Saturday, April 19, 2014

Station 14: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

photo from Contemplative Imaging / flickr
"Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. There, accordingly, because of the Preparation Day of the Jews, for the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus."
      --John 19. 41-42

We come now to the last station. Funny, this word station. It is a stopping-off place. It is a place to stand until the train comes by. But we’ve come to the last station. This is the end of the line. There are no more stops to make. All out, the conductor says. All four Gospels tell this story in one way or another. Joseph, rich and prominent took a great risk in infuriating his own people and confronting Pilate. He asked for Jesus’ body. Romans just let the body rot on the cross—left for the birds to come and do their terrible work. But Pilate relented. He must have been tired of these Jews and their demands.

Who were these two that came to do the saddest work, the dirtiest work—taking the body down from the cross? Not the disciples. Not even the Mother as some art has depicted. Not even Simon who by now surely was repentant. No. On stage there comes Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Nicodemus. Who earlier had come by night asking Jesus’ questions. But not now. Both prominent and perhaps rich, too—come in broad daylight. Joseph gives his own tomb for Jesus’ body. He and Nicodemus move the body ever so slowly to the burial place.

Perhaps this station reminds us that even any of us might find ourselves in this drama. Even the rich and the prominent. Sometimes the Gospels and Jesus’ words have been hard on the rich. Not here. The circle widens. Everyone is invited. Everyone can have a part.

These two men did not know the end of the story. They do know that graveyards are final places. There is no sadder or harder spot. We have all been there—or will. Knowing that the chapter is over. Life seems to be over. There is nothing left, really. We all shuffle out of the train now. This is the last stop. We move away from our cemeteries with heavy and broken hearts.

George Buttrick has written that here we write: ‘Finis’ as boldly as we can. We have seen the suffering and the agony. And then the silence. The terrible silence. But Buttrick says where we write ‘finis’ God adds another word: “to be continued.”

We don’t know that when we say goodbye to our loved ones. When all around us life looks broken and jagged. Here we face reality in its starkest terms. Jesus is placed in the tomb. All of us have been there—or will.

One griever said of her loved one’s death: “the shine went out of everything.” And when Joseph and Nicodemus wiped the sweat from their brows and dusted off their garments and moved away from the tomb they had done all they could do. There was nothing left. Dark Friday and dark Saturday are like that. We just move away.

Come closer. Ponder the mystery. What seems finished is not finished. What seems to be the end is not the end. There is more. Much more. We grievers need to stay here for a while. For in this last sad station—a glimmer of hope comes. Maybe not yet—but hope will come. 

                      --Roger Lovette/

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