1 Samuel 31:12 All their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them.
The last chapter of the book of 1 Samuel reveals to us the sad and ignoble end of Israel’s first King. Saul had been chosen by the reluctant prophet Samuel amidst the cheers and jubilation of the people. His reign, however, was cursed and eventually he killed himself after a fierce battle in which all of his sons were killed and his army totally defeated.
Saul’s body was taken by his enemies and cut into pieces, to be shamefully displayed by his victorious foes. It was a terrible dishonor to him and his own family. His enemies gloated over their bloody success as they gazed upon the broken and abused bodies of Saul and his unfortunate sons which were impaled on spears and tied to the city wall.
But then a wonderful and courageous thing happened. The valiant men of Saul’s own tribe went on a dangerous night mission to recover the bodies in order to give the king and his family a decent and honorable ending. This band of brave men went into the heart of their enemy’s territory and brought back the remains. It was a noble act that diminished some of the shame Saul’s people felt at this time. The fact that we have this daring deed recorded in the Bible shows how Saul’s tribe truly loved their king, even with all of his faults.
The whole incident reminds me of Christ’s crucifixion and how shamefully He was treated by His enemies. He was brutalized beyond recognition by the Roman guards. He was jeered at and taunted by the religious clergy. He was totally degraded by his public nakedness, hanging on a bloody cross for all to see. His death was not only one of the most torturous ever devised by the inhumanity of man, it was also meant to be completely shameful, ignoble, and detestable.
And then Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the clergy, valiantly steps forward to claim Christ’s body in order to put an end to His public shame. He didn't want to see Christ shamefully rot on the Cross, and even though it would have made Joseph ritually unclean during the holiest time of the Jewish year, he was still willing to bravely beg Pilate for Jesus’ corpse in order to place it in his own tomb.
There are heroes in the Bible, as well as heroes all around us. We just have to open our eyes and see those who stand against injustice, who speak for the powerless, and who seek to eradicate the shame that our society uses to subdue the weak, poor, and the voiceless in our communities and across the world. They are valiant people and deserve our praise and support.
Questions for personal reflection
Who speaks up for the poor and powerless in my community? How can I support them?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to recognize the true heroes in our community, who give of their time, resources, and lives to speak up for the voiceless and speak out against injustice. Remove the prejudices against them and help us all to pray for and support them. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s recent drawings for Holy Week. It’s called “Passover Moon.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Passover Moon.