Death and Honor
By Anthony Casperson
I think that something coming out just shy of a year ago doesn’t warrant a spoiler warning anymore, but in case you disagree, you’ve been warned.
One of the side stories in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 dealt with Yondu’s disgrace within the group known as the Ravagers. Years ago, the blue-skinned alien lost his place among the group of starship captains because of his abducting and selling children for the living planet, Ego. (It’s discovered later that all of the children abducted, including Peter Quill, were children of Ego who were part of the living planet’s plan to terraform other planets into his own image.)
However, this alliance with Ego ended when Yondu kept the freshly-abducted Peter from his father. Thus, placing himself in a fatherly role toward the young (half?) human.
The side story of the film really begins with a scene between Yondu and Stakar Ogord (played by Sylvester Stallone). In the scene, Stakar tells Yondu that he’ll never receive the honor of a Ravager burial because of his disgraceful act of child trafficking.
Throughout the film, we discover much of Yondu’s background with Peter and how much their odd relationship meant to each of them, even though it cost Yondu much. The captain even joins Peter and the rest of the Guardians in the final battle against Ego. This confrontation ends with the destruction of the living planet, but not without a cost.
Sacrificing himself, Yondu places the only breathing helmet onto the unconscious Peter and launches the two of them into the vacuum of space as the now-dying planet breaks itself apart beneath them. Peter wakes up in the arms of Yondu as the cold vacuum of space takes the alien.
The Guardians hold a small funeral for Yondu, where Peter says that the alien was his real father. But, as they launch the pod holding Yondu’s body into space, Ravager ships appear. Yondu’s sacrifice caused the Ravagers to reinstate him posthumously. Over the comms, the captains speak the rights due to an honorable member of their people. They light the flares for the one who sacrificed himself heroically.
Though honor is something that we should give to those who deserve it throughout their life, it’s often the death of a close loved one that causes us to give them a great act of honor. It’s our final time to celebrate the person that they were.
In our time during this season of Lent, we’ve been looking at what the cross, burial, and resurrection teaches us. And today, I’d like to take a look at how the people who loved Jesus honored him in his sacrifice for them. (Though they didn’t fully understand what that meant at the time.)
All four of the Gospels speak of how Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man among the Jewish leaders, asked for the body of Jesus after he had died. He planned to bury the body in his own tomb. In part, this fulfills the prophecy from Isaiah 53:9 about how the Messiah’s grave was to be made with the wicked, but would be with the rich. Jesus’ body was to be thrown in a mass grave for criminals until Joseph asked for the body.
John tells us that Nicodemus joined Joseph in wrapping the body. They laced 75 pounds of ointments and spices into the linen that wrapped around the body of the Son of God. With great care, they honored the memory of their teacher and prepared him for the burial. The pair gently set the mangled body that had been honorably wrapped into Joseph’s tomb.
Several of the women who had followed Jesus continued following him even in death. They saw where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid the body, but it was too late for them to give Jesus his due honor because the Sabbath had to be honored as well. However, as soon as the Sabbath was over, they prepared everything they could to honor their beloved teacher.
The women went to the tomb with even more ointment and spices. The 75 pounds that Joseph and Nicodemus had placed on Jesus wasn’t enough. They needed to honor Jesus as well, honor him for what he meant to them.
Even though they never got to place the ointments and spices onto a body, because Jesus was raised by then, their heart was still to honor Jesus. And in return, Jesus honored them with being the first proclaimers of his resurrection.
The weekend that Jesus died and was resurrected calls us to honor him. The Second Person of the Trinity deserves much more honor than any one of us could give. He deserves more honor than what every person ever in history that belongs to him could give.
The truth of what he did for us could resound throughout the world for centuries and still not come close to honor Jesus for his sacrifice. Celebratory flares could light the darkness of space and not honor him enough.
These few weeks left until Resurrection Sunday are a time to remember everything that Jesus has done for us. How he sacrificed himself for all of us who follow him, and all who will come to be his followers. Let’s take this time to praise him with the glory that he’s due.