The Tombstone is Only Part of the Story

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Exodus 39-40; Matthew 23:23-39


27 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. 28 In the same way you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion (Matthew 23:27-28, Common English Bible).

I spend a lot of time in cemeteries. It isn’t that I’m ghoulish or anything. I’m not. It just goes with the job. While I don’t spend funeral director kind of time at cemeteries, I still spend more than the average person.

Cemeteries in general (there are exceptions to the rule) are usually clean and neat. The lawns are manicured. Many of them could rival golf courses for the work that goes into maintaining them.

The tombstone is a microcosm of the cemetery. Tombstones are intended to last for a very long time. There are cemeteries around that are quite old and you may find tombstones that show signs of wear from age and weathering, but usually, even at a grave that is three, four, five hundred years old the names are still readable. You can still make out the vital information on the stone. The intention is for people to know who is buried below them long into the future.

Because graves are the final resting place for those near and dear we tend to want things to look nice. We want to see well-maintained grounds. We want the cemetery, the headstone, and the grave to be something in which the deceased would take great pride. So we take special care.

What is above the ground looks good. What is below the ground is another matter. I have never seen the inside of a casket when reopened. I don’t find any pleasure in looking in on one who died recently. It cannot possibly be any better to look inside the casket of one who has been dead for some time.

In other words, things are beautiful on the outside but inside? Not so much. The words Jesus used to describe the inside of the grave were “bones and filth.” I don’t find that as even a pleasant mental picture.

Jesus goes on in today’s lesson. He is speaking to the Pharisees and legal experts. He describes them to be much like the grave that has a beautiful headstone but underneath is bones and filth. The Pharisees and legal experts, Jesus says, are much like that. They look polished and professional on the outside but on the inside, Jesus says they are “…filled with pretense and rebellion.”

I think this speaks to us as a warning.  At times we have the pretense of good, faithful people, we look the part. We are all nice and neat, all spit and polished. That is the outside. What is in our hearts and in our minds is far from what we show the world. Things can be pretty dark in our lives because of what we carry with us.

We all know our own deep, dark secrets. But, though it is not in today’s lesson, there is good news. God knows those deep, dark secrets too. And, guess what? God loves you anyway. God loves us and forgives us and helps us to work past the bones and filth in our lives. Then, God replaces the bones and filth with grace, love, joy, and peace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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