December 17, 2017

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ Body is Removed From the Cross

Scripture

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of them pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water … Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away” (John 19:31-34, 38)

References in the Meditation to Psalm 34:20; Isaiah 53:8; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 12:48,49; 27:57,58; Mark 15:40-45; Luke 2:25-38; 23:50-54; John 3:5; 15:5,13; 17:23; 19:25-40; Hebrews 1:3 1 John 5:6-8.

Meditation

The Maker of the heavens and earth expresses himself in paradox.  For Isaac, Abraham’s beloved son, God interrupts death so that descendents like the stars in number would come from him … so that One could come into the world, born of a virgin, to bless the nations of the earth. Yet, instead of interrupting the death of his own son, God has steered Jesus relentlessly toward it. This only son, begotten in human flesh, is cut off from the land of the living. He is completing the covenant written in blood with Abraham. Descendants will come, but not as they came to Isaac.

Here he is now, this beloved One, his body drained of its life, spent to the uttermost, still hanging on the cross he labored to carry and then labored to die upon. Mary, his mother, is nearby with the other women who are mourning. That everything could end this way … in judgment and death while still blessing nations seems … impossible.

One of the soldiers has just broken the legs of the men hanging beside Jesus. They are not quite dead, but this brutal mercy will hasten them in their dying. John is holding Mary, trying to shield her as the Roman approaches. “No need, here.” The soldier lays down his bludgeon and calls to another. The second one comes wielding a spear. With the tip of it he probes the already torn and traumatized flesh seeking the proper place. Finding it, he plunges it into Jesus’ side. Mary groans at the sudden gush of blood and then water that bursts from the wound – a Roman certificate of death, the fulfillment of prophetic words, symbols of the inner purifying and outer cleansing that his dying has accomplished.

Simeon’s words are awakened in her spirit. The old priest had held Jesus in the Temple on his eighth day and prophesied. Joy over her newborn froze in those moments as he looked at her and said, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Pierced … yes. Her soul is pierced almost to its own death.

The awkward task of taking Jesus’ dead weight down from his cross is done. Mary is kneeling, caressing her son’s face, weeping over his wounds, remembering every event she has treasured in her heart. All of these years, it has never become easier. At every turn, God has required more. Loss of reputation during her betrothal would never in her lifetime be truly vindicated and controversy swirling around her son would lead to this. God has given his only son, begotten in her body, but now he has taken him away.

She will be unclean in the eyes of the Jews, tainted by the touch of death. In truth, she has always been unclean to them. All it took was heaven invading her womb. How very strange … the body she gave birth to and that lies in her arms is the one that both ruins her in the eyes of others and redeems her in the eyes of God.

Then a hand rests on her shoulder and she looks up into a kind face. She knows who this is – Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who sits in the Jewish Council. He wants to bury Jesus before the Sabbath begins. Nicodemus is with him. Both have followed her son secretly, men of human authority, yet submissive to the divine authority of their rabbi.

They want to give Jesus a grave. It’s something Mary has not considered. Where is a fit place for her son …  and God’s son to be buried? They gently lift his body from her arms and lay it in a clean shroud. This is the end. He is gone now. Death has a way of making everything seem hopeless and vain. It is the end of everything with nothing to come.

But suddenly she sees. Isaac made sons from his body. Jesus is making them another way. Didn’t he once point to the crowd and say, “Whoever shall do the will of my Father, is my brother and sister and mother?” Jesus had told them plainly God’s will – that they love him and love his people. And on the cross he made John her son and Mary his mother. All that he did and all that he said even as he died was to make a family. Brothers and sisters and mothers for himself. Sons for God. United as one … by his blood.

Action

Do I love Christ? Do I live with who he is? Mary loved him because she was his mother and he her son … because she was his daughter and he her Lord. They shared lifeblood together. Do I love him like that? Do I live as a branch connected to the vine? Do I abide in him, loving him, not for what he will do for me, but because I am his and he is mine? In the moments of Christ’s death, Mary is his mother and her son has died. She does not worry over her future or what is to come come. She lives in the present with Jesus her son and Christ her savior, loving him and rightly related to God.

Prayer

Father, you have bridged your divinity and my humanity. The bridge is Jesus Christ. He is the ‘I AM’ in flesh, the incarnation of you. Because of Christ, I can now know you.

Jesus, you are the radiance of God, the exact representation of his being. Through you, I see the Father. Without you, he is unknowable. Thank you for living out the love of God for me in a tangible way. You have laid down your life for me.

Holy Spirit, you guide me into the truth of this: Christ is in me and the Father is in him. By God’s mysterious will, by the poured out blood of Jesus and by your ministry we are made perfect in unity. God loves me as he loves his son.

Chorus

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. “She will be unclean in the eyes of the Jews, tainted by the touch of death. In truth, she has always been unclean to them. All it took was heaven invading her womb. How very strange … the body she gave birth to and that lies in her arms is the one that both ruins her in the eyes of others and redeems her in the eyes of God.”

    This literally moved me to tears.

    • One of the beauties of going through these Stations is that we take the time to imagine the thoughts and feelings of Jesus as he suffered for us and also those of everyone around him. It’s not just a story. It’s truth and it changes us. Thank you for reading.

    • Jane Schaefer says:

      me too.

    • Me too…

  2. Thank you so much for posting these stations of the cross. It takes me out of the place I am and transports me through space and time to witness this unspeakable miracle. I know that some might not like them and think it too ritualistic, but for me I helps connect me to the true meaning of Easter.

    Thank you