December 13, 2017

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid In The Tomb

Scripture

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.  Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.  It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.  (Luke 23: 50-56. See also John 19:38-42, Mark 15:42-47, Matthew 27: 57-66.)

Meditation

It’s over. It is all over. The crowd is leaving. The Roman guards have done all they need to do. The criminals are dead. Others are responsible for the bodies now, not the Romans. They can be buried or left for the birds. It’s all the same to them.

Jesus’ body had been spoken for. Joseph of Arimathea arranged with Pilate to receive the body. Joseph is a member of the Jewish council called the Sanhedrin, a member who did not agreed with the decision to have Jesus arrested, tried and executed. He is a good and just man, a man waiting for the kingdom of God. And he is a disciple of Jesus. Was a disciple, for Jesus is now dead.

Joseph has a tomb, a newly-hewn cave nearby. He offers the tomb to Mary. Mary, who should never have had to pick out a place to bury her son. She graciously accepts his offer, and is glad that it is not far, as at sunset the Sabbath would begin, and all labor would have to cease. Joseph wraps the body of Jesus in a linen burial cloth and instructs men as to where it is to be laid.

The tomb is barren, empty. It has been prepared for the day when Joseph himself would die. It was to be his burial chamber, but now Jesus was taking his place in the tomb.

Jesus was taking his place in the tomb.

This thought strikes Joseph so violently that he stops in his steps. He has been following Jesus enough to believe there was something very special about him. He claimed to be God’s Son. But of course, he was now dead. And in his death, he is taking Joseph’s place in the grave. There is something strangely symbolic about this to Joseph. But as to being God’s Son, well, Joseph knew God couldn’t die. Impossible. Jesus must have meant something metaphorically in those words. And yet … and yet, here was his body, laid in Joseph’s tomb, on the slab that was to have held Joseph’s body. Now, forever, Jesus would be there in Joseph’s place.

Darkness is almost here. Spices and balms are applied. The body is shrouded. Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdelene each come to say one last goodbye. The sun is going down, it’s going down, it’s now down.

All is finished. Jesus is dead and buried. The Sabbath is here. Tomorrow will be a new day. And Joseph will not have a tomb, for Jesus has taken his place.

Action

Today, lay Jesus in your tomb, the tomb of your works and efforts to please God. The tomb of your religious words and deeds. The tomb of your attempts to please God. Lay Jesus on the slab that was meant for you. Let him take your place. For it is through his death that we die to sin. To death itself. Today, let Jesus take your place in your tomb.

Prayer

Jesus, I surrender my tomb to you. Come and occupy that which is rightfully mine. Come and lie on the burial site that was meant for me. Come and take my place, Jesus. I surrender even my ability to die to you. I surrender my tomb to you. I surrender all of my efforts to please you in my own strength and ability to you. Be my death for me, Jesus. Swallow up my death in your death, so that I can be resurrected in your resurrection.

Chorus

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.