And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. (Mark 15:42-47)
So we’ve come full circle. When Jesus was born, his mother Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, a feeding trough that some picture as a cave in a hillside. Now that his life is over, they wrap his body in cloth and lay him in a tomb, a cave in the rock.
How much courage do you think Joseph mustered to ask for Jesus’ body? I can imagine Pilate asking him, “Y’all didn’t want him before. What do you want with him now?” He was no longer a platinum member of the council, the same council who less than a day ago declared Jesus guilty and deserving of death. And handling a dead body? The law says you are ceremonially unclean for at least a week. At least he won’t have to go to any council meetings.
I’ve done funerals where just a handful of people showed up. I’ve even prayed over a corpse with no one else in the room but a funeral director. Those moments weren’t much different than Jesus’ burial. Very few were there for the entombment of the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
And yet, it is such an important moment. He became like us in every way, except he had no sin. So he became a corpse, just like we will. Someone buried him, just like someone will bury us.
I am posting this on a Saturday night, the night before Easter, the resurrection of our Lord. Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead. And we will be, too. And we won’t be alone. “On that day, he will raise me and all the dead, and give to me and all believers eternal life.” That sentence from the catechism always gives me a thrill!
Go to funerals. Go to memorials. Go to committals. Be there for the family. Be there to remember the one who overcame the grave, took away the sting of death, and granted you eternal life.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your son Jesus, who is with me in death and in life! Amen.