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We Were There

“Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.” John 19:40 NKJV

This poignant account from John’s Gospel of Jesus is beautiful in its simplicity.

Johnny Cash famously sang an old spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” One of the lines is, “Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?” Imagine. Let’s go back to that moment. What if you or I had to take care of the dead body of a loved one? What if it were battered and bloodied? Where would you start?

How did Joseph and Nicodemus feel as they took Jesus’ body down? Did the centurion, who had witnessed the crucifixion, help them? Was the cross lowered first, and then, gently, with tears in their eyes, did they extract the nails from the flesh and pry the crown of thorns from his head? What next? Did they take some clean cloth, to wash away the blood and dirt from his body, and, with tenderness, pat it dry in preparation for the first embalming? Was this followed by wrapping the strips of linen, infused with sweet-smelling, preserving spices, around his lifeless body before laying Jesus respectfully in the tomb?

How did the women react as they watched on? What emotions gripped them as they followed the men carrying him to the tomb, and watched as the stone closed its entrance? The song continues, “Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble…tremble.”

In a sense, we were there.

The Jesus story goes from sadness to elation, from sorrow to joy, from weeping to singing, because, you remember what happens…three days later the stone is rolled away! Well, were you there when the stone was rolled away? Johnny Cash goes on to sing. We all – each of us, everyone who has ever lived and who will live in the future – participate in all that Jesus is and in the key events of his ministry.

Jesus’ story becomes our story. Jesus is no longer nailed to that cross or dead in the grave. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4 NIV).

Thank you, Father, for your son, Jesus, who died for us and was raised from the dead for us that we might live a new life in him. In Jesus’ name.


Study by James Henderson
Superintendent of Europe





Note from the Editor:

Although we are a few days past our Resurrection Sunday celebration, I chose to include this devotional in this issue of GCI Update because I believe now, maybe more so than we have ever felt collectively, we can relate to this story. In the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic the world watches in stunned horror. We are all affected. Families are kept from their dying loved ones. We feel the collective pain, and we watch, and we mourn together, waiting for the joy after the sorrow.

This season, not only are we beginning our transition from Easter toward Ordinary Time, but we have also transitioned from our usual daily routines into a time of social-distancing and connecting with each other from afar. In this dually transitional time, how are we the church living a new life in this season and hoping for the time when our joy is fulfilled, and we can be reunited with our loved ones?


Wishing you every blessing,
Charlotte Rakestraw

5 thoughts on “We Were There ”

  1. THANK YOU, James! I have preached the story for over 40 years, read the story dozens (hundreds?) of time, watched movies of the story – and never have I considered or experienced what you just wrote. Most of the time we stop at the point of Jesus releasing His spirit to the Father and take up the story again at the closed tomb. You took me on a visual experience for the very first time! And thank you, Charlotte, for including this devotional.

  2. As I read this personal re-capitulation of those stunning events, I too, like Glen was deeply moved to tears, thinking of HOW the Father must have felt. I eagerly look forward to seeing My Lord. ALIVE & quite well, Wow, what a celebration that is going to be! I [like probably many of you] have lost family and attended many a funeral for church members; I look forward with tremendous anticipation to the Resurrection of ALL the dead in Christ, at his coming! Holy Father, send your Son soon!!

  3. Thank you Mr. Henderson for such a glimpse of what it must have been like “after”! That song has always made my heart heavy just thinking on that crucifixion day. I am thankful too for the song “He Arose”, which reminds me of Jesus the victor of death. Thank you again for your words! Thank you Charlotte for including this and for your reminding me to think about how I am living my life during this transitional time. Blessings & prayers for all of you! Priscilla Krupp

  4. Thank you Mr. Henderson, Charlotte and everyone else for your thoughts. Personally, I never thought about the body preparation for burial, but it was described very well. My husband and I have done many funerals and this adds a dimensional aspect and perspective to them. Jesus is risen: what a glorious practical restful reality for us to be enjoying together and participating in all day and all our days. Love, prayers and blessings. In appreciation, Alberta (and Tom) Ecker

  5. Thank you James and Charlotte for keeping us focused on our New Life as we keep looking to our Savior in this transitory period of time & Live by Him thru faith, trusting in what He has already accomplished for us all! Eph 3:11, Eph 1:4

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