean[5]. Especially for someone on the high Jewish Council. This was something you had someone else do.


But Joseph was ready to literally get his hands dirty for Jesus. He was willing to do more than to send a condolence message with a debit card. Or pay someone else to clean and carry a dead body. Joseph was more than willing to personally get involved. He’s also giving to someone that cannot repay.


You see, he gave a gift more precious than what could be bought. Yes, he spent his own money on all those things. But that’s not all that personal. Getting himself personally involved was the great, personal, gift.


That’s what makes Joseph of Arimathea so important. It’s so significant that this brief act is recorded in all four gospel accounts. He not only invested his money and his time. He invested himself. He didn’t walk buy, ignoring Jesus. Instead, he showed bravery and dedication to Jesus. He personally bought what was needed, and then did what was needed.


So, it’s time to turn this story around on you and me. How willing are we to stop what we’re doing and personally get involved in the lives of people? These people, made in the image of God. People that Jesus died for. Do we make the time, energy, and resources to do what’s needed, or do we just pass by?


When we stop and personally get involved, we live a life that not only pleases God, but is significant to the people around us. We all have a purpose, and when we fulfil that purpose, we live a life of significance.


You may not have thousands of people who follow your every word or post on social media. You may not be asked to speak in front of a crowd. You may not have strangers recognize you on the street. You may not have people come up and take a selfie with you.


But whenever you help someone in trouble, someone in need, you’re living a life of significance. And while there may not be a digital record of it on the internet, God is personally watching. And he never overlooks. He never forgets. He remembers and will reward[6].


Now we have a choice. Will we continue to use the same gift equation? Or will we change, giving to those who can’t give back?

[1] https://youtu.be/mlhHTdDqoBc?t=38 [2] John 19:38 [3] John 19:40 [4] Matthew 27:59,60 [5] Numbers 19:11 [6] Matthew 10:42

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